Today is not only St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday celebrating the Catholic missionary to Ireland hundreds of years ago, but it is also my birthday. These combined events make March 17 very important to me, but there is one more reason why it’s such a special day. On this day exactly one year ago, Emily and I were in Oxford, England. For my last year of college and Emily’s last full year, we decided to travel to Europe during spring break. We stayed in London, took the train to Paris for the day, and most importantly, we went to Oxford on my birthday. That may not be a big deal for some people, but for me going to Oxford, or particularly the pub The Eagle and Child, was one of the highlights of my life.
I’ve been writing about this a lot lately, but The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book, so visiting the place where the author lived and worked was the best experience of my life. J.R.R. Tolkien studied English Language and Literature at Exeter College at Oxford University, graduating in 1915 with honors. Following his graduation, Tolkien married Edith Bratt, served as a soldier in World War I, became a father, and worked for the Oxford English Dictionary and the University of Leeds before returning to Oxford as a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College. In 1945, after World War II, Tolkien became a professor of English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford, where he remained until he retired. After he retired, Tolkien and Edith moved to Bournemouth, but after Edith’s death he returned to live at Oxford.
Tolkien was not the only literary great to live and work in Oxford. He was only one member of the writing group known as the Inklings, which also included C.S. Lewis and other famous authors. The Inklings met at a local pub, The Eagle and Child, which they fondly referred to as the “Bird and Baby”. Here, they discussed works of literature as well as their own writing.
For all Tolkien fans, Oxford is hallowed ground, especially The Eagle and Child. It had always been my life goal to one day visit the Inkling’s pub and to tour the university where Tolkien taught. Well, one year ago Emily and I went to Oxford, touring the university and eating at The Eagle and Child. We walked where Tolkien walked and ate where he ate (and discussed literature and writing). We also came across a chocolate faire and some unexpected snow. But I got to check off the number one thing on my bucket list. It was the best birthday of my life, and probably always will be. I’m lucky that I got to share it with my best friend and fellow Tolkien fanatic and Inkling appreciator.