Additional Activities

1) Catch Tolkien's lunar errors in The Hobbit

Note Greg Hildebrandt incorrectly depicts a full moon in his version of the Death of Smaug.


2) It Mirrors Only Starlight and Moonlight

Materials: Liquid Tide (or other premium liquid laundry detergent that "whitens"), "black light" ultraviolet lamp, small paintbrushes or toothpicks

Key Concepts: electromagnetic spectrum, fluorescence


"The Moon now shone upon the grey face of the rock; but they could see nothing else for a while. Then slowly on the surface, where the wizard's hands had passed, faint lines appeared, like slender veins of silver running in the stone. At first they were no more than pale gossamer-threads, so fine that they only twinkled fitfully where the Moon caught them, but steadily they grew broader and clearer, until their design could be guessed.

At the top, as high as Gandalf could reach, was an arch of interlacing letters in an Elvish character. Below, though the threads were in places blurred or broken, the outline could be seen of an anvil and a hammer surmounted by a crown of seven stars. Beneath these again were two trees, each bearing crescent moons. More clearly that all else there shone forth in the middle of the door a single star with many rays.

'There are the emblems of Durin'! cried Gimli

'And there is the Tree of the High Elves!' said Legolas.

'And the Star of the House of FŽanor,' said Gandalf. 'They are wrought of ithildin that mirrors only starlight and moonlight, and sleeps until it is touched by one who speaks words now long forgotten in Middle-earth."


[Tolkien's own illustration of the Door of Moria]

Further exploration: Refer to The Hobbit and the map made of "moon runes", which can only be seen when moonlight of a particular phase shines through it. Have the students draw a simple map using the detergent method or, using translucent paper, draw a map on the reverse side of the paper and look at it through the paper by holding up to a light source. Discuss the properties of transparent, translucent, and opaque.

 Further Activities:

  Take Part in a Crescent Moon Moonwatch

  Make your own secret map using invisible ink

  More Tolkien and astronomy activities 

  Want more information on the Astronomy of Middle-earth?

  Want more information on using fantasy films and books to teach astronomy?


Enclosed images belong to their respective owners and no copyright infringement intended. The text of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings belong to the Tolkien Estate and quotations are enclosed here for educational purposes only. Permission granted to use all original enclosed materials here for educational purposes. Original material written by Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University.