The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien was many things: scholar, novelist, inventor of worlds, and reluctant idol. In this 1968 BBC documentary to rule them all, Tolkien gives a free-ranging interview as he wanders around Oxford University, the institution he both attended and taught at for many years. Over the course of the film, Tolkien reveals he came up with the idea for The Hobbit while grading tests, apologizes for his bad handwriting while writing Elvish calligraphy, wistfully wishes he could communicate with trees, and expresses his confusion at the fan culture surrounding his books. The interview is charming and candid—at one point Tolkien describes his teenage self as "a rather puny, over-mothered timid little creature"—and provides a fascinating look into the personal life of the creator of one of the most influential fantasy series of all time.
But the film also goes beyond Tolkien's works, delving into the nascent fan culture surrounding the novels. Students at Oxford weigh in on the books in a series of interesting—and often hilarious—vignettes. In moments reflective of today's Internet fan culture, the young scholars seem either to vehemently love or hate Tolkien's works. While one student calls the so-called "cult of the hobbit" "reprehensible," another describes the books as a "world of myth and magic.” Check it out above.
Banner Image Credit: Deniz Özakıncı, Vimeo