In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.

That famous first line of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel “The Hobbit” was how the fifth graders at Geneva Academy started a journey about a month ago. A journey that came to an end Friday with an expected hobbit party.

Fifth grade teacher Shalena Stratton has been leading fifth graders through a journey of Middle Earth every year since she started at the school five years ago, complete with a celebration at the end.

“It’s a fun reward to do to celebrate finishing the journey,” Stratton said. “We feel like you go through this journey with him. There are so many lessons and everything to learn in it and every year I take away something new from it. It’s just a fun celebration of finishing a book that’s a little harder for fifth graders to read.”

It takes about four weeks for the students to read of Bilbo Baggins’ journey as he leaves the Shire and encounters dwarves, elves, shape-shifters and other mythical creatures.

“They put in quite a bit of work. There’s a Hobbit appendix that they have and go through and discuss the different characters that we’ve encountered and why they’re important to the story, events that happened and why those are important to the story,” Stratton said. “It’s kind of like this culmination of all that work and a celebration of Tolkien’s world that he created, that really is just so rich.”

Students dress up for the final celebration as their favorite character and participate in hobbit-inspired activities.

Electro Veloria dressed as Bilbo Baggins, adding his favorite part of the book was “when Bilbo made escape plans out of the Elvenking’s palace.”

Several of the girls dressed as Belladonna Took, Bilbo’s mother because she is the only female character in the book. Others decided to dress as their favorite character in the book, regardless of gender, and Brooke Sexton took on the part of Roac the Raven.

“I wanted to be a completely different species,” Brooke said.

When asked what her favorite part of the celebration was, Brooke responded, “It tastes good.”

Breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon and afternoon tea were served in the classroom to adhere to the strict hobbit diet.

Stratton decorated her classroom with the entrance to a hobbit hole, the Shire, Smaug, the Lonely Mountain, but also hung signs with famous quotes from the book.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world,” said one sign attributed to Thorin Oakenshield, a dwarf from the book.

Students wrote secret messages on a map that could only be revealed with a special light, similar to the way the moonlight showed the entrance into the mountain in “The Hobbit.”

They also made replicas of the Arkenstone and received treasure at the end of the day. Each student was also given a key and a ring for the completion of their journey.

Each year Stratton comes up with new activities for her students so that it will be a surprise for all students.

“It’s awesome,” McKinley Mauch said.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

React to this story:


Recommended for you

(1) comment


For the young who have been rich in the world of Tolkien, as adults they can explore the Society for Creative Anachronism at . More an extension of learning the history of medieval life right here in the Kingdom of An Tir, is the local Shire of Briaroak: - as a member and participant in Marion County (over a decade ago), it meant creating a medieval encampment of tents, and accoutrement, sewing garb, attending competitions and battles, enjoying brewed mead and meals made from medieval recipes, practicing the every day activities of life long ago. It's a step way back into a day's activity of knights pounding metal into armor while merchants sold their goods. By night hearing drumming around the campfires, bards reciting poems and singing songs. Chivalry, Courtesy and Honor. It began with a student at UC Berkeley and is now global.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.