One hundred years ago Edith Tolkien sang and danced for her husband in a “hemlock glade” at or near Roos in East Yorkshire. Unfortunately, unless some more information becomes available we cannot be sure of the precise date, but examination of the flora Tolkien mentions suggests a date in May or very early June 1917. Tolkien refers to the understory in the glade as ‘hemlock’, but it is much more likely that the plant he was referring to is commonly known as Cow Parsley. You may read more about the various members of the umbellifer family and their flowering times here.
In The Advocate of 9 August 1934 a head and shoulder portrait of an academic (right) was published with the accompanying text: “Professor John Tolkien has been Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in Oxford University since 1925. He served with the Lancashire Fusiliers from 1915-18. Born of a South African family in 1892, he was educated at the King Edward VI. School, Birmingham, and Exeter College, Oxford. He was Professor of English Language in Leeds University in 1924-5.” This sketch does not appear to have been published for over seventy years until it resurfaced earlier this week. The use of John rather than Ronald suggests that Tolkien was probably not actually consulted about the text.
‘New’ drawings of Tolkien are not unearthed every day, especially from the period before the publication of The Hobbit in 1937, so this image of the author dating from 1934 is particularly interesting. What was Tolkien doing in 1934? He had probably fairly recently completed the first version of The Hobbit. He was a busy academic, lecturing and teaching on a daily basis, and was also working on several academic publishing projects. The poems ‘The Adventures of Tom Bombadil’ and ‘Looney’ had also been published for the first time earlier that year. It is interesting that although he had not published any fiction at this point, he was considered of sufficient international significance as a Catholic to be featured in an antipodean religious publication.
Tourism is an important source of income for any city, region, or country. It was estimated that in 2013 tourism was “worth £106bn to England’s economy”(1). It should therefore come as no surprise that there is such a thing as a Tolkien tourist industry. For several decades Tolkien’s readers have been making private pilgrimages to Oxford; posing for photographs outside one of his residences; visiting the various colleges at which he studied, or where he later became a tutor and lecturer; paying their respects at his graveside, or even dropping in to ‘The Eagle and Child,’ one of his favourite pubs, for a drink. The tourist industry is now galvanising its resources and offering dedicated Tolkien Tours. In April this year Birmingham produced a new Tolkien Trail leaflet, which recommends visits to Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, the houses where Tolkien once lived, and the places he worshipped. This is an invaluable resource for those wishing to visit all the genuine sites associated with Tolkien in the area in which he grew up. However, a more pernicious aspect of tourism is also beginning to rear its head; locations which have only a tangential Tolkien connection, or in extreme cases with absolutely no link to the author are attempting to jump on the tourist bandwagon.