Coun­try Mouse

Find­ing Mid­dle Earth

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

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

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