In our times J.R.R. Tolkien is famous as the author of the books The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit on which epic fantasy films have been based. The film of The Hobbit, starring Martin Freeman as the hobbit Bilbo, is due to be released in December. The Birmingham of a hundred years ago, with its respectable middle-class suburbs and workers in factories and workshops, may seem a strange background for epic fantasy. But both The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings begin and end in the pleasant village of Hobbiton, which Tolkien based on Sarehole, next to the prosperous suburb of Moseley where his relatives lived. The heroes of Tolkien’s stories leave their safe homes to go off on epic adventures. They return and settle down at the end, but they have been transformed by their experiences.
On Friday 3rd August, 11.00-11.30am, there will be a documentary on Radio 4; Tolkien in Love. It tells the story of how Tolkien first met and fell in love with Edith Bratt in Edgbaston; of their separation and adventures before they could get married, and of how their love inspired the story of Beren and Luthien in The Silmarillion. David Warner and Ed Sear read some of Tolkien’s writings; the novelist Helen Cross is the presenter; the interviewees include John Garth, me (Maggie Burns) and other Brummies you may recognise – including a musical performance by birds in the woodland of Moseley Bog!
On Saturday 4th August, 10.30-11.00am, there will be a different kind of music in the second programme The Hobbit, The Musical . In December 1967, New College School, Oxford, produced a musical version of The Hobbit. Tolkien attended with Edith and seemed to enjoy it. In this programme some of the choristers, now eminent musicians, share their memories of taking part. And you will hear the songs performed by the present New College Chamber Choir.
So… Radio 4 at 11.00am on Friday, and 10.30am on Saturday!