Sunday Salon ~ On Tolkien and Shakespeare

70757~Cafe-Mocha-PostersThere has been a certain amount of chatter here over the past two weeks about Dr Samuel Johnson, prompted by my admission that despite the fact that he is very much a local writer I know almost nothing about him.  I’ve sat back in admiration letting other bloggers teach me about one of the great figures of English letters and I’m very grateful, but it’s not very good for ego, so yesterday I set off to remind myself that there is one local writer about whom I know much more.

As some of you know, I live in The Shire.  Now don’t get worried.  I’m not living a fantasy life.  I really don’t believe that I’m a woolly-footed Hobbit or a long-eared elf, although I have to admit that when I was at work there were days when I wouldn’t have minded being a grumpy axe-wielding dwarf.  No, I actually do live in The Shire, the landscape that Tolkien drew on when he was creating the Middle Earth homeland of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.  I often go for tea at the mill that was the model for the one own by Ted Sandyman and yesterday, between first and second breakfast (I do have a healthy admiration for the Hobbit insistence on regular meals) I went for a long walk in The Old Forest.

Fortunately, we haven’t had that much rain over the past couple of week, because one good downpour and the paths can become impassable and as Frodo and his friends found out to their cost, taking a detour is not a good idea.


As you can see, I was able to do the sensible thing and follow one of the tributaries of the Brandywine so that I would be sure that I could find my way out again.

I was also able to stick to the lower path.  It’s always wise to avoid the upper one.  So much easier to hide if you happen to hear horses hooves coming up behind you.  They may say they’re just from the local trekking centre, but who knows what guises those evil Nazgul may have taken in this reincarnation.

Walking these paths alone, it is actually very easy to understand not only where Tolkien’s ideas came from, but also where he found some of the inspiration for the chilling atmosphere that he created.  It isn’t perhaps as easy to see how the University clock tower became one of the two towers of the trilogy’s second book, not that is, until you know that when it was built, a process Tolkien would have watched, it was constructed from the inside.  There was no scaffolding.  Watching that grow day by day, with no visible support, must have been very creepy indeed and it must have been easy to attribute it to some sort of magical intercession.

I cherish my links with The Shire and I also cherish my links with that other local writer, William Shakespeare.  As you will know if you come over here for tea on a regular basis, I’m going back to my Shakespeare studies and there’s been a suggestion made that we set up a Shakespeare discussion group.  I’ve put together a post about this, which is at present a sticky on the main blog site.  If you are interested in joining us then just click on the blog tab at the top of this post and you can read more about it there.  It would be great to have some fellow Salonistas along.

Published in: on August 23, 2009 at 8:51 am  Comments (11)  

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a beautiful place to live! It makes me happy just to think such a lovely place still exists on earth. And the wonderful writing generated from that place!

  2. I do know how lucky I am Debnance. And home to second breakfast as well!

  3. Lovely post, indeed. Your pictures and words created magic and I thought I was there walking in the woods with you.

  4. What a gorgeous place to putter around in. I’d be inclined to take a book with me and find a cozy spot to settle in to read!

    Don’t feel too badly about being unfamiliar with Johnson. Long ago I bought a copy of his dictionary but I have never cracked it open. And so I haven’t ever read this illustrious light in the English language firmament. Shameful really for one with my degrees. But there you are!

  5. Oh my —- the real Shire is exactly as I pictured it. I hope to visit the area someday and truly have the opportunity to appreciate England’s countryside.

  6. Thank you, Ann! I have to come visit! I love that walk, it does look deliciously dark, and then to imagine Tolkien walking along the same paths……I like the story of the Tower, too. What a lovely post! And diabetic or not (I am now) I still manage to get breakfast and a snack in before lunch! It’ll have to do as second breakfast 😀

    I’m checking out the Shakespeare sticky note now…..

  7. An interesting post and beautiful photos.

  8. Thank you all for coming over. You are all more than welcome to come for the walk with me, and back for breakfast (first or second). if you’re ever around, just let me know.

  9. You live in the Shire! 😀 Thank you for sharing the fabulous photos – and for the post, which was a pleasure to read. One of the things I love the most about visiting places with literary connections is how noticeable it often is that the writer’s ideas were suggested by that particular landscape.

  10. How fascinating! I would love to go there someday. What a perfect place to feel very fantastical and bookish. Thank you for the little glimpse along Frodo’s path.

  11. It sounds like such a lovely place to live! Gorgeous photos!

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