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Tolkien's inspiration for The Shire

Ged

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There are very many beautiful parts of the world (particularly New Zealand!), but if we were to ask: from where exactly did Tolkien derive his inspiration for his descriptions of The Shire? few would disagree that they were from the UK, and specifically from England. But where in England?

There are two threads of opinion:

One is that he described the surroundings of his childhood stamping ground in the Midlands (though Tolkien later admitted it had largely been concreted over by the time he was 10).

The other is that he used an area in the north west of England in a place called the Forest of Bowland ("Forest" is a mis-nomer, as it is largely unwooded) where his son went to college and he is known to have written many sections of the earlier parts of the book.

As it happens I live near the Forest of Bowland, and it is an area I love. I did a lot of trekking and backpacking there when I was younger, and when I later read the LoTR (when I was 19) I felt it was perfect for the Shire. I was therefore very pleased when I later discovered the connection between JRRT and this area.

There is an interesting article about this subject here:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2...4705028498.html

which has web links so that you can see what the area looks like.

[EDIT: sorry, this link seems to have expired.]

(credit: I found this on www.theonering.net)

If you connect to the "Ribble Valley Council" page

http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/

and look at the photo, the hill in the background is called "Pendle Hill". This is a spooky place, with all sorts of past connections with witchcraft and wizardry. I have camped on its top (summit is too strong a word - it's only 1827 feet high - though it does dominate the landscape for miles around) and it can be very eerie. In my imagination I always associated this hill with Weathertop.

Near Pendle Hill is a village called "Barley".

So, for all you Britishers out there, do you agree (VoK?). And for those abroad, what do you think? Could it be Middle Earth?

A few extra links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/lancashire/features/102000/31/hill.shtml
http://www.first-contact.demon.co.uk/landscapes4/pendle3.html
http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk/lancashireshillcountry/index.shtml
 
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Turgon

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Funny you should say that about Pendle Hill... I do a lot of walking in the Peak District and I'm always reminded of the Lonelands, not just in the scenery, there is something about the atmosphere too...
 

Turgon

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I think the Misty Mountains must have come from Tolkien's treks in the Alps... I'm sure I read something about that somewhere; and that on the same trip he bought a post card with an old fellow on it, with a long white beard and a broad-brimmed hat which was the origin of Gandalf... I've just found it Humphrey Carpenter's Biography... the postcard was called Der Berggeist and Tolkien later wrote 'The origin of Gandalf' on it.
 

Ged

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Yes, there's nowhere in the UK (not even in Scotland) that can really be equated with the Misty Mountains. Middle Earth is an amazing place of green fields, misty moorland fells, and high snow-clad mountain peaks.

England can only provide the Shire and the moorland fells.
 
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Ged

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Turgon,
I'm not familiar with the Lonelands, though maybe I should be. I have though walked in the peaks, and feel the same about the misty ancient atmosphere.
 

Turgon

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I'm not familiar with the Lonelands, though maybe I should be. I have though walked in the peaks, and feel the same about the misty ancient atmosphere.

What I mean by the Lonelands, Ged, is the whole area around Weathertop, the Trollshaws and so on...
 

dregj

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as a Birmingham lad
ive always been told the inspiration for the misty mountain was the licky hills(no were near mountains except to a small boy with a big imagination)
the hill they stop at the day before they meet smaug is ravenhill which still exists in Birmingham today.(blighted with low cost council housing)

sarehole mill being in the country side when he was a child is now several miles closer to the city centre than i and is right next to major bus routes and an A road (stratford road)

ive heard 100s of these stories will try to remember more
 

crabby

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from my, admittedly few, journeys into the Forest of Bowland, i''d have said it was far too hilly/hard to be any kind of inspiration for the Shire.

my own theory is the south-west Midlands (Worestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire), was the inspiration as tends to be the orthodox belief. i quietly think that Shropshire could be added to that as the template for the eastern borders of the Shire and out past Bree - Shropshire goes from being as bucolic as the Cotswolds to as rough and desolate as Mid-Wales while also being a bit 'outside' - its not the West Midlands, and its certainly not Wales! i even have a few specific ideas - like Clee Village being an inspiration for Bree in its charactor/location, and Clee Hill being an inspiration for Weathertop (you can see Clee hill from South Birmingham, and from Clee Hill you can see Snowdonia).

obviously, anyone who can make up a whole series of languages don't need much physical inspiration to create a geography, but if you set out from the Shire-esque bits of Warickshire/Worcestershire in Sept/Oct, traveled through an empty(ish) country that got progessively rougher, and finally got the the foothills of snow-capped mountains, you'd have walked through Shopshire...
 

dregj

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you can still get attacked by orcs in that neck of the woods
or brummy chavs as i call them
 

crabby

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...or brummy chavs as i call them...
an ugly, malformed Goblin in a shell-suit, with a pimp-limp, and that god-awful whiney accent they have - i think you may be right. oh christ, i live in bloody Mordor!
 

dregj

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maybe the smoke from mount doom was suposed to be the whole west midlands /black country industry
smog everywhere ,blackend surounding ,nasty people
tolkien did have the orcs talk "working class"
maybe he imagined a birmingham accent.rather than super cockney
 

PaigeSinclaire88

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There are very many beautiful parts of the world (particularly New Zealand!), but if we were to ask: from where exactly did Tolkien derive his inspiration for his descriptions of The Shire? few would disagree that they were from the UK, and specifically from England. But where in England?

There are two threads of opinion:

One is that he described the surroundings of his childhood stamping ground in the Midlands (though Tolkien later admitted it had largely been concreted over by the time he was 10).

The other is that he used an area in the north west of England in a place called the Forest of Bowland ("Forest" is a mis-nomer, as it is largely unwooded) where his son went to college and he is known to have written many sections of the earlier parts of the book.

As it happens I live near the Forest of Bowland, and it is an area I love. I did a lot of trekking and backpacking there when I was younger, and when I later read the LoTR (when I was 19) I felt it was perfect for the Shire. I was therefore very pleased when I later discovered the connection between JRRT and this area.

There is an interesting article about this subject here:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2...4705028498.html

which has web links so that you can see what the area looks like.

[EDIT: sorry, this link seems to have expired.]

(credit: I found this on www.theonering.net)

If you connect to the "Ribble Valley Council" page

http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/

and look at the photo, the hill in the background is called "Pendle Hill". This is a spooky place, with all sorts of past connections with witchcraft and wizardry. I have camped on its top (summit is too strong a word - it's only 1827 feet high - though it does dominate the landscape for miles around) and it can be very eerie. In my imagination I always associated this hill with Weathertop.

Near Pendle Hill is a village called "Barley".

So, for all you Britishers out there, do you agree (VoK?). And for those abroad, what do you think? Could it be Middle Earth?

A few extra links:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/lancashire/features/102000/31/hill.shtml
http://www.first-contact.demon.co.uk/landscapes4/pendle3.html
http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk/lancashireshillcountry/index.shtml



It's always been my opinion that the Shire was based upon the lands of Wales in north England.
 

Red Leaf

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It's always been my opinion that the Shire was based upon the lands of Wales in north England.
Wales isn't in England - rather like Canada not being in the USA..

I'm not convinced - Wales has very few areas that could provide the inspiration for this fertile, gentle landscape that we see in the Shire, and all of them are either next to Mountains or the sea, and nowhere does Tolkien alude to the Shire being next to anything, rather that the Shire was just a small area within a much larger relatively flat, fertile, hospitable landmass.

For me its pretty simple, the written descriptions of the Shire suggest a landscape that looks a lot like the area Tolkien grew up in and would have known - Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire. There seems to me no need to wander off looking for other alternatives, particularly as none of them fit quite as well as those three counties...
 

PaigeSinclaire88

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Wales isn't in England - rather like Canada not being in the USA..

I'm not convinced - Wales has very few areas that could provide the inspiration for this fertile, gentle landscape that we see in the Shire, and all of them are either next to Mountains or the sea, and nowhere does Tolkien alude to the Shire being next to anything, rather that the Shire was just a small area within a much larger relatively flat, fertile, hospitable landmass.

For me its pretty simple, the written descriptions of the Shire suggest a landscape that looks a lot like the area Tolkien grew up in and would have known - Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire. There seems to me no need to wander off looking for other alternatives, particularly as none of them fit quite as well as those three counties...


That's fair, and I've never been. I just always imagined that it would be a welsh type environment.
 

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