Monday, July 6, 2009
Retracing the roots of hobbits, orcs, and other such Middle-earthean lore
Together with our fearless & wise leader, Mark, we embarked on our most serious literary venture yet: a walking Tolkien tour of Oxford. Several things were working in our favor yesterday afternoon: first, 8 out of 9 of us have a deep-rooted love of The Lord of the Rings (thanks, Dennis, for ruining our stats); second, the British weather gods were working in our favor with a sunny, 70-degree afternoon; and, third, "The Eagle and Child" pub (where Tolkien, Lewis, and other inklings gathered regularly) was dangling in front of us like a carrot as our post-tour reward.
The trip began in Magdalen College (pictured left) where we walked the same path around the park where C. S. Lewis renounced Atheism with Tolkien. All Atheists in the group trod warily. From there, we saw the last house Tolkien inhabited in Oxford, one of the colleges he worked at in his 30s, and some fun signs advertising "Tudor Music by Candlelight." If there were ever a group of suckers for this kind of signage, surely it's this crew.
Our next stop was University Park where a bench (and some trees that I only pretended to identify) were dedicated to JRRT. Despite my ignorance, I offered to take a picture of Mark in front of a random bush that I thought was more worthy of a Tolkien dedication...good thing Tim & Lara have an eye for such symbolic flora and snapped a real shot.
Before closing out the afternoon, we hit the longest leg of the trek on our way to another of Tolkien's homes in Oxford. While perched on a stone wall belonging to a neighbor, the group discussed whether or not we'd ever buy the house. On the one hand, you get to sit in the room where the Elvish language and concepts like "second breakfast" came into being. On the other hand, you also get to look out your window at small gatherings of bookish tourist types staring at your house, straining to read the tiny plaque tacked to the front facade. It's a toss up.
Like all true Tolkien fans, we concluded the festivities in the famous "Eagle and Child." Since it was Sunday, the desirable "Rabbit Room" was taken (don't ask...the names of these pubs get much, much weirder). With our free St. Edmund Hall dinner awaiting us, most restrained themselves and ordered a pint. I, on the other hand, had no such restraint and ordered the full repertoire of fish, chips, and ale. The last picture I'll include is one I can't resist. I title this: "Mark, serious about Tolkien."