Following in Tolkien’s footsteps in Oxford

November 28, 2013 12:00 am | Updated 02:05 am IST - Oxford:

When the latest Hobbit film hits cinemas just before Christmas, with Bilbo Baggins and his friends fighting orcs and doing battle against evil in Middle Earth, Oxford will only raise a snooty eyebrow.

Oxford however is where it all began. Although filmed in the mountains of New Zealand, the books emerged from the imagination of J R R. Tolkien, an Oxford professor and author of The Hobbit and the fantasy masterpiece The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien lived at 20 Northmoor Road in the English city between 1930 and 1947 and penned his two most famous works there.

The house is a popular spot for Hobbit fans looking for signs of anything that could have inspired the author.

Tolkien moved house 20 times in his lifetime, but every house where he ever lived is still standing. After Northmoor Road, a house at 76 Sandfield Road where Tolkien lived with his wife Edith between 1953 and 1968 is the most relevant.

Tolkien, who was a renowned expert in Old English had three favourite locations where he liked to while away his time in Oxford.

His spiritual home was the church of St Anthony of Padua, where this deeply religious Englishman with his quintessential pipe and tweed jacket practised his Catholic faith.

The 300–year–old Eagle and Child pub was where Tolkien was most able to relax. The pub still retains much of its original furnishings and it is possible to sit in the author’s old seat to order a pint and a sandwich. The pub landlord knows much about his establishment’s most famous former patron and will happily recount how Tolkien was best known for his explosive laughter.

Tolkien’s third favourite spot in Oxford was the Botanic Garden where there is a famous colour picture, dating back to his last summer there 40 years ago, showing the author sitting under a black pine tree that he particularly loved.

The tree more than 200 years old, is easy to find as it is by far the largest tree in the entire garden.

It is only a short walk from the Botanic Garden to the old town of Oxford with its famous colleges. Tolkien studied at Exeter College but taught at Pembroke and Merton College, while his friend and fellow novelist C.S. Lewis taught at the beautiful Magdalen College, located directly opposite the botanic gardens.

However in the relatively flat landscape of Oxfordshire, the true Tolkien fan will wonder where to find the wild, romantic countryside described in his books and plainly portrayed in the films.DPA

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