Although I was a huge J.R.R. Tolkien fan in my youth, neither of my kids has read his books. Maybe the release of the first "Lord of the Rings" movie will inspire them (and countless others) to explore the magical world of Middle Earth found in his books. Whether you're a fan of the books, the movie or both, I found the following sites worthwhile.
The official movie site from New Line Productions is a multimedia extravaganza. Visit for cast interviews, soundtrack clips, movie trailers, screensavers, e-cards and a fan message board. But the best reason to stop by is the interactive Middle Earth map. As you mouse around the map, you can explore Hobbit culture and characters, as well as view video snippets from the film. A fun mix of story line and movie promotion!
This edition of National Geographic's Beyond the Movie is my pick of the day (for middle school students and older) because it includes the author, the book, and the film in its scope. Although the topics (such as the historical, cultural and mythological influences on Tolkien) sound very academic, National Geographic excels at making it very approachable. So is the evil ring a reference to the atomic bomb of World War II? "'An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience,' Tolkien acknowledged, but he strongly denied that his story was an allegory for World War I or II."
There are so many Tolkien goodies here, I will simply highlight my favorites. Number one goodie is the collection of original New York Times news articles starting with a 1938 book review of "The Hobbit." I also liked the audio snippets of Tolkien reading, the complete first chapters of "The Hobbit" and "The Fellowship of the Rings," the nine interactive Tolkien quizzes, and the interdisciplinary lesson plans for grades six through twelve. That should keep you busy for awhile!
Our last site of the week is a fan-created journey through Middle Earth led by the wizard Gandalf. Along the way you can stop to play a few games (including a word search, paddle ball, and hangman), read the Tolkien-inspired fan fiction, view the fan art gallery, and join the very lively discussion board. There is even a One Ring musical in development, which is being posted one scene at a time.