Part One, in which the vicar entertains
A place on the Middle-earth map, never visited, Wetwang is curiously memorable for it’s extraordinary name. Yet the name is no invention. It comes from a real place known to Tolkien. And as I have now found, it also had further resonances for the philologist who wrote The Lord of the Rings.
I’m in the middle of copy-editing an upcoming edition of Tolkien’s work on Chaucer, edited with commentary by John Bowers and Peter Steffenson, for Oxford University Press. Tolkien on Chaucer (Opens in a new window) will include the complete text of ‘Chaucer as a Philologist: The Reeves Tale’, first published in Transactions of the Philological Society in 1934.(Opens in a new window)
Working on it has brought to my attention a reference by Tolkien to the Yorkshire place-name Wetwang which I didn’t take into account when writing about this name in The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. I sat down this morning to write a brief piece about this for you, but it has sprawled to beyond it’s borders (rather like the marshland itself) and filled the sluggish regions of my Saturday. So I’m going to divide it up over several weeks. Today I’ll expand on my brief account in Worlds.