Burton bookworms with a penchant for all things magic can celebrate the work of author JRR Tolkien with a stunning exhibition at the town’s library.
The well-known and well-loved writer of The Lord of the Rings has strong links with Staffordshire and people in the county are invited to take a look at the inspiration behind his legendary works at the “J.R.R. Tolkien – Soldier and Myth-Maker” exhibition.
The showcase has already been seen by more than 100,000 visitors since it launched in March last year.
Highlights of the exhibition include rare photos and copies of original sketches by Tolkien, which have not been seen in Staffordshire since they left with the author in 1918, specially loaned by The Tolkien Estate and Bodleian Library.
Gill Heath, libraries chief at Staffordshire County Council, said: “This is a fascinating exhibition with thousands of people already getting the chance to see it.
"It is clear that Staffordshire had a profound effect on this famous writer’s formative years, and we are very proud of this connection.
“The ‘Tolkien in Staffordshire’ story is one of war, comradeship, creativity, love and loss and this exhibition offers visitors a rare chance to learn more about the author’s stay in Staffordshire and what it was like to be a soldier in the Great War.”
Arriving in Staffordshire on August 17, 1915, JRR Tolkien would begin a connection with the county that would span the remaining years of the Great War and provide inspiration for the mythology and geography of what we now know as Middle-earth.
During the Great War, Second Lieutenant JRR Tolkien of the Lancashire Fusiliers trained in Staffordshire before he was sent to serve on the front lines of the infamously bloody Battle of the Somme.
After contracting trench fever at the Battle of the Somme in June 1916, Tolkien was shipped back to Staffordshire to recover with his new wife Edith, in Great Haywood. The Tolkiens later briefly took up residence in a cottage at Gipsy Green, Teddesley Park, near Penkridge. During this time, he began writing his earliest fantasy works for what is now called Middle-Earth.
Tolkien was also known for his love of ale and it is thought that he would most likely have sampled the local beer brewed in Burton, during his stay.
The exhibition, which was organised by The Haywood Society, is at Burton Library, from now until Saturday, September 16.
It has also been supported by Staffordshire County Council’s Libraries and Arts Service and the Museum of Cannock Chase, and funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund.
Who was Tolkien?
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a major scholar of the English language, specialising in Old and Middle English. Twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford, he also wrote a number of stories, including most famously The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented version of our world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth.
This was populated by men, women, elves, dwarfs, trolls, orcs or goblins, and of course Hobbits.
In 1997 he came top of three British polls, organised respectively by Channel 4 and Waterstone’s, the Folio Society and SFX, the UK’s leading science fiction media magazine, among discerning readers asked to vote for the greatest book of the 20th century.