🧙 The Tolkien Forum 🧝

Welcome to our forum! Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox! Plus you won't see ads ;)

Tolkien inspired by Patagonia

travelwriter07

New Member
Joined
Jan 20, 2020
Messages
2
Reaction score
0
Location
Berlin
Hello from Germany! A guide in Patagonia/Chile told me that some landscapes, especially forests in the Lord of the Rings were partly inspired by Patagonia. Supposedly, Tolkien read the book by Lady Florence Dixie about Patagonia and felt inspried by her description of the forest. But I couldn't find any confirmation. Does anybody have knowledge about it? Thank you!
 

Olorgando

not from 'Straya
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Messages
1,292
Reaction score
662
Location
Franconia
There is a surprisingly long article on Lady Florence Dixie in the English Wikipedia, which I will return to.

But as to JRRT's inspiration for mountains and forests, a far more likely candidate is personal experience of his.
In August / early September 1911, after graduating from King Edward's School in Birmingham, and before beginning his studies in Exeter College in Oxford, he, his younger brother Hilary and his favorite Aunt Jane Neave were part of a group that did a walking tour of the Swiss Alps. This left a deep impression on him, and he modeled Middle-earth's Misty Mountains on the Alps. I doubt that any description in a book, however vivid, about a region more than a quarter of the world away and deep in the southern hemisphere, could have competed with this personal experience.

The Wiki article does mention some surprising parallels in the lives of JRRT and Lady Florence Dixie.
She also lost her father at a very early age (in her case at age three), and her mother also converted to Catholicism when she was a bit older (in her case at age seven), taking Florence, her twin brother, and the youngest brother of her four older siblings (oldest was a daughter, then three brothers) with her. There was trouble about this, though of a different caliber, as there was with the Suffields and Tolkiens when JRRT's mother Mabel converted.
That might have been a reason for JRRT showing an interest in her life and writings.
But she was 37 years older than JRRT, being born in 1855 and dying in 1905, when he was 13. The book on the 1878 travels to Patagonia that she and her husband undertook (she was the only woman in the group, and seems to have held her own quite well in what must have been strenuous going, having been a tomboy from childhood; it certainly did not conform to the ignorant Victorian views on women), "Across Patagonia" was published in 1880. The description of how she and the other members held up during the travels would also have shocked Victorian "sensibilities".

But much in contrast to JRRT's very conservative Catholicism, she was first a feminist (or suffragette, as the term was then), and supported liberal and progressive policies. And the Wiki article names her occupation as "war correspondent", also something that would have been thought highly unfit for a woman at the time, and possibly or probably by JRRT himself, too.

I do not know if there is any source from which it could be deduced that he had read that book of hers on Patagonia. The easiest "yes" would come if it had been (known to be) in his possession at any time. Or that he mentioned having read it in some letter - the book on his letters by Humphrey Carpenter did not nearly include all of them. Or that he had mentioned reading it to someone who had then noted this in some written form, possibly a diary.
 

Red Leaf

New Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2016
Messages
7
Reaction score
6
Location
Herefordshire, United Kingdom
Like others, I very much take the view that it's the experience of the Alps, not a book on Patagonia.

I grew up not a million miles from where Tolkien grew up - the countryside looks similar, the colours are the same - and I went to the Alps aged 19. I'd previously been to the Lake District, North Wales, Greece and Australia - but the Alps (possibly because I'm a climber and hill walker) hit me in a visceral way than none of the others did: it was magical. Once I'd been to the Alps the world was suddenly a much more fantastical place. Of course I'd seen wildlife documentaries and the likes, but nothing prepares you for the astonishing beauty and fantasy of the Alps.

I wouldn't be remotely surprised of the idea/inspiration of a fantastical land came from that first visit to the Alps - though,of course I believe he also took inspiration from the land around him: I could take you to a small village called Clee that lies under a high hill, crowned with an Iron Age hill fort, and on an important east-west road - and I'm pretty sure you can see it on a sunny day from where Tolkien grew up....
 

Olorgando

not from 'Straya
Joined
Aug 19, 2019
Messages
1,292
Reaction score
662
Location
Franconia
... but the Alps (possibly because I'm a climber and hill walker) hit me in a visceral way than none of the others did: it was magical. ...
Nothing that strenuous for me. Whenever I have been in the high Alps, it has been for skiing. Starting with an early 1976 trip to the Kitzsteinhorn in Austria in the Kaprun, Salzburg region, the mountain being part of the Glockner group, whose highest mountain, the Grossglockner, is at 3798 meters or 12 461 feet Austria's highest mountain. It had then recently (1974) opened an underground funicular railway that was the site of the 2000 Kaprun fire disaster killing 155 people. That gave me a shudder when the news item was reported. In 1981 and 1982, around Easter each time, it was the French Savoyard Alps bordering on Italy, (Lac de) Tignes. In 1982, I definitely reached the highest altitude outside of an airplane, at perhaps 3500 meters or about 11 500 feet, on the Grand Motte glacier skiing station (the peak is at 3653 meter or just over 12 000 feet). Next was, probably early 1987, again in the French Savoyard Alps, this time in Les Arcs, quite close to Tignes. Next, most likely in early 1989 and 1990, was the Stubai glacier region in Austria, Tyrol, the Innsbruck region west of that 1976 Salzburg outing. The last was in 1996 or 1997, when I was working on a company project involving a consultant, whose people organized an extended (4-day) weekend skiing thing so typical of that crowd. I forget where it was exactly, except for Austria and at much lower altitudes than all previous skiing outings (which all were at least a full week, sometimes a lot more).
 

Thread suggestions

Top