Tolkien’s Modern Reading

I had the pleasure of traveling to various places in the UK that were important to J.R.R. Tolkien and related to his modern reading… I will be sharing these videos over the coming days as we lead up to the release date of Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages on January 25, 2021! (See below for a peek at the Table of Contents!)

Tolkien’s Modern Reading is available for pre-order from Amazon!
It is also available directly from Word on Fire in the US, in Canada, and also in Europe and Australia/NZ.

Check out each of these videos below for a glimpse of Tolkien’s Modern Reading – on location!

Tolkien’s Modern Reading: What’s It About?

Introduction video: Where did The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit come from? Are they exclusively medieval and nostalgic in their inspiration? Was J.R.R. Tolkien ’stuck in the past’ and dismissive of modern culture, as is commonly assumed? In fact, as I discovered in my research, he enjoyed a broad range of contemporary works and even named specific modern sources upon Middle-earth. In Tolkien’s Modern Reading, I show that he brought to the workings of his fantastic imagination a deep knowledge of both the facts and the fictions of the modern world.

Tolkien’s Childhood: The South African Connection

Video #1: Tolkien’s Childhood: The South African Connection. I had the privilege of visiting the archives of the Birmingham Oratory, UK, where, with the kind permission of the Oratory Fathers, I was able to see (and share in this video) one of the very few surviving mementos of Tolkien’s early childhood, and one that provides a link to his birthplace in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Video #2: Tolkien’s Childhood: The Inglesant House. Here is a glimpse of a little-known but important place in Tolkien’s life: the “Inglesant House,” which, as a boy in Birmingham, he would have passed every day on the way to the Birmingham Oratory. It no longer exists, but I tracked down where it stood… 

Video #3: Tolkien’s Childhood: The Newman Connection. Here’s a look inside the Birmingham Oratory House, which Tolkien knew as a home away from home, and a consideration of the link with John Henry Newman… 

 Video #4: Tolkien’s Student Days – and Matthew Arnold. We now shift locale to Oxford, where we consider Tolkien’s student life and find a connection to the poet Matthew Arnold… 

Video #5: Tolkien’s Student Days – the Oxford Union. Here we have a glimpse of the Oxford Union, where Tolkien, in his student days, made use of its library (and ran up a fine for overdue books!) and a consideration of some of the varied authors he enjoyed through his life…

Video #6: Tolkien and William Morris. I’m in Birmingham, at the Plough and Harrow hotel, to trace literary connections to the battlefields of World War I and the fiction of William Morris… 

Video #7: Tolkien and His Family: The Dragon School. Here we are back in Oxford, at the Dragon School, which Tolkien’s sons attended (as did his future biographer), to ask: is it really the case that Tolkien read very little modern fiction and took no serious notice of it?

Video #8: Tolkien and His Family: Northmoor Road: a windy-day visit to Tolkien’s home in Oxford, where Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, to trace connections with some notable authors of children’s books… including one who had a direct impact on The Hobbit…!

Video #9: Tolkien and Andrew Lang. Is this Minas Tirith in Gondor? No, it’s the Bodleian Library in Oxford! Here I’m tracing a connection to the modern author Andrew Lang…

Video #10: Tolkien and Kenneth Grahame. Tolkien loved “The Wind in the Willows,” calling it an “excellent book,” “an almost perfect blend… of many pigments.” Here I am in Oxford at the River Cherwell, to consider links between Grahame’s tale and Middle-earth.

Video #11: Tolkien and Lewis Carroll. Did you know that Tolkien translated one of the poems from “Through the Looking-glass” into Elvish? Here, at Christ Church, Oxford, I consider Tolkien’s love for the work of Lewis Carroll.

More to come…

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