The Shire and the Amazon
I’ve been hiking West of Oxford this past week – a late vacation after a busy summer – passing through some of the villages where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis walked together. Tolkien had this landscape partly in mind in creating the Shire. I even had a pint and a bacon-and-cranberry sandwich Saturday at Moreton-in-Marsh’s The Bell Inn, Tolkien’s model for “The Prancing Pony” in Lord of the Rings – where the hobbits first meet Aragorn, later the true King of Gondor.
All quite beautiful and uplifting in ways it would be difficult to express unless you had the imagination of Tolkien himself. The region is both the same and – no doubt – quite different than when he and Lewis walked here.
There are tourists and television now. (We accidentally stumbled into the church in Blockley, the village where the Fr. Brown TV detective series – a theologically neutered version of Chesterton’s Fr. Brown – was filmed.) Still, the hills and fields, scattered farms and stone towns, take you out into a different world.
The exact nature of that world often gets lost in our current environmental debates. We have great power over nature now. The large strides in pure science and the near-miraculous developments in technology – especially medicine – are great blessings, to be sure, but also great challenges.