Friday 21 December 2012

Visiting Professor Tolkien's final resting place

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

It's been a big couple of weeks in Middle Earth for me. Not only did I see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and re-read the novel, but I also visited the final resting place of J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife, Edith.

It didn't occur to me until recently to find out where he was buried. I knew that he lived and worked in Oxford, which is a mere 45 minute drive from my home on a good day, but I never thought of visiting him. When I looked it up on Google, I was surprised to find that he's buried in a cemetery owned by the Oxfordshire County Council in the city's north – somewhere I can access very easily.

So, Sunday I finally visited Professor Tolkien and Mrs Tolkien with a couple of friends who I managed to drag along with me. There, in Wolvercote Cemetery, we soon found the pair; mingling and blending in amongst all the other departed.

Indeed, there is nothing especially remarkable about their grave. It isn't the biggest, flashiest grave in the cemetery, nor is it hidden inside a special chamber. The only indication that there would be anything different about the good couple's grave is the signposting that guides well-wishers to their site. But when you do come across it, you recognise someone special now rests there from all the trinkets, mementos, letters, and drawings that decorate the little patch of garden above their heads.

It says so much about the values of Professor Tolkien and his family. He saw himself as a regular person, who was accepting of others, and a deep romantic. It's impossible not to admire.

What's more, is that I felt like I was visiting someone I had known personally because of the fact that he is buried in such a normal place. We shared the cemetery with many coming to pay respects to their mothers, fathers, sisters, uncles, husbands, wives, and so forth.

This has only accelerated my love for Professor Tolkien's work, and my admiration of his remarkable life. If only all heroes were this wonderful to meet!