I try to make the best of business travel. I had all-day obligations this time around, but fortunately my hotel was next to a place of some renown. The house where J. R. R. Tolkien lived was practically right next door. This is the place where the Lord of the Rings came into the world. I have always tried to visit sites of literary significance when in new places. When we were more able to do so, my family would take such literary pilgrimages annually, especially in the autumn. Being a believer in the confluence of science and spirit, I can’t help but think there’s something sacred about the place where great literature was born. Of course, in Oxford you can find sites for Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis, as well, among many others. These days everyone seems to associate the place with Harry Potter, although J. K. Rowling started that particular series in Edinburgh.
Tolkien has become a deity in his own right, I suspect, for creating an entire world to which millions of fantasy fans come. His actual house, however, is privately owned. Besides, I’m here on business. Still, falling asleep so close to where Tolkien dreamed his Middle Earth dreams is akin to inspiration. Writing as an avocation makes such encounters almost worshipful. I read the Ring trilogy and The Hobbit many years ago. I haven’t seen any of the movies, however, since my own imagination seems sufficient for me. Tolkien took me, for many hours, into another world. Somewhat like work has done this week, I guess. Were it not for business, Oxford could be a magical place. Living in a location where imagination is valued and encouraged makes a huge difference, I expect.
Years ago, Edinburgh was an inspirational place to reside. Although my main writing output at the time was a 300-page doctoral dissertation, it was a place that has inspired much of my fiction. Tolkien, in truth, was just as human as the rest of us. His work was largely based on ancient Germanic traditions that were also reflected in Wagner’s Ring cycle. We are all borrowers, in some sense. Adapters. Oxford is one of those places with a long sense of continuity with the past, in a singular tradition. It has become modern in parts, but with medieval streets. There are cars parked along Northmoor Road, and nobody else seems to be here for a pilgrimage today. Perhaps it’s for the best; how could the workaday world possibly improve for the use of imagination?