“It's the most believable, make-believe world there's ever been,” Chaffin said. “It's so detailed that there have been books written about the books written about Tolkien's books. Its jumping off places for philosophy, religion and history are profound.”
The amount of time Chaffin has spent teaching the books has given him a reputation throughout the school as a bit of a crazed Tolkien fan.
Students bring him presents toward the end of the year of hand-drawn sketches of their favorite scenes, sculptures made of the west gates to Moria and actual movie posters to hang up around the room.
Chaffin said he's considering going to see the movie in theaters, though he usually likes to wait for movies to come out on DVD.
In some ways, Chaffin is almost like the hobbit characters in the book. He's a self-professed homebody who loves to tinker on clocks in the peace and quiet of his home.
But in his classroom, he leads the adventure, one page at a time.
“I've had students call me and tell me that it was the best English class they've ever had, and that it really did inspire them to read more,” he said. “That makes me feel really nice because I know Tolkien's works of fiction are beyond anything else. To be able to pass that along is neat for me.”
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(‘The Hobbit') was imaginative and something that demonstrated the aspects that I was teaching for literary objectives and language. It's all in there. Tolkien has been my best English teacher, essentially.”