Only a few authors of the 20th century have captured the imagination of their readers as J.R.R. Tolkien did. The author, who is known for writing the trilogy The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, has of course remained an established figure in fantasy literature for generations. Now there are new efforts to further preserve the iconic writer’s legacy by buying his former home in Oxford, England, and transforming it into a literary center.
Launched by author Julia Golding, a campaign called “Project Northmoor” launched a fundraising campaign on Wednesday to buy Tolkien’s home at 20 Northmoor Road for 4.5 million pounds ($5.4 million US). In addition to buying the house, the organization is also pursuing other goals, such as renovating the property “into a cozy home that would recognize Tolkien and restore the garden,” establishing scholarships for people who want to participate in programs at the house, and even adding a hobbit hole.
To kick off the launch, a handful of the actors who starred in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the novels participated in a video to encourage Tolkien fans to donate. Among them: Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Martin Freeman (Bilbo), John Rhys-Davies (Gimli) and others. “We cannot achieve this without the worldwide community of Tolkien fans, our community of donors,” McKellen says at one point in the video.
Unlike other writers of his stature, nowhere in the world is there a center dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien. Not yet. @ProjNorthmoor https://t.co/pzMg8Yk2t2 pic.twitter.com/jx2r5MVbcw
– Ian McKellen (@IanMcKellen) December 2, 2020
Golding told Washington Newsday in a Zoom interview that she believed Tolkien deserved similar recognition as other literary giants from England. “There is no global center for Tolkien, unlike in [Britain] I am very familiar with the Jane Austen House and the [Charles] Dickens Museum and [William] Wordsworth’s cottage. There are many, many of them, and if you rank Tolkien among these writers, he is probably just as important, although he also has the big film franchise,” she said.
While Tolkien moved around a lot in his life, Golding explained that for 17 years he called 20 Northmoor road his home and wrote the books on Middle-earth there.
“These were the key years of his life when he and [his wife]Edith raised his family,” Golding said. “They spent the Second World War here from 1930 to 1947, but it was mainly here that he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The Lord of the Rings was published a few years later – this is mainly related to rationing in the postwar world – but he wrote it in this house while his son Christopher was in the, I think, Air Force, and he sent excerpts of it to his son who served.
Golding went on to explain how both world wars affected the classic trilogy. “It is obvious when you read Lord of the Rings that it is overshadowed by the war: his own memories of World War I, coupled with the memories of his son in World War II. You get the feeling that the two wars in this book hold hands,” she said.
If the Northmoor project is successful, the house will not simply be another museum. The hope is that the rooms will also be decorated to reflect the imaginative cultures that Tolkien imagined, such as those of the elves and the Mordor Empire.
“The goal is to turn it into a center for people who want to come and be creative and learn new skills. The ideal would be that you would come for a short course. You would stay in the house, so upstairs in one of the bedrooms, and you would give lectures on creative writing, lectures on filmmaking, or artistic lectures if you are doing any kind of visual arts, and the program would vary throughout the year. For people who are not so expressive, but just want to spend some time in Tolkien’s house, there will be other courses that provide an introduction to the life that Tolkien led in Oxford,” Golding explained.
She added that “Hobbit Tea” events can also be held, where groups of people can enjoy tea, cakes and sandwiches and have an expert talk about Tolkien.
“I know that there are millions of people who love Tolkien, and I’m just testing if they want to go somewhere where they can share that love with other people in a creative way, in a special way,” Golding said.
Tolkien enthusiasts can donate to the effort through Project Northmoor’s website.