The most anticipated film of the season arrives in theaters today much to the delight of fanatics everywhere. After endless years of promises and obstacles, Tolkien’s The Hobbit graces us with its presence. My Suitor inquired whether I will be attending a viewing at some point during this season. I affirmed I would as soon as the costumed audience ceases to recite aloud the entire script along with the cinema. He replied, “Aww, we are not that bad.” Ha! Silly Suitor!
J.R.R. Tolkien’s titular piece was penned in the 1930s, but the book which inspired the man came from a more surprising source; William Morris. For those familiar with the Victorian Era should come across the name at some point in their readings. He was a virtual renaissance man! I was first introduced to him as a design student in the university. He designed furniture indicative of what is dubbed The Arts and Craft Movement. I hold that I am not a fan of his furniture, too linear for my liking. However, some of his wallpapers and rug designs while a bit parochial, actually pique my interest. It consists of high patterns and stylized natural elements. Later in Art History I was reacquainted with him as a painter in the Brotherhood of the Pre-Raphaelites which is the coordinating fine art movement as Arts and Crafts. Morris tends to be eclipsed by Rossetti in this painting endeavor. The color schemes is reminiscent of his wallpaper patterns; a sort of a patina of lush pigmentation. The subject matter romanticized the medieval ages and the art of chivalry. Now, I am meeting Morris once more as . . . a writer? Imagine my surprise to discover he was actually the predominant inspiration for Tolkien’s novels!
In 1889 William Morris published A Tale of the House of Wolfings and All the Kindreds of the Mark Written in Prose and in Verse. Clearly, he was not a succinct gentleman with such a longwinded title as the one he chose! Goodness, what a mouthful. The title is practically self-explanatory. Morris emulated the style of medieval epic stories and poems to weave a tale of fantasy, quests, and epic adventure. Sound familiar? Some claim Morris’ novel is the first true modern fantasy. I still consider fantasy a modern genre, even though it is not. Just Morris wrote Wolfings in 1889! How wonderful is that?! I could not imagine my great-grandmother devouring the works of Morris in full Hobbit-esque costume . . . though come to think of it, it is a rather amusing image. Tee hee!
*Inspired by the article “Before the Shire” by James Erwin in Wired Dec 2012 p. 84