There are many events created and named in honour of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien by his devoted fans; his many visits to various locations led to the creation of the places in his novels. Travel to real life places may motivate writers in a productive way, specifically Tolkien who was influenced by the sights he saw which lead to several of them being used in his books.
The Lord of the Rings and its prequel, The Hobbit, take place during the Third Age of Middle-Earth. Middle-Earth takes place within a medieval fantasy world called Arda, which is filled with magical places, people, and events, and where the forces of Good and Evil vie for dominion. Some studies have taken on the theory that Arda is meant to be our “real” world in its prehistory, due to the amount of detail and realism that Tolkien puts into the story, in terms of weather, climate, geography, and even phases of the moon.
In the village of Sarehole in Birmingham, said to be the inspiration for Hobbiton and the Shire, is a Museum managed by Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and is open in the summer to the public. Sarehole Mill, which also influenced the young Tolkien having lived in the area in in the 1890s, is a water-driven mill, within the Shire Country Park.
Moseley Bog is another area that Tolkien and his brother used to explore; it is recalled in Tolkien’s description of the “Old Forest,” last of the primeval wild woods, where “Tom Bombadil” lived. Near Mosley village, five minutes’ walk from the Oratory, stand two unlikely towers in Perrott’s Folly, which are said to have influenced “Minas Morgul” and “Minas Tirith”, the “Two Towers of Gondor,” after which the second volume of “Lord of the Rings” is named. The inspiration for Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ home of Bag End came from Tolkien’s aunt’s farm of the same name. The nearby tower of Edgbaston waterworks may easily have been the inspiration for Mordor’s Barad-dûr.
While Tolkien had not visited New Zealand himself, the rugged scenery used by director Peter Jackson in his films attempted to create the atmosphere of Middle-earth. Also home to the world’s first “Hobbit Hotel,” Hobbit enthusiasts are offered accommodation their themed room ‘Barlimans’, a special ‘hobbit’ menu and tours to Lord of the Rings Hobbit sites throughout New Zealand.
During his late teen years, Tolkien travelled to the valley of Lauterbrunnen (Switzerland) where he may have been captivated by the rolling hills and river Weisse Lütschine cutting its way through the valley, which probably formed the inspiration for the Bruinen River (River Loudwater) of Middle-earth.
Oxford is where Tolkien lived, worked, socialised and where he wrote Lord of the Rings. Addison’s Walk in the grounds of Magdalen College, Oxford is an idyllic walk with tall trees bordering the path, which conjure up images of the walk through Mirkwood in the Hobbit. Tolkien and other famous authors might have conversed here and taken long walks with each other.
Tolkien spent a lot of time in the Botanic Gardens in Oxford where he may have sat next to his favourite tree: an enormous Austrian pine that might have served as inspiration for the Ents in Lord of the Rings – the tree looks as if it is about to stand up and walk. From practical study mornings to evening lectures, exhibitions, family friendly events and special after-hours guided walks; there is something that may always be scheduled throughout the year.
Real life locations may have the power to provoke imagination, especially the more picturesque scenery that Tolkien spent many years exploring in various countries throughout different continents such as Africa and Europe.
How might some real life locations lead to the creation of prolific literary works?