Visiting Tolkien

Every city has its secrets, and Oxford is no exception.

The city centre, undoubtedly, is where you can find most of the major tourist attractions. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see as you venture further away.

To the north of Oxford lies Wolvercote Cemetery where several notable people are buried. Among them are:

  • Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-4-minute mile (and a fellow neurologist too!)
  • Benjamin Blackwell, founder of the Blackwell’s chain of bookshops (possibly my favourite places in Oxford)
  • Albert Hourani, historian and author of ‘A History of the Arab Peoples’

When I stopped by the other day, however, there was only one grave I really wanted to see:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of ‘The Lord of The Rings’, is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery in the same grave as his wife Edith Mary Tolkien.

On their tombstone is engraved the names Beren & Lúthien. Beren, as any Tolkien fan will know, is a Man who fell in love with the Elf-maiden Lúthien (also known as Tinúviel) , and their characters are a reflection of Tolkien’s love for his wife Edith.

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold.
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled
He walked alone and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

As I was leaving, I caught sight of some mushrooms and thought how much Frodo Baggins would love them (if they don’t end up killing him, of course, as I have no idea if these are edible to begin with!).