“When I arrived at Tolkien’s house I found it curiously characterless. Before I met him, I had spent hours near his home looking for places that might reflect The Lord of the Rings, but had found nothing. When we went for a walk before lunch, we came upon this bit of wood,” Lord Snowdon remembered.
As the popularity of his works grew in the 1960s, Tolkien retreated into semi-retirement. He was now one of the most famous authors in English language but he hated this public attention; he took his number out of phone directories, and became more and more suspicious of emerging Tolkien fandom, especially among the counterculture movement in the United States.
In May 1971, when Snowdon took the photo above in Bournemouth, the aging Oxford don was in his 79th year. Edith, his beloved wife of fifty years, would pass away in November, a month before Tolkien was honored with a CBE. After Edith’s death, he relocated to Oxford from Bournemouth, a seaside resort to which the couple had retired, and died in the lodging Merton College gave him twenty-one months later.