An Extract from Professor Tolkien of Oxford

In honour of the release of The Hobbit (and in an unashamed attempt to drum up some business) here’s an extract from my ebook, Professor Tolkien of Oxford. It’s from the chapter The Halls of Lore.


Listen! This Anglo-Saxon cry rang through the halls of the kings of the Anglo-Saxons when the bard, or scop, stood up to begin a tale of heroism or adventure. It is the first word of Beowulf, the epic Anglo-Saxon poem that Tolkien loved, studied, defended and taught through all his working life. And it was the word that Tolkien would shout out at the start of his lectures on Old English, startling a room of gossiping undergraduates into silence.


Words were the basis of everything Tolkien wrote. Not merely because he was a writer, but because it was the love of words, the intrigue of these nuggety bundles of sound and meaning that carry thought and love and history and the immense burden of human history on their unassuming backs, that made Tolkien into a scholar and writer in the first place. Words, their meaning, their derivation, the glimpses they offered into the deep past of places and peoples, were what brought him to Oxford and what made him stay. Tolkien was a philologist as much as he was a writer, and the two disciplines interpenetrated in his depths.

To read some more, buy the book!


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