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Tolkien's Birmingham

The Midlands provided inspiration for Middle Earth Birmingham's bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008, and had been quick to exploit the region's links with Tolkien. As interest surrounding the latest Lord of the Rings film release, The Twin Towers, builds, a series of local landmarks and places that helped shape Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth have been identified.

Most striking is that Tolkien drew inspiration for the title of the second volume in the Lord of the Rings trilogy having lived very close to an extraordinary 96ft (29m) tower known as Perrott' s Folley - Birmingham's oddest architectural feature. Near it stands a later Victorian tower, part of the Edgbaston Waterworks. The pair are said to have suggested The Twin Towers - Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith,

Tolkien links with Birmingham run deep. He spent 16 years of his early years in the city and it is quite believeable that during this time, many ideas sank into the mind of the future novelist.

Among the other influences are that the tiny village of Sarehole, home to the young Tolkien in 1896, is said to have been the model for The Shire, the hobbits' home. Forced to move closer to the old tram-route to the rapidly developing town center, Tolkien later lamented the encroachment of civilization upon the countryside.

However, there was one place that civilization missed, the mysterious world of Moseley Bog. This miraculously preserved haven for wild life was an ideal place for childhood adventures. It is recalled in Tolkien's description of the Old Forest, last of the primeval wild woods, where Tom Bombadil lived. The Bog is now preserved as a Nature Reserve by Birmingham City Council. It is even claimed Frodo Baggins' faithful companion Sam Gamgee got his name from the local dialect word for cotton wool - its inventor was Birmingham surgeon, Dr Joseph Sampson Gamgee.

Stephen Hetherington, director of the Birmingham European Capital of Culture bid says: "Tolkien, like so many creative people before and since, drew great inspiration from Birmingham and the fantastic diversity of this region. We are proud of these links and the resurgence of interest in Tolkien is very timely with the Government's decision on the European Capital of Culture due next Spring".

Perrott's Folley was specially lit during Halloween to great success and there are now a group of volunteers dedicated to preserving the Grade II listed building. Birmingham City Council has extended the opening times of Sarehole Mill, which is now run as a museum and perhaps best project of all is a Tolkien Trail around the city that highlights links with the author to both tourists and people in the region.

Following the release of the first film, visitor numbers to the Sarehole Mill museum doubled. Moreover, on special open days last Christmas, Sarehole Mill received more visitors in one day that it normally admits in a month. The same attraction is opening this Christmas and we are expecting even more visitors.

Source www.beinbirmingham.com

Tolkien Weekend 2005 

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Adapted from a leaflet, The Tolkien Discovery Trail, now out of print, written by Chris Upton
and published by Birmingham City Council in 1992. 
All colour photographs on this page taken August 2001 copyright www.birminghameconomy.org.uk

  

 


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