Hobbits in Kentucky?

Excerpts from Davenport, Guy. “Hobbits in Kentucky.” New York Times (February 23 1979), A27.

“The first professor [Tolkien] to harrow me with the syntax and morphology of Old English had a speech impediment, wandered in his remarks, and seemed to think that we, his baffled scholars, were well up in Gothic, Erse and Welsh, the grammar of which he freely alluded to.”

“Even when I came to read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ I had trouble, as I still do, realizing it was written by the mumbling and pedantic Prof. J.R.R. Tolkien”

“Nor have I had much luck in blending the professor and the author in my mind.  I’ve spent a delicious afternoon in Tolkien’s rose garden talking with his son, and from this conversation there kept emerging a fond father who never quite noticed that his children had grown up, and who, as I gathered, came and went between the real world and a world of his own invention.  I remembered that Sir Walter Scott’s son grew up in ignorance that his father was a novelist, and remarked as a lad in his teens when he was among men discussing Scott’s genius, ‘Aye, it’s commonly him is first to see the hare.’”

“Nor, talking with his bosom friend, H.V.G. (“Hugo”) Dyson, could I get any sense of the Tolkien who invented Hobbits and the most wonderful adventures since Ariosto and [ ].  ‘Dear Ronald,’ Dyson said, ‘writing all those silly books with three introductions and 10 appendixes.  His was not a true imagination, you know: He made it all up.’”

Allen Barnett, an American Oxford classmate of Tolkien’s: “‘Imagine that!  You know, he used to have the most extraordinary interest in the people here in Kentucky.  He could never get enough of my tales of Kentucky folk.  He used to make me repeat family names like Barefoot and Boffin and Baggins and good country names like that.’”

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