Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Worlds of Wonder Wednesday: The Shire

One of the first books I can remember loving was The Hobbit, which my father read to me before bed when I was in first grade, and which was infinitely more interesting than the little paper books we could color on with phrases like, "The cat is on the mat." As a result, one of the worlds of wonder of which I am most fond is The Shire, the homespace of Middle-earth, and the place to which both Bilbo and Frodo have such difficulty returning. It is, after all, a common trope that you can't go back home again. Still the scenes in the Shire are, if sometimes tinged with a bit of sadness, warm and comforting.

Having lived in Oxford, I suppose I even further romanticize the Shire as representational not only of the rolling English countryside, but also of a place that could encourage the arduous work that goes into creating a separate world with its own peoples, languages and lands. A quick look over the wikipedia entry will show just how detailed the Shire, and all of Middle-earth, is. [The comparison between Iceland and the Shire seems particularly apt (reading W.H. Auden on Iceland before actually going there marks the country as forever a bit English in my mind), as the whole of the country felt a bit magical.] I'm about 90% sure that my writing style, which has always involved really long, detailed descriptions, as well as my obsession with historical homes, can pretty much be entirely attributed to reading Tolkien as a small child. I don't know how accurate this fantasy really is, but I certainly imagine Tolkien at a big hardwood desk, next to a warm fire, typing and reading encyclopedias, and sometimes chatting with the Inklings over pints at the Bird and Baby. It's either a bit rainy and gray, or it's beautiful and all the students are punting and drinking Pimm's.

Clearly, the Shire speaks directly to my love of home and of reading, and considering the importance of both of those things, I don't know that much can be said beyond that. If you need more, check out one of the myriad of atlases, guides and criticisms of Middle-earth and Tolkien. Or pick up the books. They taste like Harry Potter, only much, much better.

No comments:

Post a Comment