Friday, June 10, 2011

Travels in the Shire

One of the charming aspects of my archeology jaunts to northern England is the peaceful beauty of the Northumbrian countryside.  It is verdant green, unspoiled and free of most of the annoying aspects of modern life.

It is not precisely the England that J.R.R. Tolkien was remembering when he created the Shire, but close enough that I sometimes expect to see hobbits ducking behind mossy gnarled trees in my peripheral vision.

We have rustic cottages and farms.

We have stone bridges and little streams.

We even have an Inn that brings to mind Tolkien’s description of The Prancing Pony:*

“Even from the outside the inn looked a pleasant house to familiar eyes.  It had a front on the Road, and two wings running back on land partly cut out of the lower slopes of the hill…..The door was open and light streamed out of it.  Above the arch there was a lamp, and beneath it swung a large signboard: a fat pony reared up on its hind legs.  Over the door was painted in white letters: THE PRANCING PONY by BARLIMAN BUTTERBUR.  Many of the lower windows showed lights behind thick curtains.”
Twice Brewed Inn at dusk

Even the Shire had a few glimmers of darkness, both the shadows that could cross even the hearts of sturdy hobbits on occasion, and the fell creatures that prowled outside its bounds.

In my visits to this modern day Shire I have only encountered one possibly evil creature.  On cool drizzly mornings I sometimes see on the road what I have come to think of as Mordor Slugs.

*Yes, I know, technically the Prancing Pony was in Bree rather than the Shire proper.  We Tolkien geeks are meticulous in these matters.


Harry said...

Tolkien geeks unite! There's a tree on the walk down Haltwhistle Burn that leans out from a hillside, partly overhanging the trail. It's the most Tolkienesque spot I've ever visited -- I'd almost swear there were Hobbit footprints underneath. And I love your photo of the Prancing Twicey, a beacon in the gathering gloom. Great post.

Chazi R said...

I did my archaeological graduation fieldwork in Wales, and your blog post has made me miss it so very keenly! One of my first thoughts as I looked out at the English countryside from the window of the train (and through my sleep-deprived eyes and brain) was "I've found the Shire at LAST!"