The dark side of the Anglo-Saxons

The fantasy world created by JRR Tolkien in The Hobbit has contributed to a widely held image of Anglo-Saxon England as a lost rural idyll. Yet, says Ryan Lavelle, the reality was far less cuddly, blighted by slavery, sexism and great social inequalities

Medieval ploughmen ploughing with oxen

This article was first published in the Christmas 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Readers of JRR Tolkien’s classic children’s fantasy novel The Hobbit have been enchanted as much by the cosy world of Bilbo Baggins as by the escapades that lead him from it. Bilbo’s “hole in the ground” and the green and pleasant land of the hobbits in which it is situated, the Shire, are shown in stark contrast to the dangers of the road that leads to adventure.

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