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2967Re: [mythsoc] Interesting web site

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  • David S. Bratman
    Jan 26, 2001
      At 03:22 PM 1/25/2001 , Mary Kay Kare wrote:

      >An acquaintance in England gave me the url below. He says 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.
      >
      >http://ds.dial.pipex.com/sfb/penhome.shtml

      This museum looks like a worthwhile place for anyone interested in the
      history of the English countryside. Thanks for mentioning it: it sounds
      interesting.

      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.

      David Bratman
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