'Time to start braggin' about Bilbo Baggins'

Oxford Mail: Martin Freeman, as Bilbo, and Sir Ian McKellen, as Gandalf, in a still from the film, which had its premiere in London’s Leicester Square last night Martin Freeman, as Bilbo, and Sir Ian McKellen, as Gandalf, in a still from the film, which had its premiere in London’s Leicester Square last night

TOURISM bosses in Oxford are hoping to cash in on the popularity of one of the city’s most famous authors as The Hobbit film is released today.

Last night fans said they wanted to see a multi-million pound museum dedicated to author JRR Tolkien open in Oxford. And tourism chiefs said they had already seen an increase in demand for tours about Tolkien’s life.

Tolkien Society spokesman Shaun Gunner said he would like to see the first museum dedicated to Tolkien open within two years.

The 24-year-old said: “Oxford won’t quite become Tolkien-land because the city has so much going for it, but Tolkien is hugely important in Oxford.

“I personally think the museum should be in Oxford.

“It is closer to London, Heathrow, and where he spent most of his life.”

He added there was a proposal in 2005 to build a similar museum in Birmingham, where Tolkien grew up, but talks collapsed.

Mr Gunner said: “I find it staggering that there isn’t one museum for Tolkien in the whole country yet. We are trying to raise a couple of million for it. It is early days but it is one of our biggest aims.

“We are still quite close to him – he has only been gone 40 years but people in the society still remember him personally, so we need to capture that and hold it for future generations.”

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No site has been identified for the museum but a fundraising campaign is planned to start next spring.

Mr Gunner added he would also like to see a statue and nature reserve in Tolkien’s memory in the city.

Meanwhile others reported they had already seen a boost in visitors wanting to visit Tolkien’s old haunts.

Visit Oxfordshire director Susi Golding said she was increasing the number of Tolkien and CS Lewis tours the organisation ran as a result of the film.

She said: “We are beginning to notice some increase in interest in the walking tours we do for Tolkien and CS Lewis which are already popular. And this is before the film is out.”

Staff at the Eagle and Child pub in St Giles where Tolkien and The Chronicles of Narnia author CS Lewis discussed their stories have also noticed an increase in interest.

Assistant manager Andrew McCarthy said: “We have lots of tourists visit us and discover the pub for themselves.

“Our walls are full of memorabilia and facts dedicated to the author.”

Last night Tolkien fans crowded London’s Leicester Square for the premiere of the blockbuster movie.

 

THE Hobbit was written at Tolkien’s Oxford home, 20 Northmoor Road, North Oxford, where he lived from 1929 to 47.
The author, left, accumulated six Oxford homes but his Northmoor address is the only one marked with a Blue Plaque.
It is thought the inside of his home was the inspiration for the hobbit’s burrow. He read The Hobbit to his children on the floor of his study.
Although he was born in South Africa in 1892 and grew up near Birmingham, Tolkien spent most of his life in Oxford.
He studied English at Oxford University’s Exeter College in 1911 and from 1925 spent the rest of his professional life in Oxford teaching.
As one of his first jobs Tolkien worked on compiling the Oxford English Dictionary, on the Ws.
He, CS Lewis and other academics met at pubs such as the Eagle and Child in St Giles.
It was there that he read parts of The Hobbit to them and the sequel The Lord of the Rings, while he was writing them.
He died in Oxford in 1973 and was buried with his wife in Wolvercote Cemetery.

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