Last updated on May 8th, 2018
As many of you know I have been traveling in England the past week, so I thought to revisit Oxford and get some shiny pictures of the wonderful views and atmosphere that helped create Middle Earth.
Oxford is a distinguished city. It boasts a rich history and centenary buildings that have sheltered academics and researches throughout most of modern history. It is also surrounded by beautiful green vistas that any Tolkien fan would identify as the Shire xD
So, before our little tour, some trivia for those of you missing some detail:
- J.R.R Tolkien was born in South Africa and lost his parents at an early age, but his mother’s homeschooling included Latin, botany and art. These, along with his love for the countryside and disdain for the industrial city he was made to move into were clear influences in his “good rural vs evil industry” Saruman theme.
- When still young, a Baboon Spider bit him and is said to have inspired the giant spiders such as Shellob. (Tolkien claimed to have no particular fear of spiders as an adult.
- He fell in love with a girl but was forbidden from talking to her until he was of the age of 21. Two years passed and he returned to ask her for marriage, making her break off another engagement. This is said to have inspired the forbidden romances in the books.
The Tolkien Oxford Tour
I started my visits at Pembroke College, where J.R.R Tolkien taught Anglo-Saxon
Inside this building, The Hobbit and the first two volumes of LoTR were written. The College is closed to the public but, as all other Oxford Colleges, allows visits to members and public can stop by the Chapel.
I also visited Merton College, where Tolkien served as Professor of English Language and Literature
It is said that the grounds of this college, which feature stone tables and benches with hexagonal shapes, inspired the author’s designs of Middle Earth, as he could be found sitting, writing and pondering in the gardens.
Tolkien’s stories started out as narrations for his children, which prompted him to realize his gift for storytelling and seek fellow literate enthusiasts who would share his love for writing and reading. Tolkien joined The Inklings, a group of scholars devoted to literature and fine Ale created by a undergraduate of the University College:
The Inklings would gather at the Bird and Baby Public House, now renamed to Eagle and Child.
It was in these very rooms that The Lord of The Rings was first read, and it was wonderful to be able to see the pub working and retaining its very low key approach to its fame. I saw several Tolkien fans enjoying meals at the spot and quietly commenting on the significance of the pub. Had the group not existed, we may have never read these amazing works.
There are several other places that have hints for the Tolkien fan:
- The White Horse pub, clearly inspiration to the Prancing Pony;
- Wayland’s Smithy, the starting point of the Barrow Downs;
- Uffington’s White Horse, akin to Rohan’s banner.
I certainly recommend the tour for anyone planning a visit to England.
My last stop was in North Oxford, Wolvercotte. J.R.R Tolkien spent a long time here and the local cemetery houses his grave.
I found it a very modest grave, almost too simple to keep the remains of a man we all owe such a big thank you to. I was of course very moved to see the connection between Middle Earth and his life. For any of you who do not know, the famous Silmarillion scene in which Beren, a mortal man, falls in love with the beautiful elvish maiden Luthien was inspired by Edith’s dancing and singing amongst woods for Tolkien.
I also found the mini Gandalf gift very appropriate to this humble and clearly intimate grave
Hope you all enjoyed the tour! For more of our gamer travel adventures check out the Travel section of Fextralife!