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Tolkien, Iceland, and trolls

    Tolkien     Iceland

 Tolkien’s family with their au pair Arndís Þorbjarnardóttir, from the Icelandic paper Morgunblað, 1999–02–28, p. 26

In a post titled “Bilbo’s Ride through Iceland,” our neighbor (give or take twenty miles), Nancy Marie Brown, recently wrote about the influence William Morris’s Journals of Travel in Iceland, 1871–73 may have had on Tolkien’s visualization of portions of Middle-earth — drawing particularly from Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Marjorie Burns.

As is usual with Nancy’s blog (God of Wednesday), the comments are interesting and informative. Specifically, Þóra Magnúsdóttir includes a link to an article in the 1999–02–28 issue of the Icelandic newspaper Morgunblað: “Barnfóstran frá Islandi og Tolkien-fjölskyldan” (“Au pair from Iceland and the Tolkien Family”) in which Linda Ásdísardóttir interviews Arndís Þorbjarnardóttir, one of the Icelandic nannies who lived with and worked for the Tolkiens in the late ’20s.

Two weeks later, Nancy followed up with a post titled “Tolkien’s Icelandic Trolls.”

John Rateliff followed up on these posts with his “An Icelandic au pair?” on 2012–08–09. Amongst other things, he observes that the Tolkien family photograph captioned “Family party, 20 Northmoor Road, March 1930” in The Tolkien Family Album

was obviously taken at the same time as the picture on the facing page of The Tolkien Family Album, except that the Icelandic newspaper’s picture has Edith, all four children, and another woman (presumably Arndís), while the Family Album version has Edith, the children, and JRRT. The two photos, though not identical, were obviously taken at the same occasion (check the white tea-pot as a confirming detail).

He concludes that it’s “very likely” that Tolkien himself took the Morgunblað photo, while Arndís took the one appearing in The Tolkien Family Album.

All of this, of course, helps confirm Hammond & Scull’s entry in their The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide:

?1926–?1930 For some years after the move to 22 Northmoor Road a series of Icelandic au pair girls will live with the Tolkien family and entertain the boys with tales about trolls.

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