Tolkien smoking his pipe in his study at Merton Street, Billett Potter, 22 September 1972 © Billett Potter, Oxford

Owen Barfield & J.R.R. Tolkien

Owen Barfield influenced J.R.R. Tolkien through his literature and philosophy, but also on their long walks together.

The walking tours created a sense of both fellowship with humour and adventure with purpose.

They provided occasions for “THE FELT EXPERIENCE” Barfield was so passionate about.

The hikers jokingly called themselves “The Cretaceous Perambulators.”

Here are two examples of their long walks:

  1. From Tolkien’s diary:
    April 1937 – Tolkien takes an exhausting walking holiday with Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis.
    Walking coast to coast, starting at Lyme Regis (Dorset) through the Quantock Hills and ending at Minehead (Somerset).

  2. From the Owen Barfield Papers at the Bodleian Library:
    April 1938  –  A spoof exam paper of ‘The College of Cretaceous Perambulators’ written by Tolkien whilst he was on a walking tour through Hampshire.

    It seems clear from the exam questions that both Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis were present.

    There are four questions (out of 12) which relate directly to Barfield’s work. These are:

    2:
    What are the five principal weaknesses of ‘Orpheus’.
    [Barfield wrote his play Orpheus in 1937.]
    3:
    Discuss the orchestral uses and abuses of the Viol de Gambon, the Silver Trumpet, the Cor Anglais and the Cuckolds Horn.
    6:
    Compare Poetic Diction
    10:
    Who are: Owen Glendower [etc.] Owen Barfield […]

    Courtesy of Catherine McIlwaine, Bodleian Archivist.