Tolkien's (?) Oxford

small photo of a building, tilted at about 40-degree angle
An example of my photographic skills: when I took this shot, I thought it was straight. Thank goodness for photo editing programs!

Logo: Frodo lives within us now

 |     home  |  back to  Essay series: Tolkien at Oxford

Tolkien's (?) Oxford

The guide for our tour of Oxford on the second afternoon of the conference was an affable chap and very knowledgeable about Oxford; it was just rather obvious that he was more used to guiding C.S. Lewis fans than Tolkienites. We spent a fair amount of time comparing the dining room at the hotel where Lewis and Joy Davidman actually met with the one used for the setting in Shadowlands. But Lewis and Tolkien sites overlap enough that this wasn't too annoying, and we did see some specifically Tolkien-related places, too. The one time the guide told a funny story and attributed it to the wrong Inkling, there were plenty of people there to correct him. (My second favorite Inkling, Charles Williams, rated a wave of the hand "over there" to the hospital where he died. Of course, his haunts overlapped with CSL's and JRRT's a fair amount, too. And we did learn about a shocked CSL having to bring the news of CW's death to the others waiting at the Eagle and Child, which was a story I hadn't heard before.)  

Naturally, the main reason for this entry is to show pictures. This was my first day ever using a digital camera, so don't expect anything artistic. Back in the B.C. (before computers) era, I would have bought post cards rather than taken photos, because the post cards would have been better than the pictures I could shoot. But now I wanted to take the photos so that I could have them digitally on the computer. I didn't specifically take photos of people, but enough show up in the pictures to give something of an idea of the variety of attendees at the conference. This was a fairly rigorous walk, though, so the people you see in these pictures tend to be from the younger end of the spectrum.

The first picture is an outside shot of the windows of Tolkien's room as a student at Exeter College. It's the double window just beneath the tree branches:  

view of top two stories of brown stone building with a number of windows, and arched roof showing above

This building provides one "wall" of the Exeter College quadrangle, which we're looking at here from the outside. The roof of the college's chapel is in the background.

A closer look:

closeup of a double window

When the guide pointed out the windows, a surprised member of our group said, "That's my room." He didn't offer to sign autographs, though.



This tower was photo-worthy because it's one of the oldest - possibly the oldest - structure in Oxford. Which means it's old!! It's age is obvious from the fact that it has an antenna on top; apparently built before satellite TV:

far shot of a stone tower


Another closeup, just because it boggles my mind to think that these stones have been standing there for a millennium:

closeup of part of the stone tower, including a small, arched window


Another non-Inkling-related old structure, although not as old as the tower:
Row of buildings as described in text
This entire street, the guide told us, used to be lined with the type of building shown on the left, with the second story jutting out over the first story in a way that I've always thought of as "Shakespearean". There was a fire that destroyed all the rest of the buildings; this one, which is at an end of the street, is the only one that survived. This didn't happen recently, of course. The "replacement" building to the right is still obviously old. It's just not as old as the one on the left.

For no other reason than my amazement at what digital cameras can do, here's a closeup of some of the old woodwork, with some newer woodwork to the right for comparison:
closeup of very aged wood with a brace of newer wood


And the place that needs no introduction (because the name is right on the front). As you can kind of tell from this picture, we did get to go inside the Bird and Baby. It was a fairly busy place, with more locals than tourists; the only hints of its illustrious past were some pictures hung in the hallway.  
tour group beginning to enter the Eagle and Child


I'll introduce a few of the people, though:
 
The man with the shades perched on his head is from Poland, and gave a talk comparing Tolkien's beliefs about language to those of an earlier philosopher (who I'd never heard of). Later in the week, he helped me disabuse one of the Brits in attendance of the idea that everything in America is "ultimately from Britain," by pointing out that Chicago has the largest Polish population of any city in the world - including Warsaw. He's unusual for a Tolkien scholar in that he also likes Pullman's books, which will come up again later in this series.
closeup of one man facing the camera and a couple holding hands going towards the door

The man on the right is Patrick Curry. You may know the name from his several published books.  At the conference, he gave a talk on "Enchantment" and has just written a new book on, yes, Enchantment. He's an ex-pat American, BTW. The woman in green is his wife, who survived this afternoon-long walking tour over cobblestone streets in a pair of amazingly high-heeled shoes.

closeup of woman looking up at the front of the Eagle and Child

For Faculty members and other KDers, this is our own Brummie, who chose the day of the tour to come to the conference as a day-attendee. This made some of the others there look at the internet in a different way. For the rest of the week, I had people asking me - as if they weren't quite sure how this could happen - if the two of us had really known each other for several years without ever meeting. The fact that we would first meet at a Tolkien conference seemed to give the internet some respectability.

This is the one exception to my statement that I didn't purposely take any pictures of people. I was trying to get a photo of Brummie in front of the Eagle and Child, but, as you can see, still didn't manage to get her face. And as it was, I barely made it back across the street fast enough to catch up with the group before everyone had gone inside.



The man on the left who's almost facing the camera is a priest from France. He didn't give a talk, but he was very helpful in the unofficial translator role he played during the conference. He's also the one who discovered he was staying in JRRT's room at Exeter. The man in the blue shirt is from Germany (IIRC).

The woman on the right, with her hand on top of her head, is the one attendee from South Africa. It was nice to have someone there from JRRT's native country, although she's Afrikaans rather than British. We had a couple of things in common, in that she was also on her first international journey, and was another of the few non-academics at the conference.

several people standing in a group beneath the Eagle and Child sign


The sign now above the door is the "new" sign:
Closeup of the sign, showing an eagle in flight carrying a small child by grasping the child's wrapping in its talons
We were told that the picture on the "old" sign was very similar to JRRT's own drawing of Bilbo being carried to the eagle's eyrie in The Hobbit (or, to give proper credit to the sign maker, JRRT's drawing of Bilbo being carried to the eyrie is very similar to the old sign).

For those of you who've wondered (I know I did!), the sign shows Zeus in the form of an eagle abducting the infant Ganymede. Certainly something every Tolkien geek should know.


According to the guide, this is the first building ever built in the world specifically for the purpose of musical concerts. The Tolkiens came to performances here fairly often while they lived in Oxford:
tour group walking past a white building

A closer view of the sign (and of Brummie's back).
closeup of sign reading 'Holywell Music Room

Just so you can see I wasn't kidding about the heels (OTOH, hubby's shoes seem to have done a lot of walking):
closeup of woman's feet in high heels and a man's foot in a worn shoes with a hole by the toe

Top of page
Next page
previous page

(The extremely interesting background on this page is made from the front of the Eagle and Child.
__________________________
Text and photos copyright 2006 by Trudy G. Shaw