In the Spring of 2018, almost 2 dozen hobbits from a variety of parishes and walks of life came together to begin a monthly book club adventure into Middle Earth. We continue to meet and each month we discuss the literature as well as the Catholic themes we see. At our gatherings, we pray, laugh, and share all kinds of Middle Earth inspired foods. During the warmer months we sit on the patio so those who wish to smoke their pipes are able to do so out of doors. In the 15 months we spent together in Middle Earth, we grew in holy fellowship and joy. This fall we begin our Year of C.S. Lewis. Same club, same people, same place, new books!
If you are inspired to get your own Hobbit Club started, print these resources, get some copies of the books, pray about who God wants to bring into your fellowship, courageously invite whomever He suggests (don’t forget to invite your priest), and put a date on the calendar! Don’t fret about how big your living room is. We pack 20+ people into a very cozy space – no one seems to mind. Don’t be anxious about the discussion questions – just invite the Holy Spirit, use any of ours that you like, ask anything you thought about as you read, and all will be well. Just get started!
In this series of posts, you will find a suggested reading plan, discussion questions we used, and helpful links and recipes. Take what works for you, create your own traditions, have fun, and get lost in the adventure. And, if you want the reading schedule in printable format, click here. If you want the discussion questions in printable format, click here. Click here to see recipes and helpful links.
Middle Earth Reading Plan
This schedule attempts to read Lord of the Rings in sync with the liturgical calendar, hitting certain scenes on liturgically appropriate dates, assuming an April Easter date. If Easter is very early, you may have to modify the reading schedule. All of the resources listed here will be explained below.
July – The Hobbit, Chapters I-VI
August – The Hobbit, Chapters VII-XIX
September – Bilbo’s Journey by Joseph Pearce
October – The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I: I-V (start on 9.22 – Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday)
November – The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I: VI-XII
December – The Fellowship of the Ring, Book II + “The Departure of Boromir” in The Two Towers
January – The Two Towers, Book III
February – The Two Towers, Book IV
March – The Return of the King, Book V
Holy Week – The Return of the King, Book VI: Tower of Cirith Ungol – Mount Doom
Easter Season & Ascension – The Return of the King, Book VI
June – Frodo’s Journey by Joseph Peace
July – Man and Myth by Joseph Pearce (A Tolkien Biography)
August – The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft
Reading Plan Rationale
July & August – Read The Hobbit during the summer months so that you have them inside of you when you begin LOTR in time for Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday.
September – Read as a transition between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, we suggest reading Joseph Pearce’s Bilbo’s Journey during September. It is a brilliant little book that helps the Catholic reader to notice some of the beautiful Catholic ideas and imagery that Tolkien has subconsciously (and in some cases consciously) woven into The Hobbit. Following The Lord of the Rings, we suggest reading his companion book, Frodo’s Journey. Both are published by TAN Books.
October – Starting on Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday (9/22), read The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I: I-V.
November – Starting at Halloween, read The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I: VI-XII, so that you meet Tom Bombadil near the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Bombadil and his wife Goldberry have been labeled “unfallen Adam and Eve” by Catholic readers like Peter Kreeft and Joseph Pearce. Unfallen, innocent, ancient governors of nature, their presence in the story echoes the Genesis account before the Fall. Reading this during these high feasts invites us to consider the beauty and life that was lost by Eve’s sin, and the Redemption that was hard-won by Christ. As we live in this liturgical season, it is interesting to consider Bombadil and Goldberry as saint-like characters who aid Divine Providence and transfer God’s grace to the hobbits in a way that is not dissimilar to how the saints intercede for us.
December – The Council of Elrond commissions a new season in the lives of the members of the Fellowship (and all of Middle Earth), and it plunges the characters into a season with much darkness and challenge coupled with glorious moments of grace. Is this not very Advent-like? We feel something similar as the old liturgical year ends and a new year begins with its mix of feasts and penance. As the Fellowship moves the ring south, we too move through the peaks and valleys of this dark and penitential season towards the light of Christmas.
Saving the chapter “The Mirror of Galadriel” until near Christmas, we are reminded of Christ’s call on our lives, and of how evil is always raging against the true Good. The Fellowship spends their time in Lothlorien with heavy hearts. Even at Christmas, we too have some bitterness. We know that Christmas is joyful, but ultimately, we are an Easter people, and there is a long road to the Cross before we can truly sing our “Alleluia.”
And yet, the time is Lothlorien is meant to bless the hobbits. Like we do at Christmas, the Lady Galadriel gives gifts to the Fellowship as they depart from Lorien. Right after Christmas we remember the martyrdom of St. Stephen (12/26). Boromir’s attack on Frodo is just as jarring after such joy and peace. And then, the loss of Merry and Pippin feels familiar when we read it near the Feast of the Holy Innocents (12/28).
Finally, as the Fellowship separates and moves toward the individual work of each member, we too separate from our holiday gatherings of friends and family to go back to our individual work of Ordinary Time.
January – Two Towers, Book III
February – Reading Two Towers, Book IV near the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul is compelling because it suggests that we consider Saul’s conversion while we are dealing with Smeagol/Gollum’s “taming.” In some ways their stories are alike and in others so very different. Both betray the Good. Both repent. Both are agents of Grace. While similar, their striking differences invite thoughtful conversation.
March – The Return of the King, Book V
April/Holy Week – Reading the first three chapters of the last book of the Lord of the Rings during Holy Week gives us the chance to see the destruction of the ring on Good Friday. We know that Tolkien was explicit that the destruction of the ring was on March 25th – the Feast of the Annunciation and the historical date of the Passion of our Lord.
Easter Season – During this most holy season, we feast on the happy endings and we get inspired by the work that is ours to do. We rejoice in the happiness of how the Fellowship comes together, we anticipate the return of things to “normal,” and we empathize with Merry, Pippin, and Sam as they return to the Shire transformed and no longer “normal.”
Feast of the Ascension – Reading the “Grey Havens” chapter near the Feast of the Ascension, we can practice a little Lectio Divina of sorts. Just as Sam, Merry, and Pippin see their beloved friend off to the undying lands, we join with Christ’s disciples as they are parted from Our Lord in his Ascension.
Click here to see the Discussion Questions Post
Click here to see this post in a printable format.
Click here to see the discussion questions in printable format, click here.
Click here to see recipes and helpful links.