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Today marks the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, the final movie in Peter Jackson’s Tolkien saga (at least until he decides to make nine movies out of The Silmarillion). Its release during final exam time is fitting since Tolkien famously started writing The Hobbit while grading. As reported by Alison Flood in The Guardian:

Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, and would mark School Certificate exams in the summers to add to his salary. In a letter to WH Auden, he wrote: “All I remember about the start of The Hobbit is sitting correcting School Certificate papers in the everlasting weariness of that annual task forced on impecunious academics with children. On the blank leaf I scrawled: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ I did not and do not know why.”

In a recently rediscovered letter, Tolkien also noted that:

“All teaching is exhausting, and depressing and one is seldom comforted by knowing when one has had some effect. I wish I could now tell some of mine (of long ago) how I remember them and things they said, though I was (only, as it appeared) looking out of the window or giggling at my neighbour”.

Tolkien dealt with the “everlasting weariness” of grading by creating an entire world that is adored by millions. The rest of us can try to overcome memories of our students looking out the window and giggling with their neighbors by going to the movies.

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