So, we have our fourth video uploaded.
It took a long time to produce this video.We wanted to shift our movie-making up a gear. And we were also stepping from older research to a new path that I hope will encircle the magic ring.
We had a version of this video ready two months ago. Here we tried to demonstrate that Tolkien was thinking about the story of ‘Ali Baba’ in the late 1920s, as he imagined the story born of a spontaneous sentence about a hobbit who lived in a hole in the ground. But all I can see to do is draw out the parallels, which once done points to the more interesting questions about divergence: given two hidden doors what does it mean for a mark on a door to succeed or fail?
The Brexit divide was foreshadowed in Tolkien Studies five years ago. An older line saw how Tolkien read the Old English Beowulf with a certain philological eye, and drew from it visions of ancient English myths and legendary history. Resolved to make his work fit for Europe a British multiculturalism was then discerned, with Bree and even Buckland in the Shire appearing across the water in Wales.
Both these opinions are correct: Tolkien remained true to a quest to remake the ancient mythology of the English, and he happened to imagine hobbits as British aborigines – natives whose blood still ran strong in the veins of speakers of both English and Welsh, but whose native languages are utterly unrecognizable in any words we can find record of.
But Tolkien’s creative writing is full of dark rumours brought by Men fleeing a shadow in the East and he situates the south-east of Middle-earth as the southern tip of Europe or North Africa.
On Fairy-stories addresses fairy-stories; not English fairy-stories (though Tolkien invokes the lost hinterland of Old English story) but fairy stories – stories told of things not found in this world, which in his illustrations include an ancient Egyptian tale of a brother who put his heart in another place.
Ali Baba was as popular in the nineteenth as it was in the twentieth century, but in those days before Walt Disney, the stories were read and heard differently…