Of hob­bits and men

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country - Edited by An­nun­ci­ata El­wes

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

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