While on vacation in England last month, we spent some time in Oxford.
The main attraction (for me) was Bodleian Libraries’ current exhibit: Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth.
It’s a breathtaking exhibit where Tolkien enthusiasts can view the first manuscript of The Hobbit, hand-drawn maps of Mordor, letters of correspondence from C.S. Lewis, family photos, favorite pipes, and the rocking chair in which he sat when the sentence, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” suddenly came into his mind.
The exhibit will be coming to New York in January (see the link on the blogroll to the right)! I plan to go again.
After we left the exhibit — and strolled around a bit — we ended up at The Eagle and Child. This is the small pub that J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams (and friends) would regularly meet over a pint (or two) to discuss poetry, politics and ideas for their stories.
I sat at the bar with my husband and son, drinking a pint (of Coca-Cola), overwhelmed with the fact that I was sitting in the very place where these great literary minds created The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the world of Narnia.
Here is where the The Lord of the Rings was read aloud by Tolkien himself. C.S. Lewis, a positive force in his life, had encouraged him to finish the tale. Although Tolkien believed Williams was not enthused with his work during their meetings, five years later, Williams asked to borrow the manuscript. He read it in its entirety and conveyed to Tolkien that he experienced a sense of freedom — and a connection with freedom — while he read it. He may have been slow with his support, but…better late than never.
I’m now reading The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter, which casts light on the lives of these three writers and the dynamics of their personalities.
Writing is a solitary practice, but with support and encouragement from friends, great art is realized. Great literature also has a ripple effect in that it inspires others to see the world differently and allows our imaginations to be set free.
I, for one, am thankful.