J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit - or What's in a Name


Roberto di Scala

Molti avranno visto il film, ma non tutti conoscono la vera origine degli Hobbit. Grazie a questa breve ma efficace lezione, potrete avere un "assaggio" del processo creativo attraverso il quale Tolkien ha dato vita ai meravigliosi racconti della sua Terra di Mezzo.


Lesson plan


  • Level: from lower intermediate to advanced learners
  • Age / School: 16-18, any kind of Liceo where English literature is taught.



  • Additional information: students should already know the general outline of English literature in 19th and 20th centuries. Also, they should already be familiar with the general concept of fantasy literature and literature for young adults as well as with Tolkien’s biography, main works and poetics.


Lecture organisation:

  • Time: approximately 60 minutes (the lesson can easily be adapted to shorter classes).
  • Additional tools needed: either (overhead) projector or interactive whiteboard.
  • Slides 1 to 3: general introduction to the novel (author, year of publication, brief synopsis of the plot).
  • Slides 4 to 6: general approach to the genre the novel belongs to (fantasy literature) and to the major themes/topics of the book. The character of the hobbit seen as an ex novo literary creation.
  • Slides 7 to 16: approach to the origin of the term hobbit and its linguistic significance.



  • Students should read the first paragraphs of Chapter 1 (“An Unexpected Party”) of The Hobbit (suggested edition: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit or There and Back Again, London, Harper Collins, 1999, based on the revised edition of 1966). The passages should preferably be read first at home and then in the classroom before watching the slide show. A brief discussion among the students is recommended to see to what extent they know Tolkien’s works and The Hobbit in particular. (It is likely that they know The Lord of the Rings instead, especially as seen on screen through Peter Jackson’s adaptation.)



  • Students will learn about Tolkien’s works and The Hobbit in particular.
  • Students will learn the importance language had for Tolkien and the basic role it played in his creative process.
  • Students will learn about puns and their importance in literature, as well as the inmost linguistic essence of names in literary works. Links may be suggested for instance with the Alice books by Lewis Carroll for puns and with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for the linguistic essence of proper names.
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Ricerca in Letteratura

Collins Dictionary

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