Tolkien and the Shire

As I listened today to a 1964 BBC interview with J.R.R. Tolkien, a segment leapt out in which the author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit discusses the personal reason he feels such a deep connection to the world of the Shire.

I’ve done my best to transcribe the exchange below, with some light editing for clarity and a few guesses at hard-to-decipher phrases.

Denys Gueroult (interviewer): Now, the rangers, they protect men and hobbits from Sauron’s servants. But particularly, they seem to have a fondness for the Shire. Have you a particular fondness for these comfortable, homey things of life that the Shire embodies? Think, you know, home, and pipe, and fire, and bed, the “homely virtues.”

Tolkien: Haven’t you? (laughs)

Gueroult: Haven’t you, Professor Tolkien?

Tolkien: Of course! Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Gueroult: You have a particular fondness, then, for hobbits?

Tolkien: That’s right, I feel at home—look, the Shire is very like the kind of world which I first became aware of things. Very like. Which was perhaps more poignant to me because I wasn’t born in it, I was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I was very young when I got back, but the same time—it bites into your memory and imagination, even if you don’t think it has. If your first Christmas tree’s a wilting eucalyptus, and if you’re normally troubled by heat and sand, then to have, just at the age your imagination is opening out, suddenly find yourself in a quiet Warwickshire village… I think it engenders a particular love of what you might call central Midland English countryside based on good waterstones (?) and elm trees and small, quiet rivers and so on. And of course, sort of rustic people there.

The whole thing’s worth a listen and can be heard here, with subtitles, which I didn’t know about until after transcribing it!


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