Ethos Education

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: What difference do forgiveness and reconciliation make?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Awareness of Christian teaching on forgiveness.
  • Awareness of the importance of forgiveness and repentance in Jesus’ earthly ministry.
  • Understanding of the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon factors that make it easy or difficult to forgive.
  • Evaluate reasons why past events may make it hard for people to forgive one another.
  • Analyse biblical teaching on the subject of forgiveness.
  • Reflect on the importance of reconciliation for those who have wronged others.
  • Analyse Colossians 1:21-23 to determine the significance of reconciliation in the Christian faith.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a counselling session for a dwarf and an elf with a feud.


Set up a continuum line across the classroom with the words, ‘Impossible to forgive’ at one end and ‘Easy to forgive’ at the other. Tell students you are going to read out a set of scenarios. For each one, students must decide how easy they would find it to forgive the perpetrator and place themselves accordingly on the continuum line. Pause between each scenario to ask individual students to justify their positioning.

As a static version of the same activity, give pairs or small groups of students a set of the Forgiveness Scenario Cards worksheet. Ask them to set up a continuum line on their desks with the card, ‘Impossible to forgive’ at one end and the card, ‘Easy to forgive’ at the other. Divide the scenario cards between the students in the group and ask students to take it in turns to read out a scenario card and place it on the continuum line according to how easy or difficult they would find it to forgive the perpetrator, justifying their decision to the rest of the group. Students should challenge one another’s decisions whilst acknowledging that, having discussed it, they may agree to differ.

These scenarios are replicated on the worksheet for use with the static version. If any of the scenarios are too close to home for some students (for example, if there has been a recent bereavement in the family in similar circumstances to one of the cards) you might want to remove that scenario and not use it.

  • Your best friend stands by and does nothing as bullies beat you up.
  • Your best friend repeatedly fails to help when bullies pick on you.
  • At a party, your boyfriend or girlfriend flirts with somebody else.
  • At a party, your boyfriend or girlfriend kisses somebody else.
  • A classmate tells the teacher that you were fighting at lunchtime.
  • A teacher wrongly accuses you of starting a fight, and you are internally suspended for a day.
  • Someone lies to the police, and you are arrested as a result.
  • A jury wrongly finds you guilty of a crime, unaware that the evidence presented to them is false.
  • A drunk driver kills a member of your family and drives away from the scene of the crime.
  • A drunk driver kills a member of your family, hands themselves in to the police and promises never to drink and drive again.

Encourage discussion and elicit feedback on what makes forgiveness harder or easier. Consider: the seriousness of the wrong; the extent to which the wrong can be put right; the age or mental stability of the perpetrator; the remorsefulness of the perpetrator; the changed nature of the perpetrator. Explain that in this lesson students will be exploring the Christian mandate for forgiveness with a particular focus on the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation.


Introduce the first clip from the film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Warner Bros/MGM, 2012, certificate 12). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that this clip tells the story of how the dwarves of Erebor came to lose their kingdom and to gain a bitter enmity with the elves. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the actions of the elves towards the dwarves.

  • Start time: 0.01.50 (in chapter 1 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.08.29
  • Clip length: 7 minutes and 26 seconds

The clip begins with old Bilbo (Ian Holm) saying, ‘It began long ago.’ The clip ends with the screen fading to black. The last line is ‘And he never forgave, and he never forgot.’

Ask the students whether they think Thorin (Richard Armitage) is right to be angry with the elves for the way they didn’t help his people in their hour of need. Was it reasonable for him to expect them to risk their lives against the dragon Smaug? Would it have changed things for Thorin in any way if he had been willing to forgive?

Split the class into pairs or small groups and ask them to read the following Bible passages together. For each passage they should make a list of what that passage has to say on the subject of forgiveness. Once everyone has completed this, bring the class back together and go through their observations together. If you want to get through this part of the lesson a little more quickly, you could only give each group a couple of passages and make sure that they take notes about the other passages during the collective feedback time. Here are the Bible passages: Matthew 5:38-48; Matthew 6:9-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50; John 8:1-11.

Read Colossians 1:21-23 with the students. Explain that the concept of reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian faith. Christians believe that for people to know peace, it is necessary for them to be forgiven by God for their sins against him. Christians believe that not only did Jesus’ death on the cross pay for those sins, but it was also a profound demonstration of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christians believe that God’s plan for reconciliation also results in a new relationship, not simply a mutual moving on and parting of the ways.


Ask the students to write an imagined scene between Thorin, the elven King Thranduil and a counsellor who is seeking to lead them to a reconciliation. The counsellor should express Christian reasons for seeing forgiveness and reconciliation as a desirable outcome for Thorin and Thranduil.


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