September is the month when most schools beging. And so it is fitting to have a theme about Knowledge for it.
We often take education for granted, but if you look at the world a few centuries ago, you can see what privilege it actually is. And Middle-earth is an equivalent of such a world. Unlike in our world though, there are different races - the immortal Elves carry the knowledge of millenia, and their dwellings are centres of culture and education. But even between the different kinds of Elves, there are differences - the mighty Noldor focused their knowledge on crafts and warfare, while the Vanyar living in Valinor love words and letters, and gather knowledge for knowledge itself. The Wood Elves who remained in Middle-earth are more practial, and know everything about their forests. It is a rule that the harsher the conditons a society lives in, the more it needs to focus on the knowledge connected with bare survival, and has less resources for art and culture.
And those were only the differences within the race of Elves. What about the mortal races of Men, Dwarves and Hobbits? What form did their eduacation have? Were there schools, or did they learn what they needed from their parents? Again it might depend on the class of society. While the nobles of Gondor might have private tutors, the farmers only learned what they needed for their work. And then there were some mortals who were lucky enough to be taught by Elves, like the Chieftains of the Dunedain, including Aragorn.
You may explore the topic of learning and teaching in any of these cultures. But knowledge does not have to be purely academic. "Knowledge is power", it is said, and it includes informations that can be used to one's advantage: the placement of enemy troops, the secrets that can be used for blackmailing... With gathering such knowledge, we enter the fascinating world of spies and spying - an ideal theme for a suspenseful story full of danger and adventure.
And the winners are:
A Lowly Silvan Like You by Caleneryn
Better Than Flying Through Trees by Runewife 3rd place
Heart of Darkness by Linda Hoyland 1st place
If at first you don't succeed... by Neflanthir
Links in a Chain by Karri 2nd place
The Consequences of Misinformation by Horsegirl
The Knowledge of the Noldor by Telemachus 3rd place
Happy reading and congratulations to the winners!