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May 26, 2023

Tolkien's Modern Reading with Holly Ordway

Tolkien's Modern Reading with Holly Ordway

Where in all the fantasy worlds is the best place to set a boy's adventure?

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We are used to thinking of Tolkien being all about the past - old languages, old stories and no post-Shakespearean literature going into his cauldron of story-making. But of course that is wrong. Meet Dr Holly Ordway, whose fantastic book, Tolkien's Modern Reading, is a scholarly and entertaining exploration of the breadth of books in many genres that Tolkien was reading. From The Land of Snergs, to Swallows and Amazons, to Agatha Christie, he was catholic in his tastes, in the sense of universal. Follow our wide-ranging discussion from the books of Tolkien's youth, to those he read his children, and on to the adult novels he read and appreciates - as well as those he didn't like. Stick around to find out where we would set a boys' own adventure! Find out more about Holly here:

[Music] Hello and welcome to Myth Makers. Myth Makers is the podcast for fantasy fans and fantasy creatives brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. My name is Julia Golding, I'm an author but I also am Director of the Centre and today it is a really great pleasure to say that we have a special guest. Her name is Holly Ordway. Now Holly first came to my attention because she has written this splendid book called Tolkien's Modern Reading, Middle Earth Beyond the Middle Ages. And that's what we're going to be spending our time talking about today. But before we do that, Holly, why don't you introduce yourself and say what you get up to in your day job? Well, thank you, Julia. And it's just a pleasure to be on your podcast. So obviously I'm a writer. The Tolkien's Modern Reading is one of my books. I work for the Word on Fire Institute where I'm the Fellow of Faith and Culture. So basically I have the great blessing of being a full-time writer, speaker. I also cultivate writing groups within the Word on Fire Institute. So teaching creative writing is a really important part of my work. And I'm also visiting professor of apologetics at Houston Christian University, which has a Master of Arts in cultural apologetics that I've been involved with for many years. So sort of a mix of apologetics, presenting the Christian faith, teaching people how to do that graciously and well, especially through culture and the arts and the imagination is one strand of my work. And then the other strand of my work, really quite a major - more than a strand - probably a major part of my work is as Tolkien scholar, working more and more biographically on Tolkien. One of which is Tolkien's Modern Reading, which we're discussing now, and then a book that'll be coming out later this summer called Tolkien's Faith, a spiritual biography, which we're not going to talk about today, but I just mentioned to pique the interest of your listeners. - Yeah, because we are hopefully going to talk about that later in the year. So Holly, thinking about Tolkien and the word 'modern', that isn't the first word most of us go for because we have all, well most of the people listening to this will have followed the usual story, which is Tolkien was very keen on Icelandic stories and medieval stories like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, old English stories like Beowulf and so on. It's very hard to imagine him being interested in anything, say, even Shakespeare seems a bit too soon for Tolkien. But the really enjoyable thing for me reading your book was it was like an enormous box of chocolates that I opened and I could just eat. I had to stop myself bolting it all down in one go. You've made a very convincing case for the fact that Tolkien was a reader and that didn't mean that his interest stopped back in with what he taught academically. It's a sort of a wrong association. as there is such a lot in this book and I really would recommend people just go and buy the book, we're not going to cover everything at all in this podcast, but I thought we'd break it down into several groups of things that you have traced through to his later work. So if you're happy, what we'll do is we'll start with the things that he read as a child. So let's work out when that is. Tolkien is born right at the end of the Victorian era. So what kind of things was Tolkien, the little boy in short trousers, what was he reading and what was it from that reading he carried forward into writing The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion? JG: Well, this is such a big question, obviously. A book-length question, as you know. So we're just going to give little tidbits of information here. So he was a reader all his life, and in a sense, this seems almost inescapable given his great literary gifts, his great talent for communicating these wonderful stories. That's something that surely must have been drawn from a lifetime of reading. It was, but it is amazing how easy it is to lose track of that as we move into looking at his professional life. One of the things that I discovered in researching Tolkien's modern reading is that these things are both true. It's not an either/or. He definitely did have a massive professional knowledge and interest in medieval literature in the sagas. Quite possibly, that is the most important influence on his writing. This is all true and there's been a lot of great scholarship on it. But because that's true doesn't mean that it isn't also true that he read so many things that were modern. I just wanted to know at the beginning that this was such a voyage of discovery for me to write Tolkien's modern reading. I also started out, when I began the epic voyage of writing this book, thinking exactly the same thing as you mentioned, that surely, you know, surely he was just exclusively or mainly interested in medieval literature. But I always had this sort of nagging question of, you know, well, he was growing up and had his adult life in a time when there was a lot of really interesting fantasy being written. Did he know about any of it? Or was he just oblivious? I was just curious, and there didn't seem to be any good scholarship on that subject. Then it started also nagging at me - the Lord of the Rings is so compelling to modern audiences. How could this be written by a man who was only imaginatively nurtured by medieval literature? This doesn't quite track. That set me off on this project of tracing his reading and discovering, "Oh, wow! He actually read quite a lot through his whole life, and that makes so much better sense of the way that his creative imagination was formed. And of course, to get back to your question, that started when he was a boy. So, some of the things that he enjoyed then included Andrew Lang's fairy tales. So, he read the colored fairy books. The red fairy book was a particular favorite that he notes. he enjoyed lots of fairy tales in general. He enjoyed lots of boy's own kind of adventures. He loved H. Rider Haggard, authors like that. And so, we can sort of see him getting a flavor of these adventure stories, these fantasy stories, quite early on. He also enjoyed the George McDonald's tales - Princess and the Goblin and his other stories - although that enjoyment didn't last into his adult life. Much later, actually towards the end of his life, he became much more critical of George McDonald's literary approach. A little too allegorical for him, I think. but it certainly fed imaginatively. And then as we move into him being a young man, he loved William Morris, for instance, and adventure writers like S.R. Crockett. But I don't want to just recap the entire several chapters. Heather: Yeah. So as I said, there's so much to say that we could just pick out a couple of highlights that might be of interest to our readership. And let's just pause a little bit about the boy's own adventure because this was a sort of literature that was developed for boys at school, that kind of age of boy. The idea was it was building young men for the empire. So it's got a sort of quite's not a million miles away from Kipling, though Kipling's more interesting when he takes it on. But you point out that the two books that he gave to the library at his old School, is that correct, are in this genre. And you do a read them so that we don't have to read them. But you also look at the difference between the treatment of empire in these stories and Tolkien's own writing. And I thought that was a particularly interesting, you know, I love that part of your story, your book. So would you mind just filling in a couple of details about that to explain what I mean about "He Takes Empire Differently." JG: That's one of the fruits of doing this particular project. I set myself out not just to identify the titles that Tolkien knew or had read, but insofar as it was possible to read them all. As you said, sometimes so that you don't have to, dear reader, and sometimes so that you might want to. But in the case of the Boy's Own Adventure, well, we live in a time where culturally we're much more sensitive to racism and anti-Semitism, and very rightly so. And so much so that we're very sensitive to seeing it. It can be a bit shocking to read something of that era where you need have almost no sensibility whatsoever to notice how utterly racist it is. It isn't hiding. It comes out and it whacks you in the head with just horrific statements I don't even want to quote. It's sort of a default assumption that anybody with brown skin was somehow subhuman or at least not really worth considering. Not all of the Boys on Adventures were that way. But it was certainly much more common than - well, it was extremely common. And so much so that you just kind of have to accept that it's there. You're going to have to encounter it when you read these stories. And there's also a very strong sense of, yes, of empire. That the British people are going to go out and have this empire and that it is unambiguously good. Now of course, empire is neither unambiguously good nor unambiguously bad. It's as complex as the people who are living it out. But there's definitely a sense in these stories that rah-rah, you know, for the empire, we are definitely the rightful rulers of the world. No questions asked. So then reading these, and knowing that Tolkien read authors like Herbert Hayans, Alexander MacDonald, who wrote a particularly racist story set in the outback, realising then that he differed from these. He made definitely a conscious shift away from these toxic elements. I think that was really illuminating for me. Growing up in this culture, he could easily have taken a lot of these assumptions on board without himself being consciously racist, but still appropriating these tropes and these images. And by and large, he rejects them. Now, there are one or two unfortunate images that do make their way into The Lord of the Rings, which people will call attention to. But if you look back at the kind of literature that he grew up with, it's quite striking to see how thoroughly he has rejected that entire approach. For instance, in The Lord of the Rings, we've got the whole story of Ganbar-I-Gan, the Aboriginal figure. And if you look at some of the stories that he would have read when he was growing up, these were figures that would have been treated with contempt, ridicule, treated as subhuman. Taking them as equals would not have been an imaginative possibility for someone like Haynes or MacDonald. In The Lord of the Rings, we have Theoden treating respectfully with Ganbar-I-Gan, asking for his advice. We see Eomer being maybe a little bit racist, like, "Well, what does he know?" and getting put down. Like, "No, no. He's correct." And then I think most strikingly, the wild men help them, help the men of Rohan. And then when Aragorn is king and he comes back, he asks Ganbar-Gan, "What would you like? What do you want?" And of course, Ganbar-Gan's request is that he and his people be allowed to live freely and not be hunted anymore like animals. And this is granted, and King Aragorn and King Alasar grants them the woods. But I think this is striking in that Tolkien is not glossing over racism in Middle-earth. He is acknowledging that the people of Rohan did behave in a racist manner toward the wild men. They used to hunt them. And it's a really subtle point that is often overlooked, that Tolkien is really challenging the kinds of boyzone tropes that he would have grown up with and saying, "Yeah, this is the sort of thing that happened and it shouldn't have. In Middle Earth, we're going to show that it happened and also show that it shouldn't have. I think that's a really good example of the way that he's creatively engaging with some of these more difficult tropes from his boyhood reading. MW: Yes, and you also get the wonderful moment when Faramir actually stops and thinks about the motive of the enemy, the Sauteron, the fallen soldier. One of the things that you don't find in Boyd's stories is much worry about what everyone else is thinking about your presence there. I think you're right. Tolkien is very advanced both in what he writes and in his own personal reaction to people asking him about the origins of his name and all sorts of things. chose his advance for a man of his era. It doesn't mean that he's fully signed up to what we would now expect, but let's give him a break. We're talking about pretty much 80 years ago. So in his own context, his advance. Excellent. So of all of those stories that he read as a child, what do you think would be the one that he would point to as his favourite among them? Is it the fairy tales. I'm not saying the one that influenced him most because of course you can be influenced by something you don't like. You can be like...and you make that point. There can be the writing against something. But with C.S. Lewis, we get a clear sense where he sort of picks out a few books in Surprise by Joy that these are the ones that lit my imagination. Is there something similar for Tolkien that people should perhaps actually go away and read and think about? Well, I think in terms of sparking his imagination, one author that he encounters a little - well, we don't know quite when he first encountered the full works of William Morris - but he encountered William Morris to a certain extent as a boy because there's a retelling of the story of Sigurd in the Red Fairy book that comes from Morris. But then, certainly by the time that he got to Oxford as an undergraduate, he was reading William Morris. And these are these sort of adventures, these prose romances in the medieval sense of the word, where Morris is taking, making new fantasy stories, sometimes set in fantasy worlds, and telling them in a deliberately archaic style - very distinctive archaic style. And Tolkien was absolutely knocked out by them. He read everything that William Morris wrote, as far as I can tell. had some 11 volumes of his works at one point. We know that he was specifically influenced by several of them because he names them. One of the ways this influences him is that he reads some of Morris' prose romances that mix verse and prose. He even writes to Edith that he's going to try that. He does, in some of his early Tales for the Legendarium. So, we can see that Tolkien himself is pointing out quite early on the way that he's inspired by another author's technique - in this case, Morris - to try something out. If you look at the early stories of, say, The Fall of Gondolin, and you've read William Morris, you can absolutely see that he's imitating, assimilating Morris' archaizing style. Very, very archaic in language. The interesting thing is that this disappears almost entirely by the time we get to the Lord of the Rings, because he's mastered the way to use archaisms. Morris never did. Morris wasn't a linguist. Morris was just sort of making things up as he went along. Morris is not terribly readable today. He's a niche interest. Tolkien takes that influence and transforms it. He takes the idea of using archaic phrasing, and then figures out how to do it in a way that is utterly natural. His characters only speak with more archaic tones in moments that are appropriate - moments of high emotion or high solemnity. And of course, it's balanced by the naturalism of the Hobbits. So again, we have a very interesting study of the way that we have an important early influence that he takes up into his creative imagination, digests and transforms. Yeah, it's interesting actually that William Morris, who again, I think we've had a Mythmaker on him with Ingrid Hansen, who's a specialist on Morris. So I'll put a link in the show notes, people want to listen because he's such a complex character. But you would have said during his lifetime, people would have thought that his creative footprint was going to be about his prose writing and his poetry, but actually now it's probably more about his politics and his aesthetic, the William Morris aesthetic, which is incredibly powerful. And then if you don't know what it is, just Google it and you'll see, "Oh yes, I do know what it is." So, yeah, absolutely fascinating figure. And because of his interest in Iceland and Icelandic stories, could well see there's a lot of common ground between him and Tolkien. So moving forward, the contemporary era of children's books for him were obviously the 1930s and late 20s, 1930s when he's got his own family. We know from the Father Christmas Letters that he is an involved parent. He's creating stories for his children. He's reading to them. What's the current generation of stories? We're thinking Edwardian, early 20s. Would you say were the most notable ones for you to pick out as an influence? I'm thinking more of The Hobbit here, the way he decided to tell The Hobbit, I think, in the contemporary bedtime story. MG: Well, isn't it because one of the specific influences that he notes for The Hobbit is George McDonald. So, that's worth noting. Although McDonald is in the Victorian era, but he notes McDonald as a specific influence. Of the books of that era that were notable for The Hobbit, one is a charming book that is, I think, very difficult to find today, called The Marvelous Land of Snurgs by the remarkably named E. A. Wick-Smith. Snurgs are very Hobbit-like, and Tolkien loved it, and his children loved it. So this is a book that was sort of feeding that creative imagination of that time. He also, as we go forward into the 30s, he was a great admirer of Arthur Ransom, the Swallows and Amazon series. In fact, quite late in life. He had a volume of Secret Water on his bookshelves, so he clearly retained an affection for it, even into his late life. The Ransom books were favorites of his children, but they were also books that he enjoyed, as we know from an absolutely charming exchange of letters that he had with Ransom. Ransom wrote to him about The Hobbit and pointed out that in the first edition, he had made some phrasings that seemed off because he called Bilbo a man at one point. He says, "He's a hobbit. He's not a man. So why would you call him that?" And Tolkien could be prickly when criticized, but he could also be very open to criticism when it was presented in a way that was clearly showing sympathy with his own aims. And Ransom just hit the note perfectly. He writes as a humble hobbit fancier and presents it as if it was just a scribal mistake, basically. Similar to how Lewis had framed some of his own comments on Tolkien's work. Tolkien responded enthusiastically and made the changes in the next printing of The Hobbit, so we have that greater consistency of phrasing thanks to Ransom. They had just a delightful exchange of letters in which Tolkien expressed his appreciation for Ransom's writings. And these are books that are worth reading. They are still in print and they are very much worth reading. I'm currently engaged in reading them to my godchildren. They're wonderful children's adventures. They're very wholesome ones. You know, very well-drawn characters. And interestingly, they're not fantasies for the most part. There's a couple that have fantasies. But the main body of the story - Swallows in Amazon, Swallowdale, ones like that, Secret Water - they're stories of a family of children and their friends who go on holiday, admittedly with a freedom that seems fantastical to those of us who live in the 21st century. What? The parents just let them go off on an island and camp for a month? but it was realistic for the time. They have perfectly ordinary adventures - very well told, very engaging. I think this is worth noting because Tolkien, as a writer, chose to work in the genre of fantasy. But that by no means indicates that he only enjoyed fantasy writing. Many of the children's authors that he enjoyed growing up were fantasists, as we've already been mentioning. But he also enjoyed more realistic stories, including more realistic children's stories like the Swallows and Amazons books. But what's interesting from the fantasy point of view in the Swallows and Amazons is you see the children creating the fantasy. So they create characters themselves of pirates and they give ordinary people different names. So you watch the game being played and I think that's very appealing. That's one of the reasons why they're such wonderful books. It does feel absolutely in the mind of children on holiday. It's a wonderful book, I agree with you. The other thing of course about Ransom is he did his own illustrations and drew his own maps, which of course Tolkien is a better craftsman in that sense. But that example of an illustrator, a writer being his own illustrator, I think was very encouraging. -Yeah. -Just on the question of illustrations and maps, one of the things I love finding out from your book is about Tolkien's aspirations for his own map based on the map that he got from... You might be able to put your finger on the reference quicker than me. The pottery sherd that was created... Yes, from Haggard. Yes, he's one of the major influences, H. Ryder Haggard. And that's the Shard of Ammonartis, and I've got an image of it in my photo gallery. And that falls sort of into the category of Bowie's own adventure, but also gets an entire chapter of its own in my book. I've got the picture here, so we can... Ah, there we go. There we go, everybody. That's the Shard of Ammonartis. And this is a really fascinating instance of Tolkien, of genuine influence that we can trace. This is from a story by H. Rider Haggard and an adventure story from the book She, 1887, which is a sort of a boy's own adventure with fantastic elements. These characters go off to Africa and they discover this basically immortal woman known as She Who Must Be Obeyed. They fall under her thrall and all that. The Sherd is the start of the story. It's the engine, the machine that starts everything going. It's got the story of who she is and how she has affected this one particular family and this sort of quest for vengeance written on the sherd. Now, the interesting thing is that Haggard didn't just invent this sherd for the story, but he manufactured an artefact - an actual pottery sherd - had it inscribed in Greek, marked it up. It's so realistic that he showed it to some different people, and many of them - knowledgeable people - thought it it was real, and then had it reproduced as an image in the frontispiece of his book. And it's currently in a museum, marked as a facsimile, fortunately. But the shirt itself, as an artifact, is very important to the plot. But I think one of the things that captivated Tolkien's attention - and he mentions specifically, he mentions the shirt as something that interested him as a boy. It's an artefact that's extra textual that adds this verisimilitude to the whole story. And that, ultimately, is what he does with the book of Mazarbul. We read about it in The Lord of the Rings - this book with the blackened pages and the last words of the dwarves, the drums from the deep - they are coming. It's such a fantastic bit of the story. but he also created three pages from this book, which are now - you can see them - they're at the Hagerty Museum of Art in Marquette University in Wisconsin. He very carefully crafted them. He poked little holes where the binding would be. He used different colours and he burnt the edges. They're incredibly detailed. He went through various iterations of making them, ultimately hoping that they would be reproduced in the book, which they weren't, because it was too costly to do the printing in colour. But this idea of having an artifact outside the text that referred back to the text that in some way supports the authenticity of the narrative as a historical narrative, which of course is Tolkien's conceit in The Lord of the Rings. It's history told by the hobbits. Well, here's an artefact. Here's a page from the book of Mazarbul. We can trace at least some of that inspiration to Haggard and the shirt of Amon Ardus that we have in She. So, as we were saying at the beginning, there is so much to say in all of these things, but we've got to keep moving on. So, let's think about adult books and their influence. We can enfold in here, of course, the works of the other Inklings, too. Is there any particular ones that you'd pick out as being ones that Tolkien admired? Not necessarily that he used as examples, but things that we know he was reading that were part of that compost he was making for his own imagination. MF: Yeah, I mean, in a way, I think the most striking thing is just the breadth of his reading. One of the things that I try to argue in Tolkien's modern reading for the show is that we've really got to stop trying to find one-to-one influence. Sometimes we can find them, especially if Tolkien himself has identified the ones, like we've just been talking about the Book of Mazarbul and the Shurda of Ammonartis. There's a very clear and strong connection there, similarly with Morris and some of his experiments with language and style. Even with those, though, we can never say that because there is this connection, there are therefore no other connections. It's always multiple influences can be feeding into the same scene, even. It can have multiple influences from different authors. But I think even more than that, as we look at the breadth of his reading, he read everyone from E.M. Forster to James Joyce, Chesterton, Bellock, you know, all sorts of Catholics, non-Catholics, atheists like H.G. Wells, Nolav Stapleton. He didn't like all of them, but he liked many of them. He called H.G. Wells an old master of science fiction. And it's this diversity of reading that I think is most striking that he read so widely. And I think his interest in science fiction was one that particularly struck me. He names, for instance, Isaac Asimov as a favourite author. Sadly, he doesn't give any specific titles, but I was able to trace through a very early use of the word 'robot' before it was commonly used in regular usage. I think he had read Azamat's robot stories quite early, because he used to read the American science fiction magazines. And this again - we don't have time to talk about all this - but it points to a much more nuanced attitude about technology than people usually think that the Tolkien had. I gave a whole chapter to that. But mostly, I think, you know, I've got a whole chapter on his Catholic taste, meaning his broadly ranging taste. And I think that is really notable. You know, he read poets like Tennyson, all sorts of poets. So, I could go on more names, but I think it's the breadth of his adult reading that is particularly striking. Yeah, and I think, as you said, the fact that he read Westerns and he read the Golden Age murder mysteries, he was particularly admiring of Agatha Christie, wasn't he? Yes, and I find that just delightful. And interestingly, that in a way clears up something that is often quoted. He has a quite cantankerous remark about Dorothy Sayers in the the letters about how he couldn't stand the later Lord Peter mysteries when Harriet Vane is involved. He can be quite cranky when he's saying these things, but he often is very hyperbolic in the way he expresses things. It's interesting to note that he notes that he had read the Lord Peter Whimsey novels from the beginning. He had been reading them all while he read them all. And so he couldn't have hated the last one so much because Harriet Vane comes in, you know, in Strong Poison and she shows up the next two. He read them all. He obviously had enough of an interest to keep reading. He preferred the earlier ones. Well, what's different about the earlier ones? Well, they're more puzzle-like. They're more purely about the detection and the mystery. Whereas later, Sayre shifts to more psychological and sort of interested in the the relationship between Peter and Harriet, they're quite different, the early ones and the later ones. It's a difference of taste. But interestingly, this ties in to the fact that he also didn't care for Chesterton's Father Brown stories. He loved many of other Chesterton stories, including The Flying Inn and things like that. He did not care for the Father Brown stories. Those are much more psychological. They're not really about the plot. Who's his favourite mystery writer? Agatha Christie, who is a good study of character, but her strength is in her clever plotting. So this just shows what's his preference for a mystery story - a good, clever plot. So he's not really slighting sayers. He's just indicating the kind of mystery story that he likes is plot-centred rather than character-centred. Yeah, I don't know. I'm not sure about that because I read that comment on Dorothy L Sayers and I'm actually reading a lot of Dorothy L Sayers at the moment. By chance, I started at the other end, the last one because it was the one in the house. The thing about the ones of Harriet Vane is that the point of view switches to Harriet Vane and it becomes quite a feminine story. So Gordie Knight, for example, which many regard as one of her best novels. Lord Peter Winsley doesn't actually turn up until two thirds of the way through, halfway through. I just wonder if the fact that Dorothy Elsayers is shifting to a female viewpoint and basically it's about female friendships, female academics, the establishment of women's college, the way it's accepted or not accepted in Oxford, I just wondered if some of those things were pressing on nerves for him. Because it's not lovey-dovey. It's not actually romance in the conventional sense at all. It's definitely got more psychological exploration. And then turning back to Agatha Christie, she isn't as simplistic as people think. Depends which story you read. So something like The Hollow, again, it's a Poirot story. Poirot doesn't turn up until quite a long way in. It's actually a very interesting psychological examination of a lot of different suspects with this idea of the hollow as a sort of image resonating through. So I think they're both much better, interesting writers. I just think perhaps, I don't know, I think that maybe Tolkien is missing some of the things that Dorothy else is trying to do. He's not her best reader. He's not, you know. Well, that certainly could be the case. And again, we shouldn't read too much into comments. But I will note, though, that the reasons that you gave why Gaudi Knight might possibly press on nerves, I would argue, are reasons why he ought to have liked it. Yeah, well. This is not as well known as it should be. Tolkien was a firm supporter of women's education. He was a tutor for the women's colleges very early on and was particularly well-liked by them. He didn't just do it because he had to. It was convenient that with Edith at home, he could have students at his house without needing an extra chaperone because at the time, women students were chaperoned. But reports from the students themselves, as I've read in various college books, were all favourable. They liked him. They felt that he respected the women students. He gave them a really fair shake, which sadly some of his other colleagues didn't. His daughter Priscilla recalled that he was always 100% supportive of her education, made no differences between her and her brothers in terms of her going to Oxford, and noted that he was very fond of Lady Margaret Hall, where she went. He knew the headmistress there. And he had a number of very good friends in the English faculty who were women, such as Dorothy Everett, who was a co-founder of The Cave, which was a co-educational literary club. The Cave doesn't get much press because everyone thinks about the Inklings, which is only men, but Tolkien was also a co-founder of a men and women's mixed club that gets no attention because it doesn't fit the narrative, right? So I think that whatever reasons he had for not caring for Gaudi Knight, it wouldn't have been because he was irritated about the idea of women's education or women's opportunities. Insofar as we can see how he actually supported women students, he would have been for it rather than against it. He could have been irritated by Harriet. I find Harriet a little annoying at times myself. Yeah, well that's possible. I was actually meaning more that it was giving Oxford a bit of a bad press in it because it makes it feel as though the women aren't wanting it. Anyway, that's that we could have a whole section on Dorothea Alcés because what people might not know is she sort of runs parallel to the Inklings because she's also doing similar things to Charles Williams. She's writing plays for the Canterbury Festival like T.S. and Charles Williams. She's doing theology like CS Lewis. So she's a really interesting parallel figure. But anyway, we'll put it aside because she isn't that and she isn't big for Tolkien, I don't think. So, you know, we'll move her to one side. So I think wrapping this up here and again, I reiterate that the best thing anyone can do listening to this is actually go and read the detail of your very well argued book. And another thing I would just mention about it is your own clarity of writing is that there's a summary of what is said at the end of every chapter. It's a student's dream. So, or somebody who might have forgotten, they can go back and see what you've talked about in each chapter, which is very kind of you. Thank you for writing your book like that. And I absolutely loved it. Really enjoyed it. I have given you a little bit of warning, Holly. Let's see if we can do our next thing, which is we always end with a segment where we look at all the fantasy worlds that are out there from film and television and books, poetry, whatever. You could even pick up an artwork, a painting, and say, "Where in all the fantasy worlds is the best place to have this experience?" Because we've spent some time thinking about boys' own adventures. So let's take away the kind of empire aspect of it, but you know, the sort of kid going out on their own, having a rip-roaring time. Where do you think is the best place in all the fantasy worlds for a child, as opposed to a hobbit, for a child to actually go on adventure? Well, I gave some thought about this and I was thinking initially, well, I might put forward voyaging on the Don Treader in Lewis's Narnia. Very fun. That is probably my personal favorite of the Narnia books. It's such a great story. But you know, considering that we have been talking about Arthur Ransom, you know, and we know that Tolkien admired Ransom, I might plump for a modified version of fantasy and say, I think it would be great fun to go and visit Wildcat Island with the swallows and the Amazons and have a summer of pretending to be pirates or whatever, or mountaineers or whatever their latest adventure would be. Or, for instance, there's Winter Holiday where they pretend to be polar explorers. And in a sense, that would be the great boyzone fantasy. Girls are also invited, which is nice, and I think Tolkien would appreciate that, especially with a daughter. Boys and girls adventure. There's excitement, there's a bit of drama and danger, but there's also a sense of safety because nothing terrible happens to these children. That's rather pleasing. In adult books, terrible things can happen to the characters as they do, for instance, in The Lord of the Rings. Even in The Hobbit, characters die. but in the world of the Swallows and Amazons, you can just have a rip-roaring holiday adventure and nice things to eat for tea. So, thinking about this, all sorts of options have come up to me, like Peter Pan, another Edwardian story. But actually, to get the flavour of this world of the boy zone, which came out of Victorian period. I think actually an adventure in the Indiana Jones world is actually quite close to what these were doing, but in a bit more acceptable world. Because, you know, Indiana Jones famously say, "It belongs in a museum." And that idea of sort of going into pyramids to have adventures seems to me the best place to have an adventure. Like that little, that boy actor who's just now won his Oscar many years later in the Temple of Doom. You could sort of come alongside Indiana Jones and have an adventure. Thank you so much Holly for taking us through that and yeah for bringing Tolkien up to date and making us remember that he was an early adopter of that top technology, the tape recorder. So thank you very much. My pleasure. Thanks for listening to Myth Makers Podcast, brought to you by the Oxford Centre for Fantasy. Visit to join in the fun. Find out about our online courses, in-person stays in Oxford, plus visit our shop for great gifts. Tell a friend and subscribe, wherever you find your favourite podcasts worldwide. (upbeat music)