Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth
Anne Maria Clarke @ the Bodlelian Libray Oxford
The Bodleian library, under the direction of curator and Tolkien archivist, Catherine Mcllwaine has created a wonderful exhibition. A ' once in a life time event' announced the Telegraph, and for fans, it is indeed a treat.
One enters via a hallway onto whose surfaces familiar maps and images from the tales have been brilliantly projected as illuminated animations, effectively drawing you in so to speak, to the terrain of Middle Earth. The interior of the exhibition is replete with treasures and curiosities of all kinds, ordinary and extra-ordinary alike. Tolkien's old desk and chair for example, intricate doodles on faded newspaper crossword pages, overlaid with Tolkien's exquisite calligraphy and snippets of obscure Elven phrases.....clearly works of art in their own right. There are photos and details of his childhood and early education, his time in the army during the First World War, the love of his life Edith and their four children: progressing sequentially through to his time as an Oxford Don and the beginnings of his writing, illustration and consolidation of his Elven languages of which astoundingly, there were sixteen. There are audio recordings too, featuring classic and well-loved Elven phrases and a large central 3D map of Middle Earth illuminating the route taken by Frodo and his companions from the Shire, through Rivendell and Lothlorien to Mordor.
Particularly charming are the hand-written pages and illustrations from Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas which he wrote and illustrated for his children for a full twenty-three years.
There are letters from fans including the Queen of Denmark, Joni Mitchell and Iris Murdock, all in praise and wonderment at his achievements.
Prominently featured are Tolkien's own illustrations of his work, several of which have been enlarged and projected onto the walls. His original covers for three parts of The Lord of the Rings are displayed alongside his delightful Book of Ishness and some original manuscript from his founding epic The Silmarillion, all of which so perfectly depict the magical realms in a way which as in the writing, exhibit his unique capacity to juxtapose utterly sublime and visionary themes with the humble everyday concerns and comforts of life, like the importance of the hobbits second breakfast. He renders both with finesse and an almost transcendent lucidity.
Judging from snippets of conversations overheard as we made our around, it seemed to me as if each person had their own very personal thing going on, their own deep and intimate connection with the landscape and characters of Middle Earth - as if they had personally traversed the difficult terrain, experienced the terrors, exhilarations and profound beauty of that world. And I marvelled at Tolkien's great genius at being able to realise and to animate such a realm and convey it simultaneously into our collective and deeply intimate and private worlds.
He wanted to create a new mythology some have said, one rooted in the landscape of Britain and in the Northern countries to which he felt such affinity. It is abundantly clear and has been so for many years, that he suceeded in doing just that.
A clever, clever man without doubt, an Oxford don, philologist, medievalist, creator of languages....and yet....his sucesss as a person, a husband and father as well as an author is rooted not only in these scholarly attributes but in his connection to and his deep humility in relation to something far greater than himself, as the following little story reveals.
Tolkien once received a letter from a reader who said that although he himself had very little faith, the world Tolkien wrote of seemed permeated with such a quality....
which seems to be everywhere without a visible source like light from an invisible lamp....and this gives me great comfort.
I can only answer that of his own sanity no man can securely judge....I can only say that if santity inhabits his work or a pervading light illumines it then it does not come from him, but through him and you would not perceive it in these terms unless it was with you also.
To be continued.....
Anne Maria Clarke
x x x
Oxford OX1 3BG
Dates1 June – 28 October 2018
Exhibition hours Mon-Sat 10AM – 5PM
Sun 11AM – 5PM
More fairy-stories, myths, legends and books by
Anne Maria Clarke
http://www.archivepublishing.co.uk /Transpersonal Books - Transpersonal Psychology. Understanding the Soul - Expanding Consciousness