At noon Feb. 5 Brian and Julie Swedburg of Redwood Falls shared their adventure to Ireland and England to a full house as part of the Redwood Falls Public Library travel series.
Julie traveled often in her youth and admits that she’d largely grown a distaste for frequent travel. However, when her brother offered to send her and Brian on a paid trip to Ireland and England they jumped at the chance.
She and Brian toured with a number of other Americans and visited significant places in the lives of authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
“The tour didn’t require us to be bookish or brilliant,” Julie said, despite the primary subject matter of the trip.
While there was a suggested reading list, some of which she read, it was more discovery-based than a rigorous intellectual trip.
“Brian was on a literary journey,” she said, “and I was looking for souvenirs… specifically Welsh ones.”
Prior to the trip, which included a brief foray into Wales, Julie researched her genealogy through resources available at the library. She was able to locate some of her family background, including old birth certificates of her ancestors and learned about her history, including where she was originally from.
She and Brian were able to visit many of those locations including Stafford, England and Holy Head, Wales; Julie purchased some souvenirs for her grandchildren in the home area of her grandmother.
After flying into England, they began their tour in Dublin.
It was largely a walking tour which allowed them to travel along many of the same paths as the famous authors and visit many of the locations that inspired them as they crafted their own worlds.
“Prior to Tolkien, nobody wrote fairy stories or adult fantasy literature for adults,” Brian said.
While on tour, he took a collection of Tolkien’s speeches and essays with him everywhere. The collection contained one such speech the author gave on that topic which shed light on the motivation behind writing such literature, including themes of the contrast between light and dark.
In Ireland, they hiked through the hills and mountains that inspired Lewis and visited several parks, at least two of which had recreations of Narnia in them. Ireland was Lewis’ boyhood home. They visited the area he grew up in, where one could see the building and launch berth of the Titanic in Belfast and the parsonage where Lewis’s grandfather lived as he pastored.
The Swedburgs noticed lampposts, decorative lions built into the architecture and stone statues everywhere, all of which influenced themes found in Lewis’ Narnia series.
After visiting the ruins of Castle Dunluce, they journeyed to central England to visit places significant to Tolkien’s childhood home of Sarehole Mill.
The idyllic town was easily the inspiration for his Hobbiton.
In England, they visited the graves of both authors and colleges where they taught, as well as several famous locales, such as the Eagle and Child pub where their famous writing group, The Inklings, met often.
On their first night of the trip, the Manchester Bombing occurred when Islamic terrorists attacked an Ariana Grande concert. The final evening of their stay was the night of the London Bridge attack by Islamic terrorists.
“It was only a few blocks from where we were staying,” said Brian. “We spent that morning worshipping in a chapel along with other believers across the ocean. It was a powerful moment on a great trip.”
Librarian Teri Smith reminded everyone of a few small changes to the schedule of the travel series presentation which always occur Mondays at noon.
Polly Bowen will be sharing about Iceland Feb.12 followed by Char and Tom Ellig’s talk about the British Isles March 19. Jenny Scoates and Tina Giernet will talk about the Dominican Republic March 26.