Related to Tolkien

First published in News by

NO prizes for guessing what Julian Tolkien gets asked almost every time he meets someone new.

"Any relation of...?"

He says: "It's the usual question, and they usually mean J R R Tolkien. Just sometimes they mean Tim Tolkien, my son, who is a sculptor in Birmingham."

Julian is the nephew of Lord of the Rings author J R R Tolkien. He lived in Hughenden Valley for 14 years, when his three sons went to the Royal Grammar School. Julian says: "The artistic urge missed a generation. Two of my boys are artists now."

Julian a retired sound engineer now lives in Gloucestershire, running Nomads, a specialist fuschia and pelargonium nursery, while one son, Nick, still lives in Marlow.

Julian has happy memories of his famous uncle. "My father Hilary and Ronald were brothers." The author, he explains, was named John Ronald, but was always called Ronald in the family. "Their parents died when they were young and their guardian was Father Francis.

"Ronald went into university life, while my father went to agricultural college and ran a small fruit farm at Evesham.

"They had their different lives. But he would often visit us because it was nice to get out of Oxford and into rural Worcestershire. He would sometimes bring other members of the family with him.

"I knew him as a rather kindly uncle. He would come and reminisce with my Dad, and both liked smoking their pipes together. Underneath it all both brothers had a strong faith, in part because of being brought up by the kindly Father Francis.

"JR was very fond of children, but in those days we children only spoke when spoken to. I have very good memories of him.

"He was a fine old gentleman.

"Someone once referred to him as 'a stuffy Oxford don'. He was anything but he was a witty raconteur. He saw the fun in things and had strong Christian principles."

Julian is looking forward to seeing the first part of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, which was premiered in London this week. But he believes people who read the book before seeing the film have an advantage.

"With the written word, you have an image of every situation you read of. Now Peter Jackson has directed the film, unfortunately you'll be stuck with his imagery. If you want the real thing you have to read it.

"But I'm looking forward to seeing it. His pictures won't necessarily be the same as I had. Subsequently anyone coming to read the book will have that imagery in their mind when reading the book. In some ways it spoils the imaginative part of it."

While Julian was living in Hughenden Valley and working at the BBC as a TV sound engineer, he met many keen Tolkien fans. "They might have read Lord of the Rings nine times, and they would say, 'What do you think of so-and-so referring to some obscure passage. They were literally addicts."

He thinks the secret of its success is the book's levels of complexity. "It's not a question of being complicated, but it's complex and relationships and cross-references and all the details are correct. I dare say if one has read it a number of times it would be possible to get a lot more out of it each time.

"The film has the possibility of being a big hit, but it's Peter Jackson's imagery and not necessarily as you or I would picture it. But that can't be helped. And I'm sure there will be other versions."

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