Oxonmoot – a retrospective

Deutscher Text folgt bald! 😉

Once again, the Tyrolean Tolkien Smial, namely four adventurous hobbits, attended a gathering abroad. This time it was the “Oxonmoot” the annual conference of the English Tolkien Society.

The group headed for Oxford, the impressive university city, deeply steeped in history, on Frodo and Bilbo’s birthday, September 22nd 2011. As proper fans, they even raised a glass of sparkling wine onto the birthday children at the airport.

After a long, funny and exhausting journey  (some of which was made on the wings of a giant metallic eagle ;-)) the four companions finally arrived in Bree – that is St. Benet’s Hall in Oxford. They immediately set out to explore the vast and wonderful streets of “the city of dreaming spires” – and marveled over the Bridge of Sighs and the famous Radcliffe Camera.

Footprints of the Professor

On the next day, the four followed JRRTs Trail over Oxford. In a unique and unforgettable meeting they had the opportunity to meet with Naomi Collyer, Tolkiens former secretary – who shared rare pictures and stories about the professor. Thanks so much  Naomi & Garth for your hospitality and the companiable discussion. We enjoyed it as much as your delicious cookies!

„Whenever I think of Professor Tolkien I can`t help thinking of Bilbo Baggins the Hobbit. Like Bilbo, the Professor was short (about 5ft.3inches, or 1.6m) and rather stout, he loved his pipe and his beer and his food (and I suspect, mushrooms!), and was cheery and kind, though he could be irascible. He usually wore a thick tweed jacket and a warm-looking wine-coloured waistcoat. He had the most twinkling eyes, which could sometimes be deep and thoughtful as an Ent`s. But he also had a most child-like sense of fun – to speak to him you would never guess  that he was one of the foremost philologists in the world, a pioneer of Anglo-Saxon studies, an expert on Irish, Icelandic, Old Norse, and other forgotten northern tongues, to say nothing of inventing several languages of his own – this was a continuing hobby. We spent at least as much time talking as typing, and he loved to tell me funny stories. I often missed the punch-line  as he talked very fast, and it came round a mouthful of pipe and was somewhat mangled – but his laugh was so infectious, I had to laugh anyway!…“

Naomi Collyer, former secretary of J.R.R.Tolkien

Afterwards, the Tyrolean Tolkiens Smial dropped by Tolkien’s house in Sandfield Road Nr. 76, where he and his family lived from 1953 to 1968. On the way back to the bus station the four fans even discovered the “Woodlands Road” and speculated, if it might lead to Mirkwood and Legolas.

Then, they immersed themselves in the giant halls of “Blackwell’s”, the university bookshop that features a specialized JRR Tolkien shelf and hunted for the JRRT-dedicated bench in the University Park. Of course a visit of Exeter College and the bust in its chapel were a must too.

Even JRRTs favourite tree in the Botanical garden and his last home in Merton Street Nr. 21 got a bri drop-by. But the most fun were the evenings spent in Hobbit fashion – with good food, cider and beer – in  two well-known pubs.

“The Lamb and Flag” and “The Eagle and Child” were Tolkien’s favourite haunts for an evening out and having been there, we absolutely agree: these are really comfy places for some good time with friends (not to mention that we even got an ale called “Golden Pippin” from Copper Dragon Ales – some Middle Earth magic!)

The Oxonmoot-conference itself turned out to be a disappointment. The talks were average at best and the audience wasn’t very talkative or welcoming. A let-down for the four Austrian elves, that’ve come a long way and have been looking forward to discussions and new acquaintances with fellow Tolkien enthusiasts. Anyway, they enjoyed the dancing instructions in Merry and Pippin’s dancing workshop and the opportunity to visit Tolkien’s grave. And they even got a chance to sport their elven outfits – which won the „Best workmanship“-Award in the costume contest.

At this point, the Tyrolean Tolkien Smial wants to thank Coliez Duriez for the refreshing talk at dinner and the research prompt. We’re already planning and gathering information!

With a short side-trip to Hogwarts (that is New College and Christ Church College, that’ve both served as set locations for the Harry Potter movies) and a magnificent view over the city from the top of St. Mary the Virgin Church, the group finished its visit to Oxford. It’s been an education and a one-time experience.