YEAR 5 READING
What can we do to fill our imaginations? Read everything you can! Books can help you to escape into new worlds of your imagination! Regular reading every day - whatever it might be - helps you to practice your reading skills. Trying new kinds of reading and new authors will challenge you and develop your ability. Trying creative activities based upon what you read will develop your understanding. Here are activities based upon our class books in Year 5, as well as some other famously fantastic books that you might be interested in!
Fairlight Reading Journals
Why not also make your own reading journal or diary: you can design book covers, make posters and fact files, draw your favourite characters, write your own stories about 'what happens next?'! We have uploaded a Book Journal Ideas Sheet for you to help! We have also uploaded our Fairlight Reading Journey sheet to help your child to record their great reading and to think about the favourite things they have read. Try to encourage your child to complete one every week.
Autumn: War Horse
As the world slips into war and we join the army to go to the trenches of the Western Front, what was it like for the many animals who also served in that terrible conflict? We will be reading War Horse by Michael Morpurgo to find out, and to inspire our War Short Stories.
If you don't have the book and want to read War Horse on a phone, tablet or computer, you can download a copy here!
You can listen to the audio story at this BBC Radio website.
Spring: The Official Astronaut's Handbook
During the Spring Term in our topic, we will be training to be astronauts in Star City in Russia. Luckily, famous British astronaut Tim Peake has written an Astronaut's handbook to give you lots of top tips!
Spring: Diary of a Space Chimp
Did you know that animals were the first creatures to go into space? We have uploaded the school version of Diary of a Space Chimp by Andrew Rosenstein, so that you can find out what happened to Ham and Enos the Chimponauts...
What would it be like if someone in your family went on a mission into space? What would it be like for you if you were back on Earth? Read Cosmic and imagine!
Summer: Greek Myths & Legends
Our new topic is going to be Ancient Greece! Here are some exciting Greek myths and legends to read. We will be writing our own myths and legends, so these may give you some great ideas for plots and characters.
Many myths and legends from ancient Greece and around the world share similar features (the theory called the 'monomyth' or 'one story'). It's interesting to look for them as you read different myths and legends. For example, those three witches from Macbeth that I mentioned in our Wizarding World literacy turn up time and again, such as in the story of Perseus and Medusa. Use this Features of Myths and Legends Chart to spot the shared features and to note examples. You might even start noticing these mythical features in other stories, such as a certain space film series: "He's nothing but a crazy, old space wizard, Luke!"
Myths and legends were spoken stories. They could change depending upon who was telling the story. There are some examples of different tellings of the same story below. Read and listen to each version: what do you notice changes? Why might that be?
What's in the box? Have you ever been told not to do something, but wanted to do it anyway... especially because someone told you not to? Did you ever wonder if it was for your own good? Pandora finds out in this story...
Arachne the Spinner
Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you! No you can't! Yes I can! No you can't! Yes I can! No you can't! Yes I can, yes I can!... Do you have a talent? Are you really good at something? How might it make other people feel? How might they react? Will they be proud of you and complement your skill, or be jealous? Arachne is about to find out how the goddess of wisdom and war Athene feels about her spinning and weaving of tapestries!
Perseus, Medusa & Andromeda
Now this is an interesting tale with more than one side to it... and the telling has certainly changed over the centuries. Take Medusa. She's a terrifying monster, yes? But what if you read the story of Arachne first, and then I told you that Medusa was once a kind young woman: a priestess of Athena who one night, tired from her devotion, fell asleep, and forgot to light a candle to the goddess - who turned her into the creature we are told to fear...and then generously gives Perseus the shield he needs to kill her?... Then, find out how Perseus fell in love with Andromeda, the black princess of the African Kingdom of Kush, considered more beautiful than the Nereids of the sea, and rescued her from a monster sent by the jealous sea god Poseidon.
Grown-ups Note: Andromeda is a clear-cut example of where, despite it being clearly stated in the works of Herodotus and Ovid and many other ancient Greek poets, later generations from the Hellenistic and Roman period onward first assumed Andromeda was Greek and thus of similar skin-tone to themselves, and then even began to change her origin in the myth to somewhere in Thrace to fit this misconception. In the Hellenistic period of Greece, the changes to Andromeda's origins were openly questioned and satirised in Heliodorus' romance, Aethiopica, which tells of the Aethiopian (Kushite) Queen Persinna, who while pregnant, looks at a painting of Andromeda shown as a Greek, which magically transforms the skin of her own daughter Chariclea, but for a patch on her forearm. When translated in 1547, however, this story simply confirmed for European classicists at the time that Andromeda was white-skinned like them. By the Renaissance, the misconception had long overwhelmed the textual reality, and painters and sculptors represented Andromeda as a white European like themselves, informing all of our representations of damsels being rescued from dragons.
| Atalanta: the original Wonder Woman?
Getting locked in towers to be rescued? Not for Atalanta! How about defeating a giant boar, fighting in the Trojan War, and perhaps even sneaking aboard the Argo with Jason's Argonauts? She is quite simply the greatest hera (heroine) in ancient Greece! Don't take my word for it: just ask Hercules, or Jason! She's the inspiration for Wonder Woman!
Demeter, Persephone and Hades
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all you've got to do is call! In ancient times, before people had discovered the scientific reason for things happening (phenomena) in the world, they might make a myth to explain it. This myth was one way that ancient Greeks imagined the cause of the seasons of the year.
Goldfinger: he's the man with the Midas touch! was a song based on this tale! King Midas is given the chance to make a wish for anything he could desire. Does he choose wisely? And there's more about the comical king. Do you know what then happened to his ears?...
The Myth of Sisyphus
I'm running up that hill! Have you ever had a really difficult task to do, that you thought would never end? Well, Sisyphus knows exactly how you feel! His life is an uphill battle all the way!
|The Myth of Sisyphus told by Iseult Gillespie|
|Prometheus & The Secret of Fire!
Come on, Hades, light my fire! Once, while the gods lived a life of luxury on Mount Olympus, humans lived simple lives below. Prometheus decided to do something to help them, so he steals the secret of fire from the Gods and gives it to men. What happened when Zeus and the other gods found out what Prometheus had done? This story takes place before the story of Pandora's Box... which is a kind of revenge Zeus played on him! Read that myth again after this one to understand why!
Hephaestus & Talos
|Converting||The Myth of Prometheus & The Secret of Fire||Converting||The Myth of Talos told by Adrienne Mayor|
Orpheus & Eurydice in the Underworld
Eros & Psyche
|Orpheus & Eurydice in the Underworld||Converting||Eros & Psyche|
Jason & The Argonauts: the Quest for the Golden Fleece!
All that glitters is not gold... well. Jason wants to find out when he is sent on what seems like an impossible mission: to obtain the Golden Fleece from the Kingdom of Colchis on the coast of the Black Sea. So Jason gathers a band of the greatest adventurers in all Greece to sail aboard his ship, the Argo, and names his crew the Argonauts! Amongst them are Hercules, Orpheus, and some versions mention that Atalanta, recommended by her friend Hercules, was amongst the crew... and if she isn't in a version you read, ask why! There are only three small problems: Colchis is far away from Greece; the King of Colchis doesn't want to sell it and is sure Jason will try to steal it; and it is guarded by fearsome creatures and the King's magic! Then, if they do get the Fleece, how will Jason and Medea, the king's daughter, escape... and what terrible decision will they make to do so? What is a hero, and are you a hero if you do something wrong?
The Iliad: Tales of the Trojan War!
The Iliad is one of the most famous great (epic) poems of ancient Greece. It was composed by someone called Homer. Sadly, we don't know much about them. Doh!
One day, Helen, wife of King Menelaus, runs away with the handsome Paris, Prince of the city of Troy. In a fury, Menelaus demands that all the cities of Greece join him in a great war against the Trojans. Many famous heroes of Greek myth take part: Agamemnon and Menelaus, Achilles, Patroclus, Priam and Hector, Pyrrhus, Odysseus and his close friend and herald Eurobates the Good, Penthesilea the Queen of the Amazons, Atalanta, Aeneus and Memnon, King of Aethiopia (Kush).
Absolutely none of them listen to the warnings of wise Cassandra, sister of Helen, that this is all a very bad idea! For she has been cursed by the god Apollo so that, although she tells the truth, no one shall ever believe her advice! If only they had listened!
The war is not won easily, and drags on for ten long, bloody years of battle and boring siege, leading to the death of many famous heroes. Then, just they are thinking of giving up and going home for good, a Greek general called Odysseus - King of the small island of Ithaca - has a cunning plan... Oh, but the Gods will make sure that he pays for it later!
The Odyssey: The Voyage home of Odysseus!
Homer composed and spoke a second epic poem as a sequel to the Illiad, called the Odyssey!
The war is over and Troy is defeated - all thanks to the wooden horse trick of Odysseus! Now he is looking forward to sailing home to the island of Ithaca, to see his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. He and his crew of ships head home. Looking for somewhere to shelter on the short trip home, Odysseus and his crew moor on an island and take a nap in an inviting cave - without first checking whether it already belongs to someone! For harming the mighty Cyclops that lives there, Odysseus is cursed by the god Poseidon (Neptune to the Romans) to become completely lost on his voyage home for 10 more long years and to have to survive many more dangers and temptations: the Lotus eaters, the nymph Calypso, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and seek the help of the sorceress Circe who, frankly, thinks Odysseus and his crew are real swine...
The Twelve Labours of Herakles!
You may have already read about Herakles (Hercules to the Romans) when he joined Jason as one of his Argonauts for a while. But before that, Herakles had an adventure of epic proportions. It began with a terrible tragedy, and involved Herakles having to complete twelve impossible tasks (well, thirteen actually!) set by the cunning King Eurystheus, in order to remove the curse of the goddess Hera and prove himself a hero that could overcome his shame and grief. It is a story about making amends for mistakes that we make in life, making a difference, and making our actions count for something. The Kings of Sparta loved the story so much that they claimed to be descended from Herakles!
Grown-ups: For a modern retelling of Greek myths that is well-worth reading, I recommend Circe by Madeline Miller!
GREAT CHAPTERBOOKS FOR YEAR 5s TO READ & ACTIVITIES!...
MALAMANDER: Welcome to Eerie-on-Sea!
Each year, Year 5 read a book chosen to be Young City Reads Book of the Year. This year's book is Malamander by Thomas Taylor! It is set in a seemingly ordinary seaside town called Eerie-on-Sea. Everything appears familiar on the surface... but appearances can be deceptive, and even bigger mysteries await Violet Parma and Herbie Lemon, lurking under the sea! It's a brilliant book that mixes humour, detective mystery and gothic spookiness! This week's activities are all about this weird and wonderful book series and about storytelling in a world that is like the one we know... but stranger!
Read Malamander for Free!
The Brighton & Hove Library Service are offering Malamander as a free e-book download - for phones, tablets and computers - using their library app. Click here to visit the page for all the instructions for how to sign up to the Library, download their app and download the book!
An audiobook version can be found here.
The Young City Reads Special Online Event!
Thomas Taylor sharing amazing stories and answering questions! Go to www.youngcityreads.co.uk to watch!
Welcome to Eerie-on-Sea: The Website!
Find out more about your stay in Eerie-on-Sea at their wonderful tourist website, where you can explore the interactive map of all of the famous sights!...
The Characters of Eerie-on-Sea!
But, perhaps, you should also find some of the locals and hear what they have to say too... just in case!
Here is a video produced by a famous resident of Eerie-on-Sea, the noted antiquarian author and eccentric expert on the universe of the unknown, Sebastian Eels! Meanwhile, local fisherman Blaze Westerley has a few words of warning to give you about the local legend of Gargantis!...
Become a Character from Eerie-on-Sea!
Do you like role-playing characters? Pick your favourite character from the town of Eerie-on-Sea, or imagine your own unusual and interesting person to be! Draw them, dress up like them, and pretend to be them! What would they talk about? What would they tell a visitor to their town? What strange stories might they have to tell you about the local legends? You could even make a video or audio blog like the ones above!
Storytelling Game: Role-play an Adventure in Eerie-on-Sea!
Role-playing games are storytelling games where you and some friends pretend to be characters in a story... and make up what happens in the story as you talk together. Often, one person is the games master or storyteller who has thought of a setting and some ideas of interesting things that might happen, to make the game exciting! But who knows what will happen once your characters start talking? Maybe they've also drawn a map of the place where the player characters can go on their adventures, like the one of Eerie-on-Sea! Sometimes, you can throw a dice to see if something your character tries to do succeeds or not.
Famous role-playing games include Dungeons & Dragons, for telling fantasy adventures, and the Fighting Fantasy choose-your-own-adventure books, where you can role-play by yourself. There is also a role-playing game for adventures in a world like ours but... stranger, called Tales from the Loop, where you play a group of kids looking for unusual adventures. You could make up a similar role-playing adventure about Eerie-on-Sea! You don't need expensive rule books or model figures: you just need a pencil and paper to draw and describe your character, perhaps a copy of the Eerie-on-Sea map to help imagine where your adventure takes place, some friends and family to tell a story with, ... and maybe a dice or spinner to throw so you can see if your character really can sink the Kraken with that rusty anchor you found in the old sailor's cabin on Eerie beach! Roll a 4, 5 or 6 to succeed!...but what happens next if you don't? YOU decide!
Make a Mysterious Map!
The map of Eerie-on-Sea looks normal enough... Hastings Haar, Dolphin Square... until you see places such as 'Finfolk Lane' and the wreck of the Leviathan! Find a map of Brighton and Hove online or go on Google Earth. Can you draw your own spookier map of where we live: change the street names to scarier versions, invent mysterious places and characters to live in them? Draw otherworldly monsters that lurk around the corner? 'Here be the kraken's lair! At the local swimming pool! It teaches water safety on Tuesdays!'
Write A Story of Stranger Things!
Making up a story based in a familiar setting, but with an unexpected twist, is a fantastic starting off point for creative writing. Find a strange tale, an unusual place name, an interesting building or place, and let your imagination do the rest! After all, you know the place where you live... don't you? What if the places we live in and know were not all that they seemed? For example:
- Is the i360 just a thing for tourists to go up and down in to take photos... or a crashed UFO, that scientists are secretly trying to fix to send into space?
- In the comic book Captain Britain & Excalibur, the West Pier is not really closed and broken down: it is the secret base of intergalactic bounty-hunters hidden behind a hologram!
- Your history teacher may have told you that the Royal Pavilion was built by the Prince Regent to just look like an Indian Palace... or did a mysterious Mughal magician teleport it here from Rajasthan as her magical lair?
- How did our school get its unusual name? Was it from the tale of a 'fair light' that a Spitfire pilot swore shone from the roof to protect it from falling bombs in the Second World War?
- Or is it because our school has truly been here for thousands of years, founded by ancient Greeks who escaped the burning of the library of Alexandria, and named after the Pharos, the lighthouse of that ancient city in Egypt?
- Were you walking on the beach after the high tide had washed things ashore, when you found... something?
- Or is there just a mysterious door somewhere near where you live, and you really, really wonder what is behind it?...
- "The children loved to play at the Patch, a narrow stretch of park that squeezed itself between people's back gardens. But they often wondered where the tunnel entrance at the end of the park led to. Even more so that night when, having snuck out to find out for themselves, they saw the ghost train steam past them and through the chained-shut doors..."
- "Jimmy was a lot of things: a teaching assistant who loved helping kids to read, a historian who knew hundreds of stories about the First World War, a rock star who sang and played guitar, and a school caretaker who checked that everything was clean and safe for the children to work and play at the school. But when the children had gone home, Jimmy had another job. He went to his office, and changed into well-worn brown overalls, with his name embroidered on the chest and a logo of a ghost embroidered on the arm. Then he lifted up his high-energy particle beam proton pack, and got to work, protecting the school and the community from supernatural phenomena! He ain't afraid of no ghosts!..."
Compose a Spooky Poem!
Maybe you enjoy being descriptive in a poem, and would like to describe a strange setting such as Eerie-on-Sea and the odd things that you might see, hear, smell and touch!
Draw Some Eerie-on-Sea Inspired Art!
What was your favourite place in Eerie-on-Sea? What was your favourite character or sea-monster? Did I say sea-monster? What, no I didn't! There ain't no sea-monsters round these parts! Don't know what you mean! Anyway, why not draw a picture of what you would like them to look like, and add your own ideas!
Simon Stålenhag is an artist who loves to paint the places where he lives in Sweden... but with a difference. He imagines mysterious creatures, dinosaurs, robots and spaceships where other people only see ordinary shops, houses and streets! If you like drawing, why not try sketching your house, the garden, or a picture of a place you know... but adding some mysterious things to it of your own!
More Malamander Resources!
Find resources and activities about Malamander in the folder below!
Explore the famous book by the author J.R.R. Tolkien, and learn more about the incredible world-building techniques he used in his story-telling! read for yourself the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, rightful dwarven King Under the Mountain, as they go to challenge Smaug the Dragon!
The author JRR Tolkien was a fantastic world-builder. He loved using ideas from ancient myths and legends to create his own stories, and made up a history and maps of the imaginary world he named Middle-Earth. He also used real life places from where he grew up and real-life events that had happened to him as inspiration.
We can read and listen to the Hobbit and try out some world-building and storytelling exercises.
Listen to The Hobbit!
Andy Serkis, who played the role of Gollum in the films, recently completed a Hobbitathon: reading the entire book The Hobbit in one to raise money for NHS Charities Together and the charity Best Beginnings. It took over 10 hours! Read along with him!
Who Are The Characters in The Hobbit?
The Hobbit Chapter 1: An Unexpected Party
ConvertingPArt 1 PArt 2Parr
Read The Hobbit graphic novel!
You can also download and read the full book for free with your Brighton & Hove library app. Click here for instructions on how to join Brighton and Hove Libraries online and how to download the Library BorrowBox app!
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Illustrated by Devid Wenzel, Adapted by Charles Dixon
Find the Features of Myths and Legends!
Tolkien's day job was a Professor teaching about how languages work and about ancient myths. When you read or listen to The Hobbit (or later the Lord of the Rings and his other books) you might notice that they include lots of the features of myths and legends. Use our Features of Myths & Legends Sheet and find out how many features you can spot! Will this give you ideas for your own myth stories? Read some of the ancient Greek Myths and Legends in our Reading Section and compare their features with the stories of Tolkien. Do you remember any characters from the myths and legends of the Saxons and Vikings that you read in Year 4? These were some of Tolkien's favourites, and he got lots of great ideas from them... particularly Gandalf, who resembles a certain chief of the Norse gods!...
The Great War and The War of the Ring
“But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”
- Frodo, The Return of the King
Did you know that many of the scenes from Tolkien’s Middle-Earth are based upon experiences he had when he was a soldier in WWI? For example, he describes the battlefield of the Battle of the Somme in ‘The Two Towers’ when he describes the Dead Marshes of Dagorlad, while the whizz-bangs of mortar shells became the screams of the hooded Ringwraiths! Find out about how WWI influenced the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien here...
"Here at the End of All Things..."
Jonathan Rhys Davies (Gimli in The Lord of the Rings movies) introduces how WWI influenced J.R.R. Tolkien.
Tolkien & World War One
A short information film.
How a World War Inspired The Lord of the Rings
A closer look at how Tolkien was inspired by his real life.
Simon Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien's grandson,
describes what he learnt about his grandfather's experiences in WWI.
Creative Writing Based Upon The Hobbit!
Adventurers (or burglars) Wanted! Write a persuasive advert and application letter!
"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone." - Gandalf the Grey to Bilbo Baggins
"I assure you there is a mark on this door - the usual one in the trade, or used to be. Burglar wants a good job, plenty of excitement and reasonable Reward..." - Gloin the Dwarf, father of Gimli
"If I say he is a burglar, then a burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him that you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself." - Gandalf
Bilbo ends up volunteering for an adventure even though at first he is not sure that he even wants to go! It takes a lot of persuading (and some clever trickery) by Gandalf and the dwarves!
Write a job advert for the Dwarves to join their perilous adventure!
The dwarves need someone to help them travel all the way to to the Lonely Mountain, sneak inside, defeat Smaug the Dragon, and get their treasure! What kind of qualities do you want in an adventurer on this quest? Bravery? Cunning? The ability to sneak about unseen? How will you persuade people to join you when there are so many possible dangers along the way?
Write a letter of application to join the incredible adventure!
In our world, people often have to write an application letter if they want to get a job that they want. What qualities do you think you could offer Thorin's company? How will you persuade them to let you join them on the adventure of a lifetime?
Riddles in the Dark!: Create a riddle!
In Chapter 5, 'Riddles in the Dark', Bilbo Baggins meets a creature known as Gollum. One thing they both love is telling and guessing riddles. It becomes a game for Bilbo's very life! below are some riddles to practice guessing. Can you make some riddles of your own? You may have done a similar activity when you learnt about the Vikings in Year 4 - they loved telling riddles too! The story of the tragic ancient Greek hero Oedipus ("ee-di-pus") has a riddle in too: the famous Riddle of the Sphinx (no - not the Egyptian sphinx, but another one that lived outside Thebes in Greece!)
See if you and your family can solve the riddles from The Hobbit! Who will win?
What has roots as nobody sees,
Is taller than trees,
Up, up it goes,
And yet never grows?
Answer (highlight):[A mountain]
Thirty white horses on a red hill,
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still.
Voiceless it cries,
An eye in a blue face
Saw an eye in a green face.
"That eye is like to this eye"
Said the first eye,
"But in low place,
Not in high place."
Answer (highlight):[The sun]
It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills.
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.
Answer (highlight):[The Dark]
A box without hinges, key, or lid,
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.
Answer (highlight):[An egg]
Alive without breath,
As cold as death;
Never thirsty, ever drinking,
All in mail never clinking.
No-legs lay on one-leg,
two-legs sat near on three-legs,
four-legs got some.
Answer (highlight):[Fish on a table,
man on a stool,
cat gets the scraps]
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
The Riddle of the Sphinx of Thebes:
"What crawls on four legs in the morning; stands on two legs in the afternoon; and hobbles on three legs in the evening?"
Answer (highlight): [A human through their whole life: first a baby crawling, then a man walking, and finally an old person with a walking stick]
Tips for writing Your Own Riddle!
One of the skills a riddler finds useful is to know what similes, metaphors and personification are.
Similes are when you say a thing is like another thing, or as something as another thing.
A metaphor is when you say something is another thing, because they remind you of it, or just describe that other thing, letting the reader work out what you are really describing: the dragon's mouth roared and spat flame across the muddy fields of the Somme - I am describing a dragon, but really I am trying to describe what an artillery cannon is like in WWI.
Another useful poetic feature to use in riddles is personification: describe the object as if it was alive or a person. how would it behave if it were? This is what the sphinx of Thebes uses to tell their famous riddle to Oedipus.
Is "What have I got in my pocket?" a riddle?
Of course, Bilbo's last go, "What have I got in my pocket?" is not a proper riddle, and more of a question that Gollum must guess. Why did Bilbo cheat? Was it because he was nervous? Was it because he was afraid Gollum was going to eat him? Or was there something influencing his mind, already?...
Beyond our ken: write kennings to describe the characters of The Hobbit!
“Who are you and where do you come from, may I ask?” [said Smaug]
“You may indeed! I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my path led. And through the air. I am he that walks unseen.”
“So I can well believe,” said Smaug, “but that is hardly your usual name.”
“I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly. I was chosen for the lucky number.”
“Lovely titles!” sneered the dragon. “But lucky numbers don’t always come off.”
“I am he that buries his friends alive and drowns them and draws them again from the water. I came from the end of bag, but no bag went over me.”
“Those don’t sound so creditable,” scoffed Smaug.
“I am the friend of bears and the guest of eagles. I am Ring-winner and Luckwearer; and I am Barrel-rider,” went on Bilbo, beginning to be pleased with his riddling.
“That’s better!” said Smaug. “But don’t let your imagination run away with you!”
In this scene from The Hobbit, the dragon Smaug wants to know Bilbo Baggins' name - but Bilbo tries not to tell him, and instead invents imaginative kennings - short descriptions of himself and the things he has done on his adventure. Can you spot them all? In the time of the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, knowing someone's true name was supposed to give you magical power over them. Bilbo does not want that! Kennings were also a good way to flatter a proud king, queen... or dragon! Many rulers used kennings as extra titles to make themselves look important.
What kennings can you think of to impress Smaug?
How to compose your own kennings
Put a noun with a verb, often with a hyphen to connect them together: doughnut-eater, boxset-watcher!
Make a possessive noun: cat's cuddler, bedtime's awakener!
Use an agent noun (the name of someone when they do something): runner of marathons, jumper of skateramps!
How to build an imaginary world like Middle Earth!
J.R.R. Tolkien was perhaps the greatest fictional world-builder of all time - but you can become even greater, even more powerful! Just put on the Ring...my precioussss! Er, no! Stop! Don't do that! Just watch this video by author Kate Messner, as she describes the power of world-building in fiction writing, and some of the questions she thinks about to help her fantasies come to life! Then, try some of the world-building activities below that may help you to imagine your own fantasy world, or to imagine stories in Middle-Earth!
How to start imagining!
In one sense, the idea for Tolkien's book began very simply. He was a professor at university, marking some essays, when a funny sentence drifted into his head. He grabbed a scrap of paper and wrote it down:
“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.”
He didn’t even really know what a hobbit was when he wrote this. It just sounded like a word the Anglo-Saxons used that he had learned in school: hol-bytla, a hole-builder. But he then began gathering ideas together and world-building, using old notebooks, poems, fantasy maps and stories he had written years before, adding to and expanding his story as he wrote!
Complete his famous opening sentence in your own way:
"In a ...., there lived a..."
Change the hole in the ground to a different kind of place. A cloud in the sky? A cave under the sea? An igloo in a frozen waste? Now, who might live there? Something you know? Something you made up a name for?
When some people try this method of ideation, they immediately say: "I can't think of anything!", throw their pencil in the air, flounce about huffing and sighing, slump in a sofa and stop doing any imagining at all. What a brilliant idea for a character! In a town like any other, where people were locked inside their own homes with just their own imaginations, there lived a person whose ideas were mysteriously disappearing! A good way around this is to make or use a list of random ideas to just pick from by rolling a dice or closing your eyes and pointing! Here is a link to an online Random Story Idea Generators for children. Or, pick up a book or dictionary, open a random page and see what word jumps out at you first!
Sketch and map an imaginary world of adventures!
This is what Bilbo Baggins, the main character (‘protagonist’ in ancient Greek) calls his story when he begins to write it down at the end of The Hobbit. The Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings both use the idea we explored in the book Malamander by Thomas Taylor: beginning in a familiar setting, when something strange starts to happen! In this case, the stories start in the happy land of The Shire, which is a place much like the English countryside where J.R.R. Tolkien grew up, before the characters have to leave and travel to far off places on an uncertain quest! And when Tolkien wanted to imagine a journey to wonderful places, he drew a map... lots of maps! And invented names for all the places... and languages for the place names... and histories of the places!
If you could go on a journey, where would be an amazing or unusual place that you might travel to, that is unlike where you live? How might you get there? Who do you think would travel with you? Do you think you would have the skills you need to make the journey? What obstacles might get in your way? Here are some ways that you might do this:
- Plan a map of the places along your character's journey.
- Sketch places and scenes you imagine on the way.
- Create a story plan of your ideas.
- Or, use some of Tolkien's amazing maps of Middle-Earth as an inspiration!
How to create interesting characters that help you to write your story!
“My dear Frodo! ' exclaimed Gandalf. 'Hobbits really are amazing creatures, as I have said before. You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you at a pinch.”
- Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring
Imagining a character can be tricky. Often, I either think of a character that is so cool with special powers, that it's too easy for them to succeed… or a character is really boring with nothing interesting about them - just a name and that they 'like football'. I spend so long thinking about what colour hair they have, that I forget to think about how big their heart is, or what they care about! It's what's inside that counts!
Tolkien began with a character much like himself before he went to war: Bilbo (and later Frodo). But he didn’t just make them look like himself. He made the character feel like himself. What does he love and not love? What does he care about? What frightens him? What angers him? What are his most wonderful qualities? Bravery? Honesty?
Or, like real people, does the character have qualities that cause them trouble: secretiveness? Getting jealous of their friends? Not telling the truth all the time? Losing their temper?
What sound like things you don’t like or admire and want a character to be can actually help you to write a story: how would a character react to a dangerous dragon if they were often scared of things? Very differently to a warrior who has fought in many battles!
Throughout the books of The Lord of the Rings, the biggest danger Frodo - and Gollum - face is not the evil of monsters around them, but the fear inside them that they might be tempted to use the Ring's terrible power for themselves.
If you were creating a hobbit character or their adventuring friends, what would they be like?
Think of five positive qualities: kindness, bravery, calmness in a crisis, enthusiasm, curiosity, useful skills, perseverance, independence, creativity, risk-taking
Next, think of a flaw (or flaws) about them: jealousy, a bad temper, gossiping about other people, ignoring problems, blaming other people, not listening to advice, risk-taking without thinking about the consequences!
Think of a motivation for your character: wanting to leave home, worried about their family's safety, trying to earn enough money to live, revenge for a terrible injustice, feeling sad about an event, wanting to be famous and powerful at all costs, wanting to protect others.
Now, think of an event that would pose a problem for the character based on their positive qualities and their flaws: are they scared of heights? What would happen then, if their friend was trapped on a rock-face of a high mountain? Are they just trying to earn enough money to feed their family? What if an evil king offered them enough money... but they had to betray their friends?
“Nasty Hobbitses!” Create a villainous character!
"Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don't know where he came from, nor who he was. he was Gollum - as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face..."
- 'Riddles in the Dark' chapter, The Hobbit
We meet the character Gollum in The Hobbit asking Bilbo riddles, only to discover that Bilbo has found a precious ring that Gollum has ‘lost’. In The Lord of the Rings, we find out that there is much more to this ring than anyone realised…
Compare Bilbo and Gollum. They are nothing alike, are they? Or, are they? They both love riddles. They both love to eat. They both want and… lie about the Ring. Once, Gollum was a happy, hobbit-like character much like Bilbo was, until his life took a different path. Will Bilbo, and later his nephew Frodo, become like Gollum in the end?
Gollum is what is called an antihero (similar to an antagonist in ancient Greek). An antihero is a character that seems nothing like a courageous, brave hero, yet they too go on a kind of quest. Sometimes, they even end up doing something that helps others, even if they wouldn’t normally want to! An antagonist is a character that has a reason to disagree with the hero. They might act selfishly, or cruelly, but there is a cause deep down - much like people who bully might have been bullied in the past. Some antagonists are not even horrible and can even be noble and good - they just think the hero is making a mistake and think they should be stopped! In The Lord of the Rings, the character of Boromir is this kind of character: he thinks that the One Ring can be used to stop evil... he is wrong!
Look at your hero character that you have imagined. What might their antihero be like? Not a villain who is just ‘bad’ for no reason, but a character who in many ways is similar and with a similar life except for something that made them angry, upset, or disagree.
“One Ring to Rule Them All!” Design a magical item with a terrible twist!
“Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing! And I have seen it only for an instant in the house of Elrond! Could I not have a sight of it again?"
Frodo looked up. His heart went suddenly cold. He caught the strange gleam in Boromir's eyes, yet his face was still kind and friendly. "It is best that it should lie hidden," he answered.
"As you wish. I care not." said Boromir.”
- Frodo and Boromir talk of The One Ring, The Fellowship of the Ring
'Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.'
- The Ring-verse, spoken by Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring
Imagine a magical item for a mythical story! Beware! They are sometimes not all that they seem...
The magical ring that Bilbo finds in The Hobbit is very useful on his adventures, but he never tells the others what he has found… not even Gandalf. Later, Gandalf will discover the terrible truth about what the ring really is…
In myths, and legends, there are often magical items that can help heroes and solve problems. But they are also items of great power that come with a great price. Perhaps a curse to remain in a place forever as its guardian, or draining your strength or happiness to power the magic? Maybe turning the user into the thing they most fear! By the end of the Lord of the Ring, the character realise that they must solve their problems by not using the Ring at all, but their own strengths.
Did you know that, when he first wrote The Hobbit, Tolkien did not yet have the idea of what Gollum's ring really was?
He wrote the whole book as if it was just a ring that turned you invisible. It was years later, when he was thinking about the character of Sauron, the Dark Lord, making a magic ring to rule the world that he thought: what if that was the ring in Bilbo's pocket? Tolkien rushed to scribble down his idea... and then went back and revised part of The Hobbit to add in a bit where Bilbo lies to Gandalf about the Ring! So, never be afraid to return to your writing and revise things when you get a new idea - it might lead to something even better!
EAL & SEN Resources about The Hobbit!
Here are some links to activities that will support you with finding out about the book The Hobbit.
Harry Potter & The Wizarding World!
A fantastic book to spark our creative writing: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Visit The Wizarding World page to find out about the stories and characters, and spark your imagination! It's currently also being read by the stars of the Harry Potter films chapter by chapter each week, starting with Daniel Radcliffe! So if you have never read the books, you can listen along!
There is a whole website about the wizarding world of these books, filled with interesting facts and fun activities to get your imagination warmed up. Then, over the course of the week or so, why not try some of these ideas for creative writing:
- Conjure up a Wizard!: a new character is about to enter the wizarding world. Who will it be? What are they like? What are their hopes, dreams, secrets and ambitions? Where do they live? How did they learn magic? What kind? How do they do it? Most importantly: which House will they be in? Pick Hufflepuff - you know they're the best! Stuck for an idea for a character? Look at and think about this unusual one: The Jar Wizard by Sean Andrew Murray.
- Cook up a Spell!: Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble! Read the Witch's Song from the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare.. and makeup your own magical spell poem with unusual ingredients and astonishing effects! In the Harry Potter books, they often use Latin words to cast their spells - see if you can find some to include in your poem to make it sound wizardly: Spells From Harry Potter books, English-Latin Translate. Why not also do some cooking like the three witches and make a 'magical' brew... of tasty and edible ingredients of course!
- Want to know what the play Macbeth is all about, and what those witches are up to? Watch a cartoon summary of Macbeth for kids here! And there's more... a Year 4 class at Fairlight once studied the play and then filmed a rap video about it in 2014. I've just found it, so you can watch it here: Macbeth Rap by Fairlight Year 4 2014! MP4 Version
- Summon a Creature!: From manticores and dryads to goblins to dragons, there are a myriad of mythical monsters and magical beings that could inhabit the wizarding world! Invent your own creature and draw and describe them to us! Here is a download of a book that gave me lots of ideas for fantasy creatures when I was young: Fighting Fantasy: Out of the Pit by Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone!
- Build a World!: Where does your wizard live, and what strange places do your creatures inhabit? A tall tower, topped by crackling octarine energy brewing around the spire? A deep, dense forest that sways and speaks as if the trees were talking? A renowned wizard's school or a wise woman's cottage? Or does 'the breeze ruffle the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen'? Draw a map of your magical world, or do some descriptive setting writing!
- Tell Stories!: Put your characters into your setting. What would they do next? Can you story map an adventure for them? Role-play it with your family? Write a story?
EAL & SEN Harry Potter resources!