For classical educators, developing the human person is the primary goal, and the cultural treasures of the past are the principal means to that goal. Making the thoughts, words, stories and beauty of Christian civilization a living part of students gives them standards and ideals that direct their maturation into adults who help shape their world.
JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings epic, wonderful in so many ways, also resonates with the spirit of classical education. In a surprising statement at the end of the story, Gandalf, the wizard who has guided and protected the hobbits, speaks of their adventures as a kind of education:
I am not coming to the Shire. You must settle its affairs yourselves; that is what you have been trained for. Do you not yet understand?
Without realizing it, the four hobbits, three of them relatively young, have been prepared to become leaders of their society.
At the beginning of the story, Sam, Merry and Pippin are much like their fellow hobbits of the Shire – decent folk but almost completely unaware of anything outside their little world. Most hobbits were not only unaware, but proudly so. Sam’s father was suspicious of the fact that Sam had learned to read: “Mr. Bilbo has learned him his letters—meaning no harm, mark you, and I hope no harm will come of it.” He had no idea why Sam left, and no interest in his tale once he returned.