2967Re: [mythsoc] Interesting web site
- Jan 26, 2001At 03:22 PM 1/25/2001 , Mary Kay Kare wrote:
>An acquaintance in England gave me the url below. He says theThis museum looks like a worthwhile place for anyone interested in the
>museum's display of the Vale of the White Horse is a must for us
>Tolkien fans. Apparently Tolkien grew up near there and it may be the
>model for Hobbiton.
history of the English countryside. Thanks for mentioning it: it sounds
The Vale of the White Horse is beautiful countryside, much of it relatively
pristine, and it's very near Oxford, but the specific Tolkien connections
mentioned by this acquaintance are specious. Tolkien grew up in and around
Birmingham, which is 60 miles away, and the only known (or more accurately
surmised) specific model for Hobbiton was the Sarehole Mill, which he knew
as a child in Birmingham. Of course, any old rural English village may
remind the visitor of Hobbiton, and rightly so: but that's not to say that
that village is any more the model than any other village.
The museum's web site says that it aims to "recapture ... the peaceful
country ways ... of the English countryside as it used to be in the years
around 1930." By the 1930s, which seem so quaint and quiet to us now,
Tolkien was giving up his countryside rambles because he was so distressed
at the urbanization and industrialization even of rural England. He was a
creature of an earlier time still. He wrote, "The country in which I lived
in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten [he was ten in
1902], in days when motor-cars were rare objects (I had never seen one),
and men were still building suburban railways."
Tolkien certainly did know the Vale, though, and there are some worthwhile
Tolkienian places in and around it. There are villages (not the only ones,
though) in the area named Buckland and Wootton; and Christopher Tolkien
lived in the area when he was editing _The Silmarillion_ (he doesn't live
there now, though). Hammond & Scull's _J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist &
Illustrator_ contains some drawings Tolkien made in Lambourn, which is just
south of the Vale, over the hills.
I notice that the museum is on the Thames: this is roughly the stretch of
the river which inspired Shepard's illustrations for _The Wind in the
Willows_ (though not the original book), as well as being right on the
center of action of Connie Willis's _To Say Nothing Of the Dog_ (most of
_Three Men in a Boat_ takes place further downstream). So it does have
those fantasy connections.
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