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Father Francis Morgan, Tolkien, and Spain

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Mon, April 22, 2013 23:42:46

Acknowledgements: I’m grateful to David Bratman and Daniel Helen for reading the draft and providing me with comments and corrections. Update (28 May 2013): I would like to thank Beregond, Anders Stenström for pointing out an error and for giving a linguistic insight (the text has been amended accordingly).

1. Introduction

In March 2013, the Spanish Tolkien scholar José Manuel Ferrández Bru published La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien: El “Tío Curro” (Astorga, León: Editorial CSED). Ferrández Bru’s book, which is both the first biography about Father Francis Xavier Morgan Osborne (henceforth Father Francis) and the first book-length study of connections between Father Francis, Spain, and J.R.R. Tolkien, could be placed in at least two categories of texts dealing with Tolkien.

Firstly, it joins a handful of books, having appeared in the last decade, which focus on a particular aspect of Tolkien’s life – I’m thinking of such works as John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War (2003), Andrew H. Morton’s Tolkien’s Gedling (2008) and Tolkien’s Bag End (2009), and Phil Mathison’s Tolkien in East Yorkshire 1917–1918 (2012).

Secondly, it is one of quite few original publications in languages other than English that include formerly unknown biographical information (albeit being bits and pieces) about Tolkien. Of such, there are for example Arne Zettersten’s Tolkien - min vän Ronald och hans världar (2007; eventually appearing in an English edition in 2011), an interview in Polish with Tolkien’s friend Przemyslaw Mroczkowski (Tygodnik Powszechny, No. 14, 1994), and an interview with Tolkien’s former au-pair Arndís Þorbjarnardóttir, published in the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið (28 February 1999).

My personal interest in reading Ferrández Bru’s biography lies in gaining a deeper understanding of the connection between Father Francis and Tolkien and his family (and the chosen title of his book reveals that Ferrández Bru is aware that this will be the case for a majority his readers). I will therefore proceed below by mainly noting such details which appear to be hitherto unknown concerning this relationship.

2. Anecdotes and reminiscences

Ferrández Bru has to date published two articles in English about his particular field of research in Tolkien scholarship: ‘J.R.R. Tolkien and the Spanish Civil War’ in Mallorn 51 (2011), and ‘“Wingless fluttering”: Some Personal Connections in Tolkien’s Formative Years’ in Tolkien Studies, vol. VIII (2011). To these should also be added the articles about Father Francis that Ferrández Bru has published in English on his website.

In Tolkien Studies, Ferrández Bru noted that he “obtained invaluable data in interviews and letters exchanged with Priscilla Tolkien” (p. 59). While Priscilla Tolkien’s contribution remained implicit in that particular text, the Mallorn article provided two brief quotations by Priscilla, both concerned with reminiscences of Tolkien’s views on the Spanish Civil War. These two quotations also appear in La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien (pp. 231-2), and the book includes several additional quotations and references to his correspondence with Priscilla: such are reminiscences by Priscilla about her father’s great interest in the Spanish language owing to his close connection to Father Francis (p. 159), a brief description of Father Francis and his relationship to her (pp. 193-4), and how the death of Father Francis affected her father (p. 198). Moreover, La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien contains the following anecdotes recorded by Priscilla Tolkien:

A ceremonial ”good afternoon”: In the early 1920s in Leeds, J.R.R. Tolkien stepped out of a tram in the company of Father Francis. The latter had a powerful presence and made a deep impression on a girl standing next to the tram, who kept staring at the Father intensely. Taking notice of the girl, Francis Morgan “removed his large-brimmed hat and turning towards the girl said ‘good afternoon’ with great ceremony” (p. 194).[1] The surprised girl became terrified and started to run away from Father Francis. Afterwards, J.R.R. Tolkien was fond of telling this amusing story to his children.

Tears for wheat flakes (p. 198): In the early 1930s at Tolkien’s home at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, the elderly Father Francis (who died on 11 June 1935, 78 years old), was sitting by the table while Edith Tolkien kept asking what kind of cereals he might be wanting for breakfast. At last he chose a brand called Force, but noticed that the young Priscilla had started crying – it was her favourite cereals and she regarded them as belonging to her. Father Francis, who guessed why she was crying, handed her the package of cereals and apologized, thereby winning her confidence and stopping her tears.

The smelly Camembert (pp. 195, 197): Travelling on a train, Edith Tolkien and Father Francis were bringing a gift to Ronald, a Camembert cheese (of which he was especially fond). Having reached its maturity, the cheese omitted such a strong smell that fellow travellers started leaving the wagon, which eventually became empty except for Edith and Father Francis. According to Priscilla, this memory has been kept throughout the years within the Tolkien family. While I have found no other reference to this incident, it bears likeness to the anecdote about the greasy Banbury cake: “Father Francis sometimes came to visit from Birmingham, once chaperoning Edith. She remembered the train stopping at Banbury and Father Francis insisting on buying Banbury cakes – the local delicacy – which were very greasy. The grease got everywhere and caused considerable confusion.” (The Tolkien Family Album, p. 35).

The “flip-flap” clock: The heritage of Father Francis’s brother Augusto Morgan contained a certain clock being a family heirloom. After struggling with administrative hindrances, Father Francis brought the clock to England from Spain, and upon his own death, he bequeathed it to Tolkien, who “kept it in his study throughout his whole life and who more than once managed to get it repaired even though its machinery was antique” (p. 208).[2] In a footnote, Ferrández Bru comments that the Tolkien family called the clock by the name “the flip-flap”,[3] and that it passed on to John Tolkien, Ronald’s eldest son. The clock appears to have been lost after John’s death.

3. Possible influences

3.1 Father Francis

The Saviour in the Gnomish Lexicon: Ferrández Bru points to an entry appearing in Tolkien’s Gnomish Lexicon (dating from 1917 and published in its entirety in Parma Eldalamberon, vol. 11): “Faidron or Faithron = Francis”. By observing the usage in the Gnomish Lexicon of proper names being denoted by capital letters and the equality sign denoting names in other languages, in addition to the occurrence of names of other figures in the life of Tolkien in the corresponding Qenya Lexicon (Parma Eldalamberon, vol. 12), Ferrández Bru concludes that “Francis” here very likely refers to Father Francis (in his Foreword, Ferrández Bru thanks John Garth for suggesting this lead).[4] He then looks at the Elvish cognates, finding English glosses such as freedom, set free, liberation, liberty, liberator, and Saviour. Ferrández Bru admits that it is impossible to tell if Tolkien actually intended these concepts to be characteristic of Father Francis, but suggests that it’s “very revealing that [Tolkien], in his private world and creation, composes the name of his tutor through terms connected with freedom and liberation” (p. 182).[5]

In the guise of Thingol (pp. 242-3): It is well-known that Tolkien’s relationship to Edith served as an inspiration for the story of Beren and Lúthien. Ferrández Bru suggests that the character of Thingol, who opposed the love of Beren and Lúthien, might be owing something to Francis Morgan, who likewise opposed the love between Ronald and Edith.

The ceremonial Troll (pp. 194-5): In connection with the anecdote of Father Francis’s ceremonial “good-bye” mentioned above, Ferrández Bru suggests that this event might have influenced Tolkien when composing the poem ‘Perry-the-Winkle’. In the poem, the Lonely Troll tries to find a friend and encounters Mrs Bunce, a hobbit. The well-meaning troll greets her with a smile and a “Good-morning, ma’m! Good day to you!”, but the hobbit “yelled a frightful yell” and “ran home like mad”.

3.2 Spanish influence

The young Tolkien had access to Father Francis’s library containing many Spanish books (the library is unfortunately no longer existent),[6] possibly including works written by his relatives (see below), and that he surely used to recount anecdotes about Spain for Tolkien. Ferrández Bru says that one can therefore find “an interesting line of speculation about an unknown influence in Tolkien’s works” (p. 159),[7] and suggests a number of such possible influences.

Romanticism (pp. 211ff): Among Father Francis’s older relatives were found quite a few prominent authors, such as Juan Nicolás Böhl de Faber, Frasquita Larrea, and Cecilia Böhl de Faber. Ferrández Bru analyses romantic and traditional themes (“progress contra nature”) in the writings of these authors, and notes a similarity in the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, perhaps suggesting that Tolkien was aware of their works or possibly having been influenced by their ideas through Francis Morgan.

Landscape and places in Spain: While admitting the inherent danger of guesswork concerning relationships between locations appearing in the legendarium and the real world (p. 241),[8] Ferrández Bru proposes that the transportation of wine barrels on the river between Lake-town and the Elf-king’s cave in The Hobbit is reminiscent of the transportation of goods on the river Guadalete from Jerez and El Puerto de Santa María (from where hailed the family of Father Francis). He further notes that Gondor and Minas Tirith might owe something to the white facades of certain Andalucian houses, “los pueblos blancos”, and discusses an etymological similarity between the river Anduin, the Great River, and the rivers Guadalete and Gualdalquivir, the latter deriving from an Arabic name meaning “great river” and both referred to as “Río Grande” in everyday speech (pp. 242ff).

4. Some critical points

When writing a biography about or closely related to Tolkien, one can nowadays hardly escape from consulting The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (2006). I was therefore somewhat surprised to find that La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien did not include Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond’s magisterial reference work in its list of references.[9] A passage where Ferrández Bru’s exposition would have benefited from such a reading concerns the funeral of Father Francis. Based on a recollection by Priscilla Tolkien, Scull and Hammond note that while Tolkien himself could not attend the funeral, his eldest son John possibly went there to represent his father (Chronology, p. 788). Ferrández Bru appears not to include this piece of information. Another example is the dating of the poem ‘Perry-the-Winkle’: Ferrández Bru places the composition of the poem to between 1920 and 1930 (citing Humphrey Carpenter’s biography as his authority), but a quick glance in the Companion and Guide reveals a more exact year of composition in addition to providing more information about its background (see Reader’s Guide, p. 997).[10]

In some cases Ferrández Bru has instead consulted Daniel Grotta, both through correspondence and the Spanish translation of his J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle-earth, for biographical information about Tolkien. Grotta’s biography about Tolkien is regarded as problematic by many Tolkien scholars,[11] and questions about credibility therefore arise when Ferrández Bru, attributing Grotta, writes that Father Francis soon after the death of Mabel Tolkien took the Tolkien brothers on a railroad trip to Wales for fifteen days (p. 164). From what I can find, no mention of this event has occurred elsewhere.[12]

These critical points notwithstanding, I consider La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien to be a valuable contribution to Tolkien scholarship. Ferrández Bru writes lucidly and cogently, and for anyone seeking to find out more about Father Francis’s ancestors there is a wealth of information (which I have not covered here). Furthermore, the neat division of the book into clearly separated parts makes it useful as a reference work (although it regrettably lacks an index). Like Zettersten’s book, I’m eager to see an English edition of La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien in a near future, hopefully revised and expanded on a few points through consulting The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide. A not-so-distant English edition would additionally ensure that the quoted excerpts of Priscilla Tolkien’s reminiscences (which I surmise are written in English) will be available in their original form.

Works consulted

Carpenter, Humphrey (1977). J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. London: George Allen & Unwin.

Grotta, Daniel (1992; 1st ed. 1976). J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle-earth. Philadelphia: Running Press.

Scull, Christina and Hammond, Wayne G. (2006). The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology & Reader’s Guide (2 vols.). London: HarperCollins.

Tolkien, John and Tolkien, Priscilla (1992). The Tolkien Family Album. London: HarperCollins.


The photograph of the “Force Enamel Advertising Sign” is copyrighted by (reproduced in accordance with the terms and limitations of use).

[1] “… se quitó su sombero de ala ancha y girándose hacia la niña le dijo buenas tardes con gran ceremonia.”

[2] “… lo conservó en su estudio durante toda su vida y en más de una ocasión fue capaz de repararlo a pesar de la antigüedad de su maquinaria.”

[3] The onomatopoeic name “flip-flap” is used in the Spanish text; I’m uncertain if Ferrández Bru used a Spanish expression to translate an English variant.

[4] Suggesting a different (or supplementary) interpretation, Beregond, Anders Stenström has commented that while “the presence of Francis in the Gnomish Lexicon obviously reflects the presence of Francis Morgan in Tolkien’s life, its translation is probably simply etymological: the basis of the name is the same as in Frank and French, but this also came to refer to liberty, being a free man, as in frank and franchise” (comments field to this article, accessed 28 May 2013).

[5] “… es muy revelador que en su mundo privado, en su creación personal, componga el nombre de su tutor usando raíces relacionadas con la libertad y la liberación.”

[6] Ferrández Bru writes (p. 163) that he found an online post, at a Tolkien forum, providing some information about books from Father Francis’s library. He doesn’t give a link to the post, but it can be accessed at (as of 19 April 2013).

[7] “… una interesante línea de especulación sobre una desconocida influencia en la obra de Tolkien”.

[8] A tendency discussed by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull in their blog article ‘Tolkien, Leek, and the Moorlands’ (4 September 2012;

[9] In his article in Tolkien Studies, though, Ferrández Bru does mention The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide as well as the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia edited by Michael D.C. Drout, which he regards as “useful resources which provide new sources of data beyond the information available in the Carpenter biography” (p. 59, note 1). However, neither of these works is cited as a source in the article or in La Conexión Española de J.R.R. Tolkien.

[10] The precursor of ‘Perry-the-Winkle’, a poem called ‘The Bumpus’, belongs to a series of unpublished poems called Tales and Songs of Bimble Bay. These poems are “centred on an imaginary English coastal town and harbour” and date from ca. 1928. Thus, the “real-world” background of ‘Perry-the-Winkle’ might actually corroborate Ferrández Bru’s theory that Father Francis’s “ceremonial ‘good afternoon’” served as an inspiration for the “ceremonial Troll”.

[11] See Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, ‘Truth or Consequences: A Cautionary Tale of Tolkien Studies’ (, and the comments field to Jason Fisher’s blog post “Shadows of the past” (

[12] It is possible that Grotta’s notes about Tolkien’s trip to Wales with Father Francis (which can be found in J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect, p. 27) derive from his interviews with some of “Tolkien’s friends and associates” (p. 8). It should also be made clear that Ferrández Bru does state that the version of the trip to Wales included in his book is given “according to Daniel Grotta” (“[s]egún Daniel Grotta”) and that it is not known if the trip “actually took place” (“si realmente se produjo”; p. 164). However, since Humphrey Carpenter only says that “[l]ater in childhood [Tolkien] went on a railway journey to Wales” (J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, p. 26), providing no further details (and neither are such found in Scull and Hammond’s entry for Wales, in their Reader’s Guide, p. 1085), Grotta’s version lacks supporting evidence – a critical point which I wish Ferrández Bru could have emphasized even more strongly.

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Vinyar Tengwar 50 Index & Some Notes

IndexingPosted by Morgan Thomsen Sun, March 17, 2013 01:56:27

After a long hiatus I'm pleased to announce the completion of an index of names for the newly published Vinyar Tengwar, issue 50 (containing J.R.R. Tolkien's “Túrin Wrapper”, edited by Carl F. Hostetter).

While the manuscript published in this issue contains quite few proper names, Hostetter investigates various Elvish (Sindarin) glosses in relation to a plethora of concepts appearing in other works by Tolkien, which mainly has contributed to yield a rather extensive index. As usual, an editorial mention of a name is represented on Tolkien Index as a page number within square brackets.

Vinyar Tengwar 50 can be accessed as part of the Collected Vinyar Tengwar Vol. 5, available through


On 2 October 2012 I finished an index of names for Tolkien's The Qenya Alphabet, published in Parma Eldalamberon Vol. 20 (edited by Arden R. Smith). Parma Eldalamberon 20 can be ordered from the website of the journal.


News related to Tolkien Index can now also be read at a newly created Twitter account.


Finally I would like to acknowledge the kind help and support of Daniel Helen, who assists in maintaining Tolkien Index.

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Tolkien and the Illustrations of Robert J. Lee

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Tue, July 31, 2012 21:09:52

[Updates (10 September 2012): Douglas A. Anderson has noted some additional information and corrections about Robert J. Lee's illustrations over at his blog "Tolkien and Fantasy". (23 October 2013): Some additional images and notes can be found at]

In January 1967, Tolkien’s secretary Joy Hill sent him a copy of The Children’s Treasury of Literature (edited by Bryna and Louis Untermeyer, first published in 1966 by Paul Hamlyn), which includes the chapter “An Unexpected Party” from The Hobbit. The chapter as published in The Children’s Treasury of Literature (appearing on pp. 463–86, with an editors’ introduction on p. 462) features 18 illustrations by Robert J. Lee (1921–1994): 4 in full colour, and 14 in monochrome or duotone.

On 5 January 1967, Tolkien wrote to Hill, describing his reception of the anthology: “I think a great many of the illustrations are very good, including some of the modern ones. Illustrations to The Hobbit extract seem to me worst of all, vulgar, stupid, and entirely out of keeping with the text which Robert J. Lee does not seem to have read with any care” (Reader’s Guide, pp. 421–2).

I bought a copy of the anthology about a week ago, and below I will identify all of Lee’s illustrations for the chapter from The Hobbit. I have also provided a scan of three illustrations, and I will finally offer a brief analysis.

1. Duotone illustration in blue and black (p. 462), depicting Bilbo, Gandalf, three dwarves, Smaug, and two goblins.

2. Full-colour illustration (p. 463), depicting Bilbo outside his house.

3. Monochrome illustration (p. 464), depicting Belladona Took.

4. Monochrome illustration (p. 465), depicting Gandalf.

5. Full-colour illustration (pp. 466–7), depicting Bilbo and Gandalf outside Bag End.

6. Monochrome illustration (pp. 468–9), depicting Bilbo and ?Dwalin.

7. Full-colour illustration (pp. 470–1), depicting four dwarves eating and drinking at Bilbo’s table.

8. Duotone illustration in blue and black (p. 472), depicting an angry Bilbo rushing towards his door.

9. Duotone illustration in blue and black (p. 473), depicting Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, and Thorin.

10. Full-colour illustration (p. 474), depicting two dwarves balancing columns of plates, with a worried Bilbo in the background.

11. Duotone illustration in yellow and black (p. 477), depicting four dwarves playing music on their instruments. From left to right: a dwarf (Dwalin or Balin) with a viol, Bombur with a drum, a dwarf (Dori, Nori, or Ori) with a flute, and Thorin with his harp.

12. Monochrome illustration (p. 479), depicting Bullroarer Took on his horse, knocking goblins with a wooden club.

13. Monochrome illustration (p. 480), depicting Gandalf reading Thror's Map, in the light of a lamp, with four dwarves in the background.

14. Monochrome illustration (p. 481), depicting the head of Smaug protruding behind a hill.

15. Monochrome illustration (p. 482), depicting a dwarf having found gold and jewels.

16. Monochrome illustration (p. 483), depicting a flying Smaug.

17. Monochrome illustration (p. 484), depicting Smaug wreaking havoc on Dale.

18. Duotone illustration in blue and black (p. 486), depicting three dwarves sleeping on pieces of Bilbo’s furniture.

As can be seen in the illustrations collected in J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator and The Art of The Hobbit, Tolkien preferred to draw landscapes (especially in his pictures for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings); there are very few actual portraits, and when people occasionally appear in a landscape, they are often very small and in the background. Meanwhile Robert Lee focuses on the characters in his illustrations for “An Unexpected Party”; at best the sense of an environment is peripheral and serves only to highlight the actions of the characters.

Tolkien’s dislike of the work of the Disney Studio is well documented, and maybe the comical style of Lee’s illustrations was off-putting to Tolkien. In comparison, the illustrations of Tolkien’s favourite artist, Pauline Baynes, showed an elegant style, often inspired by “medieval manuscript illuminations” (Reader's Guide, p. 76).

Another source of disapprovement was perhaps Lee’s use of colour. In describing a hobbit to his American publisher, Tolkien wrote ”Clothing: green velvet breeches; red or yellow waistcoat; brown or green jacket; gold (or brass) buttons; a dark green hood and cloak” (The Art of The Hobbit, p. 140). These earth tones are naturally in stark contrast to Lee’s 1960s psychedelic colours: saturated shades of pink, violet, orange and blue (e.g., see illustration nr. 10).

These differences may point to reasons why Tolkien found Lee’s illustrations to be “vulgar” and “stupid”. However, I would personally say that the remark about the illustrations being “out of keeping with the text” to be too harsh. Lee’s close reading can perhaps most clearly bee seen in illustration nr. 5. Bilbo’s feet have “natural leathery soles and thick warm brown hair”, and he smokes “an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes”, blowing “out a beautiful grey ring of smoke”. Gandalf is portrayed as a “little old man with a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak” and having a “long white beard” and “immense black boots”. The picture also shows Bag End’s “perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle”. A detail is Bilbo’s hat; as far as I can see, there is no mention of Bilbo having a hat in the first chapter of The Hobbit. But in the beginning of the second chapter, “Roast Mutton”, it is written: “To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, [emphasis mine] walking-stick or say money”. It is possible that Lee drew inspiration from this remark! Furthermore, in illustration nr. 11, Lee has taken care to include only those instruments mentioned by Tolkien.

Tolkien had strong opinions about art, and was often sceptical towards illustrations inspired by his works, especially when these deviated from descriptions in his textual passages (Reader's Guide, pp. 418–22). Robert J. Lee, however, was more-or-less faithful to the original text and it appears that Tolkien’s dislike for Lee’s work stems from a profound divergence in artistic taste and style between the two individuals.


I am grateful to Daniel Helen for various comments and suggestions.


Hammond, Wayne G. & Scull, Christina (2011). The Art of The Hobbit. London: HarperCollins.

Hammond, Wayne G. & Scull, Christina (2004; first published 1995). J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. London: HarperCollins.

Peng, Leif. “Storybook Illustration”, at (dated 4 September 2006, accessed 31 July 2012).

Scull, Christina & Hammond, Wayne G. (2006). The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Readers Guide. London: HarperCollins.

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1999; first published 1937). The Hobbit. London: HarperCollins.

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Vinyar Tengwar 39 Index

IndexingPosted by Morgan Thomsen Thu, May 17, 2012 13:45:46
I just finished compiling an index of names for Vinyar Tengwar 39 on Tolkien Index.

The writings by Tolkien published in this issue were “From Quendi and Eldar, Appendix D” and “Ósanwe-kenta: ‘Enquiry into the Communication of Thought’”. Both are highly interesting texts, containing many passages not only of interest to linguists. If you are not an owner already, I recommend you to order the The Collected Vinyar Tengwar from the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship!

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Professor Tolkien's Whimsical Talk

Tolkien (misc.)Posted by Morgan Thomsen Mon, April 30, 2012 18:03:20
On 14 December 1956, J.R.R. Tolkien made a speech at the opening of the new Deddington Library (Scull & Hammond, The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology, pp. 497–8). The Oxford Mail published an article from the opening on 15 December, but it appears to have been largely unknown that another article from the event was featured in The Banbury Advertiser on 19 December. As far I know, the latter article was first “re-discovered” when it was mentioned in a 2011 brochure from the Deddington Library.

The British Library was able to provide a photocopy of the original article, “Deddington’s New Library Opened by Mrs. L. Hichens – Prof. Tolkien’s Whimsical Talk”, appearing on page 5 in The Banbury Advertiser for 19 December 1956. I have made some efforts to contact a representative of The Banbury Advertiser (no longer in print), but without any success: the magazine appears to have been owned by a member of the Russell family of Deddington, and the original owner is deceased and his son now apparently lives in China (for this piece of information, thanks to David at the current Banbury Advertiser, not associated with the original publication [Update: link no longer available as of 27 April 2013]).

Below follows a low-resolution reproduction of the original article, and transcriptions of the passages dealing with J.R.R. Tolkien.

Deddington’s New Library Opened by Mrs. L. Hichens – Prof. Tolkien’s Whimsical Talk

Nowadays books are besieged by a great many powerful embattled enemies, some of whom have been strongly entrenched, and to be here at the opening of a strongpoint from which troops can be sent out against those enemies is a great honour.

Any schoolboy who noticed a similarity between these words spoken by Prof. J. R. R. Tolkien at the opening of the Deddington Branch Library on Friday afternoon, and an adventure story he had recently heard would not be far wrong. For Prof. Tolkien is the author of “The Lord of the Rings,” a remarkable fairy romance for which he invented 700,000 words, and which has in its three volumes been broadcast extensively on the B.B.C. schools programme.

Prof. Tolkien was speaking after the official opening by Mrs. Lionel Hichens, formerly the chairman of the Oxfordshire Education Committee.

Mrs. Hichens said it was a great day for the people who lived in or near Deddington.

“It’s now a great deal different from the sad, grey and horrible surroundings of the court,” she said (the library is situated in the former Deddington Courtroom), “and it has undergone a wonderful change.”


Prof. Tolkien was introduced by the County Librarian, Miss M. Stanley-Smith, and in a whimsical address he said he felt that while not a native Oxonian, he could count himself a naturalised subject for he had lived at Oxford for the past 38 years.

Libraries, he said, were to blame for him, because he had never been able to distinguish between the fascination of finding fairy stories on the same shelves as Primers of the Gothic language. “Out of these things have come my books,” he said.


“The wealth of books to be found here,” he said, “is food for the mind, and everyone knows that for the stomach to go without food for a long time is bad, but for the mind to go without food is even worse.”

He advised his audience that everything they read might eventually be of use to them. He had read pages which he had thought he had forgotten, and yet at the oddest times, the information which those pages had contained had proved of use to him.


“I have seen visions through the wormholes of books printed before Caxton died, and from the painting of skins of animals which roamed that County we don’t speak of at Wantage before Alfred was born,” he said.

He concluded with a verse from one of his volumes in the musical fairylike language that he invented.

He was thanked by the Rev. M. Frost, Vicar of Deddington, who said that the County Library Service was most useful.


Miss Christina Hole, the authoress and expert on English folklore, whose books are a popular “must” for many country-people, seconded Mr. Frost’s vote of thanks and thanked Prof. Tolkien for coming from those far lands which he had created. His works had given her and many others intense pleasure.


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