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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Artist & Illustrator: Chap. 3: # 2: Shop on the Edge of ... Fairy Land

NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 12 2007, 10:02pm


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JRRT Artist & Illustrator: Chap. 3: # 2: Shop on the Edge of ... Fairy Land Can't Post

First, apologies for being unable to find a scan on the ‘net of Nr. 71 in Hammond & Scull. I will describe it below, but I hope that people have access to *JRR Tolkien. Artist and Illustrator.*

A two-storey, oblong stone house with a red tile roof; set amidst fields with a road running in the foreground before the house. In background to left a rising (?) sun, in background to right some hills. A few trees in the fields. It is, at first glance, a perfectly ordinary rural scene with a country shop by the roadside. However, even before we read the inscription a few things alert us to the possibility that something is not quite ordinary with this shop: first, on the one side stands the word “Gogs” -- what on earth are they? --; and, next, the main sign over the storefront reads “Fruit for ...” -- we expect to read, of course, “sale,” but read instead “... gift” -- “fruit for gift.” No shopkeeper just gives his wares away, so, what gives? The inscription confirms that this is no ordinary shop, for there we read: “A Shop on the Edge of the Hills of Fairy Land.”

Now Tolkien drew several pictures that at first glance appear quintessentially rural, but upon closer inspection -- or upon reading of the title -- are anything but. Thus, from this chapter of Hammond & Scull, we have Nr- 73: “House Where ‘Rover’ Began His Adventures as a ‘Toy’”. Again I’ve not been able to find a scan on the ‘net; the drawing appears in most editions of *Roverandom* as well.

Rover, who will be renamed Roverandom, from this house proceeds to have all sorts of entanglements with wizards and will eventually make it to the moon where he meets a dragon. The most fantastic adventures can, it seems, begin in mundane settings, if there’s a way to get from them to what we may call “fairy land.”

(Another example: the famous painting of Hobbiton, which, at first glance looks like a country village -- till we see the hill in the background with the Hobbit-holes. Then we know that this is no ordinary country village; and, in any case, Bilbo travels from this village to meet with Elves and have an adventure with a dragon.)


Q.#1: Whart sort of an impression do Tolkien’s “country settings” make on you? Are you drawn most to the placidity of them? Or do the hints of the fantastic close to or just behind the ordinary strike you most?


In various of his stories Tolkien situates “fairy land” close to or just beyond what to all appearances is a placid little village. Smith in “Smith of Wootton Major” (granted with the aid of the star upon his brow) walks from the village straight to the “perilous realm” of Faërie -- which lies, it seems, just on the edge of town or in a nearby enchanted forest. Likewise, the road that runs through Hobbiton also leads to Rivendell and Mirkwood.


Q.#2: Do you find it re-assuring or disturbing that the “perilous realm” can lie so close to the ordinary?


Finally, let me close with a few tangential remarks on this “Road to Fairy Land” which leads from ordinary towns to the fantastic: In his *Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border* Sir Walter Scott included various poems on Thomas the Rhymer. They stand on pages 486-507; I was fortunately able to acquire a reprint, from 1869, of the original edition of 1802.

Thomas of Ercildoune, *alias* the Rhymer, lived in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The tradition maintains that, while he lay on Huntlie Bank by the Eildon Tree, he met the Queen of Elfland who whisked him away to her country...

“True Thomas lay on Huntlie Banl;
A ferlie (‘a marvel’) he spied wi’ his ee;
And there he saw a ladye bright,
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.”

Although Thomas initially mistakes her for the Virgin, she reveals her true identity and takes him with her. They ride till they come to “a desert wide” where the Queen shows Thomas three ways: one leads to Heaven, the second to the other place, but there is at last a third one...

“O see not ye that bonny road,
That winds about the fernie brae (‘hillside’)?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae (‘must go’).”

A very similar version to Sir Walter’s was published by Robert Jamieson, in *Popular Ballads and Songs*, Edinburgh 1806.


Now the older versions of the ballad (collected in *The Romance and Prophecies of Thomas of Erceldoune,* edited by J.A.H. Murray, London 1875, Early English Text Society, Original Series, Nr. 61), all have the Queen showing to Thomas not three, but four roads, and doing so moreover after they arrive in Elfland. The roads lead: 1.) from Purgatory to Heaven; 2.) straight to Heaven; 3.) to Purgatory; 4.) to the other place.

On p. LIII with note 1, Dr. Murray (who was also the editor of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary) explains how Sir Walter and Jamieson came by their versions. There was this Mrs. Brown who lived near Erceldoune, whom both Sir Walter and Jamieson visited and from whom both procured alleged copies of ancient manuscripts... It seems that Mrs. Brown, who wrote verses herself, had updated the old tale and palmed off her version on two learned antiquaries -- both of whom, incidentally, revised the poem according to their own lights. At any rate, the “third way” in Sir Walter’s ballad -- the one which leads from earth to Elfland -- and which seems to play such a rôle in Tolkien’s literary works -- derives from the creative imagination of one Mrs. Brown, who lived in Scotland around 1800.

Subject User Time
JRRT Artist & Illustrator: Chap. 3: # 2: Shop on the Edge of ... Fairy Land NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 12 2007, 10:02pm
    The Image Hyarion Send a private message to Hyarion Mar 13 2007, 3:44am
        Thanks for that! NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 13 2007, 6:05am
    here is another Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Mar 13 2007, 2:24pm
    Very interesting story about Mrs. Brown, although it also says lots about Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 13 2007, 2:44pm
        Saturday night in Toledo Ohio N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 13 2007, 4:21pm
            Yes, anything could happen after they roll up the sidewalks. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 13 2007, 7:50pm
        Tolkien himself was never above "correcting" NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 13 2007, 11:22pm
    Love your "tangential remarks"! Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 14 2007, 4:27am
    perilous realms on the edge of the ordinary a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Mar 15 2007, 1:50am
    "The Orgog" N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 15 2007, 4:00am
        I do wish that Hammond & Scull NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 15 2007, 9:12am
            even the S&H Reader's Guide a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Mar 16 2007, 12:53am
        Gogs Kimi Send a private message to Kimi Mar 16 2007, 1:30am

 
 
 

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