Back to Essay series: Tolkien at Oxford
Tolkien's (?) Oxford
An example of my photographic skills: when I took this shot, I thought it was straight. Thank goodness for photo editing programs!
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:
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:
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:
Another closeup, just because it boggles my mind to think that these stones have been standing there for a millennium:
Another non-Inkling-related old structure, although not as old as the tower:
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:
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.
The sign now above the door is the "new" sign:
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:
A closer view of the sign (and of Brummie's back).
Just so you can see I wasn't kidding about the heels (OTOH, hubby's shoes seem to have done a lot of walking):
(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