Of hobbits and men
THE extraordinary imagination of J. R. R. Tolkien is celebrated in a new exhibition at Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The curators are calling ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’ a ‘once-in-a-generation experience’ of the writer’s ‘vast creative genius’.
Original manuscripts, artworks— including watercolours and dustjacket designs for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings—maps and artefacts have been gathered from the UK, the USA and France to be reunited in Oxford for the first time since Tolkien’s death more than 40 years ago. They join the vast Tolkien Archive, the largest collection of original Tolkien manuscripts and drawings in the world, which has been kept at the Bodleian since 1979, in the city where Tolkien spent much of his adult life—as a student of classics in 1911 and, later, as professor of English language and literature—and where he wrote his most famous works.
Of the 200-plus items, more than half have never been displayed before. Some are touching letters and photographs from Tolkien’s childhood and student days, exploring themes of love, loss and war, as well as letters of appreciation from the likes of W. H. Auden, Joni Mitchell and Iris Murdoch.
‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’ opens tomorrow and runs until October 28 (https://tolkien.bodleian.ox.ac.uk); it will then travel to the Morgan Library, New York, next year, followed by a show in Paris. See the August 1 issue of COUNTRY LIFE for an exhibition review.
Above: Bilbo comes to theHuts of the Raft-elves from The Hobbit.Left: Tolkien in the Oxford Botanic Garden