18 March 2016

The Disneyfication of England?

I first read Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, which is mostly a purported history of the life and deeds of King Arthur, when I was a freshman in high school. Ever since then, I have wanted to visit Tintagel Castle in Cornwall to visit the legendary birthplace of King Arthur and to admire the beauty of the landscape and hope to be able to do in the next few months.

Until recently, Tintagel Castle was home to some archeological investigations, but little else. Now, however, a sculpture of Merlin's head in the cliff of a nearby cave where Merlin is said to have taken the infant Arthur to help tourists understand why the site is important:

Photo: BBC
In addition to this sculpture, which is reminiscent of Mount Rushmore, an eight-foot tall knight is set to be attached to the rocks near the castle. Naturally, these additions to the landscape do not please all of the locals:
Cornwall councillor Bert Biscoe has written to the charity to complain about the "comic-book face".

It said the carving would help visitors understand the history of the site.
"This is one of the most heavily designated pieces of landscape and archaeology in Britain," he said.

"If we start carving comic book characters into the geology, where do we stop? This is not Disneyland, it's Cornwall" [more].
I can't say I disagree with him. A explanatory plaque could be displayed or, better yet, tourists could be encouraged to read a book.

Mr. Biscoe isn't the only Englishman with a dislike of things Disney. In 1937, Allen & Unwin, the publisher of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, informed The Professor that an American firm wanted to produce a few illustrations to accompany an American publication of The Hobbit.

Tolkien responded on 13th May (Letter 13) that he hoped to be able to provide a few more illustrations himself, but time would limit his ability to do so. So it was that he suggested, "It might be advisable, rather than lose the American interest, to let the Americans do what seems good to them - as long as it was possible (I should like to add) to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."

Nine years later, Tolkien described illustrations sent to him by Horus Engles as "too 'Disnified' for my taste: Bilbo with a dribbling nose, and Gandalf as a figure of vulgar fun rather than the Odinic wanderer that I think of" (Letter 107).

Is the Disneyfication of archaeological sites a good idea? I don't think so. Such an attempt my draw more tourists who take more selfies, but at what cost?

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