Tolkien followers hope to show his dwelling right into a rift valley for writers and filmmakers

(RNS) – Fantasy novel enthusiasts want the home of famous Catholic writer JRR Tolkien in Oxford, where he wrote “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” a meeting place for writers, screenwriters and filmmakers of all cultures and Beliefs.

In 1930 Tolkien moved to the house at 20 Northmoor Road, where his children grew up during World War II. The Northmoor Project is a charity that was formed with the aim of buying the home, which is currently for sale for around $ 6 million. The project has already raised around $ 1 million.

While many influential English writers like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Thomas Hardy have a center or museum dedicated to them, there is no equivalent that honors Tolkien’s legacy.

Oxford City Council will not allow the property to be converted into a museum as it is in a residential area. Tolkien fans, however, hope that it will become a literary discussion and encounter center for those who want to delve deeper into the world of Middle-earth.

Actors who were part of the Lord of the Rings film franchise have also expressed their support, including Martin Freeman, who played the hobbit Bilbo Baggins; Sir Ian McKellen, who appeared as the magician Gandalf; and John Rhys-Davies, who played the dwarf Gimli.

Unlike other writers of his stature, there is no center in the world dedicated to JRR Tolkien. Still. @ProjNorthmoor

– Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) December 2, 2020

“I think it would be wonderful to read Tolkien and be inspired by him,” Julia Golding, an award-winning writer and screenwriter who founded Project Northmoor, told Religion News Service.

Author JRR Tolkien, circa 1940s. Photo courtesy Creative Commons

Golding hopes the location will be “a version of Rivendell,” the elven city in “Lord of the Rings,” where travelers of all fantastic races and backgrounds meet for thought and, of course, adventure.

The project has come under fire over fears that the trustees behind it, who have a background in Christian organizations, might use the house to proselytize rather than further Tolkien’s legacy.

According to Golding, fantasy writing should “have a room for everyone” regardless of belief. “Narrowing down the world’s cultural voices is the opposite of what we want to do,” she said.

Tolkien was a serious Catholic and the founder of the Inklings, an informal literary group of fantasy writers who gathered to share notes and try new ideas. Many of the members were Christians, including Tolkien’s close friend CS Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lewis took Christian topics far more explicitly than Tolkien, who favored a more reserved approach to faith in his books. Golding compared the use of trust in Tolkien to the computer graphics effects Gollum used to create in the Lord of the Rings films, all of which won Oscars for their visual effects.

Author Julia Golding. Courtesy photo

Actor Andy Serkis wore a bodysuit and had dots on his face to play the schizophrenic villain Gollum during filming, but what eventually appeared on screen was a computerized version of the character. Belief in Tolkien feels similar, Golding said: “Despite the display and beneath the surface, you can still feel the belief that drives it.”

Although Tolkien wrote in the context of his time and belief, Golding said his stories can be universal. “It is very accessible to everyone, no matter what belief you come from, because it shows the most important human values ​​such as sacrifice, friendship, community and – let’s not forget – love,” she said.

Tolkien’s books are pretty clear about which side is right and which is wrong, which Golding believes may still be relevant even with increasing polarization around the world. While some newer fantasy sagas such as “Game of Thrones” offer a variety of conflicts in all shades of gray, Golding believes that there is still room for clear heroes and villains in the genre today.

“Yes, it’s terrible for the world, but there is a human spirit that can be heroic and positive,” she said, citing the example of doctors, health professionals and even neighbors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Tolkien plaque on the house at 20 Northmoor Road on the outskirts of Oxford. Photo courtesy of Breckon and Breckon

Project Northmoor organizers say there is still room for faith-inspired fantasy novels, although they shouldn’t be limited to Christianity and must be based on “respect and tolerance” for different worldviews.

Tolkien’s house, once renovated and his garden restored, will be considered a “center of creativity,” Golding said. After all, one of the great legacies of Tolkien’s writing and the Inklings group is that it is important to unite for a common purpose.

“You cannot defeat evil on your own,” she said, pointing to the ring, which in the trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” represents the corrupt evil of power. “You can’t do it alone. You need grace and help. “

Or, as another beloved Tolkien character, Samwise Gamgee, once said, “There is something good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it is worth fighting for.”

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