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Tolkien Read in the Orthodox Lens

The works of Tolkien hold a central place in the development of Fantasy as a genre. It is Tolkien’s unique combination of scholarship, particularly of Norse and Anglo Saxon literature, his understanding of stories, particularly of “fairy stories,” and how we interact with them as people, and his Christian faith.

This course is divided into three parts: the man, the myth, the legend. In the first part of the course, “the man,” students will get to know J.R.R. Tolkien understanding of storytelling, his “theology of subcreation,” and how this relates to the use of material things, i.e. icons, bread, incense, etc… in Orthodox worship.

The second part of the course, “the myth,” will focus on reading sections of The Silmarillion. This will introduce the multifaceted world of Arda to the student and give a background understanding of its history and cultures. In this part of the course, we will also look at Tolkien’s grand theological vision of the world, his understanding of divine ineffability, good and evil, and the nature of elves, orcs, and men.

In the final part of the course, “the legend,” students will read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The focus of this section will be on understanding literary allusions in the text, discussing Tolkien’s views of good and evil, sin and redemption, heroism, etc… Most importantly, the student will appreciate the beauty of Tolkien’s works.

Fr. Dn. Nicholas Newman’s Syllabus

Tree and Leaf (On Fairy Stories and Leaf by Niggle)
The Hobbit
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Silmarillion

Optional Further Reading:
The Nature of Middle Earth
Tales from the Peri
The Shaping of Middle Earth
Tolkien: Beowulf
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Unfinished Tales
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Tolkien: The Fall of Arthur

*Required materials are not included in the purchase of the course.

Fr. Dn. Nicholas Newman has been teaching Greek, Latin, literature, and history to anyone who will listen, from elementary age to college students since completing his Ph.D. in Classics at the University of Zurich. He has been headmaster at Veritas Classical Academy in Marietta, Ohio for the last three years. Currently, he is working as educational director and administrator at St. George Cathedral in Charleston, WV.


Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with processor with a speed of 1 Ghz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do NOT recommending using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with an download/upload speed of 5/1Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebCam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer.
WebCam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class.
Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use.
To download Zoom:

  1. Visit
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.


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First, read the available course descriptions, noting prerequisites, target grades, and course objectives. If you think your student is prepared for the course, go ahead and register. After registration, a placement assessment may be provided to students, depending on the course and the student’s previous enrollment with Scholé Academy. Registration is finalized when the student’s placement assessment has been returned by the course instructor with placement confirmation.

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