Today, my eleventh grade literature students were tasked with a fun assignment. Each student was asked to link a person in our class to a literary character studied this year. The link could be made for any reason whatsoever as long as it was a logical, arguable, defendable link. They were free to link me, their humble instructor, to any of our studied character as well.
Most of my students seemed to think of me as their Gandalf.
Gandalf ( /ˈɡændɑːlf/) is a character in J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In these stories, Gandalf appears as a wizard, member and later the head of the order known as the Istari, as well as leader of the Fellowship of the Ring and the army of the West. In The Lord of the Rings, he is initially known as Gandalf the Grey, but returns from death as Gandalf the White.
JRR wrote the following about his character.
Warm and eager was his spirit (and it was enhanced by the ring Narya), for he was the Enemy of Sauron, opposing the fire that devours and wastes with the fire that kindles, and succours in wanhope and distress; but his joy, and his swift wrath, were veiled in garments grey as ash, so that only those that knew him well glimpsed the flame that was within. Merry he could be, and kindly to the young and simple, yet quick at times to sharp speech and the rebuking of folly; but he was not proud, and sought neither power nor praise… Mostly he journeyed unwearingly on foot, leaning on a staff, and so he was called among Men of the North Gandalf ‘the Elf of the Wand’. For they deemed him (though in error) to be of Elven-kind, since he would at times work wonders among them, loving especially the beauty of fire; and yet such marvels he wrought mostly for mirth and delight, and desired not that any should hold him in awe or take his counsels out of fear. … Yet it is said that in the ending of the task for which he came he suffered greatly, and was slain, and being sent back from death for a brief while was clothed then in white, and became a radiant flame (yet veiled still save in great need).
However, many students felt I resemble another character from Tolkien’s world. Evidently, I am quite similar to Beorne.
Beorn appears in The Hobbit as a shape-shifter (or, in the actual text, a “skin-changer”), a man who could assume the appearance of a great black bear. He is fierce, violent, and strong, but generally, thankfully, he is a force of good.
Finally, I have been cast as the old English hero, Beowulf.
The protagonist of the epic Beowulf, Beowulf is a Geatish hero who fights the monster Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a fire-breathing dragon. Beowulf’s boasts and encounters reveal him to be the strongest, ablest warrior around. In his youth, he personifies all of the best values of the heroic culture. In his old age, he proves a wise and effective ruler.
Well, it seems my students think me wise, brutish, and hairy.