Finding Middle Earth
MANY people have visited New Zealand since Peter Jackson made his Oscarwinning films of the ‘The Lord of The Rings’ series in his home country, but the real inspiration for Tolkien’s masterpiece lies much closer to home. J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892, but grew up in the small village of Sarehole near Birmingham. Here, with his brother, he explored the area, which included Sarehole Mill, the inspiration for the Shire Mill in The Hobbit and where the boys were frequently chased away by the miller’s son, whom they nicknamed the White Ogre as he was often covered in flour. Sarehole was Tolkien’s Shire, a place of quiet restfulness and beauty, but the creeping industrialisation from Birmingham is reflected in The Lord of the Rings as the Shire is threatened by harsh industrial growth.
When Tolkien’s mother died, he moved to live with an aunt near Edgbaston, where he discovered the two towers of Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul— in reality, Perrott’s Folly and a Victorian tower built by the local waterworks. All can be visited today.
Tolkien’s imagination has made ‘The Lord of The Rings’ one of the best-loved series of all time, but none of it would have happened if he hadn’t gone outside and explored his local neighbourhood. MH