The English landmarks that shaped Lord of the Rings


J.R.R. Tolkien’s books have garnered blockbuster movies, a global fan following and now a $1billion Amazon series which is set to be produced in the UK, rather than New Zealand.

The news that the company has relocated filming to Britain after New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced strict border controls were here to stay is sure to be welcomed by Tolkien enthusiasts.

Hardcore fans of the Birmingham author’s work have long speculated on the real-life locations in the UK which may have inspired the settings used in the fantasy novels.

It is thought the landscape of the industrial Black Country, a West Midlands area located near where Tolkien grew up, shaped the imagery of Mordor, the realm of the evil Sauron in Middle-Earth.

Elsewhere, the Shire, home to the hobbits, is often thought to have been based on Worcestershire, while Malvern Hills in the county inspired the White Mountains.

The great mountain range travelled in Lord of the Rings is supposed to have been inspired by the hills after the author visited a friend who was based there.

Amazon has yet to reveal the locations where its as-yet untitled series will be filmed, but has confirmed the relocation to the UK and that production will start from next year.

Here, FEMAIL reveals the British places and items that inspired key scenes in Tolkien’s books… 

The Black Country = Mordor

It's long been thought that the hellish landscape of Mordor in Tolkien's novels was inspired by the industrialised Black Country (pictured), near the author's childhood home of Birmingham

It’s long been thought that the hellish landscape of Mordor in Tolkien’s novels was inspired by the industrialised Black Country (pictured), near the author’s childhood home of Birmingham

Experts have suggested Tolkien's description of the evil Sauron's stronghold (pictured) could easily have applied to the factories and forges of the Midlands

Experts have suggested Tolkien’s description of the evil Sauron’s stronghold (pictured) could easily have applied to the factories and forges of the Midlands

It’s long been thought that the hellish landscape of Mordor in Tolkien’s novels was inspired by the industrialised Black Country, near the author’s childhood home of Birmingham.

Experts have suggested Tolkien’s description of the evil Sauron’s stronghold could easily have applied to the factories and forges of the Midlands.

Carol Thompson, who was the curator of The Making of Mordor exhibition in 2014, told the BBC that Tolkien’s ‘poisoned region’ in Middle-Earth resonated strongly with the Black Country’s look during his childhood.

‘Its filthy air, ravaged landscape and fiery skies must have seemed like an ominous presence, ready to engulf his beloved home and all that he valued,’ she said.

She continued: ‘He associated industrial progress with the destruction of the countryside, the loss of traditional values and skills, and the corrosion of society.

In Sindarin, one of the Elvish languages created by the author and used in Middle-Earth, Mordor even translates as ‘black lands’. 

The Midlands area was seemingly first referenced as the Black Country by a young Queen Victoria.

During an introductory tour of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, the then 13-year-old princess wrote in her diary about the coal-blackened faces of her subjects living in industrial Britain. 

‘The men, woemen [sic], children, country and houses are all black,’ she wrote, inadvertently giving the area the name that it still has today. Her 1832 diary entry predates the first published use of the phrase by 14 years.

Faringdon Folly = Orthanc

The author behind The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth, John Garth, believes Saruman the White's fearsome tower in Isengard, the Orthanc, draws its roots from Faringdon Folly (pictured) in Oxfordshire

The author behind The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth, John Garth, believes Saruman the White’s fearsome tower in Isengard, the Orthanc, draws its roots from Faringdon Folly (pictured) in Oxfordshire

The Faringdon Folly, which was built on a hill used as a defensive location in both civil wars and the Second World War, faced major local opposition in the 1930s, sparking an epic planning row. Pictured, the Orthanc

The Faringdon Folly, which was built on a hill used as a defensive location in both civil wars and the Second World War, faced major local opposition in the 1930s, sparking an epic planning row. Pictured, the Orthanc

Tolkien lived in Oxford for much of his adult life, picking up his academic career as a professor in the country in 1925.

The author behind The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth, John Garth, believes Saruman the White’s fearsome tower in Isengard, the Orthanc, draws its roots from Faringdon Folly in Oxfordshire.

The Faringdon Folly, which was built on a hill used as a defensive location in both civil wars and the Second World War, faced major local opposition in the 1930s, sparking an epic planning row. 

When its backer Lord Berners was asked by a planning subcommittee why he wanted the tower, he is meant to have replied: ‘The great point of the tower is that it will be entirely useless.’  

Despite the local muck-slinging planning permission was eventually given, but with a provision that it could not tower more than three feet above the surrounding trees. 

Garth argued that the row outside Oxford would have been familiar to Tolkien, and quickly found its way into the Middle-Earth fiction culminating in two rival towers.

‘Faringdon Folly isn’t a complete physical model for Orthanc,’ he told The Observer in 2020. 

‘It’s the controversy surrounding its building that filtered into Tolkein’s writings and can be traced all the way to echoes in the scene where Gandalf is held captive in Saruman’s tower.’ 

Malvern Hills =  The White Mountains

The author's inspiration for the White Mountains was the green and mist-soaked uplands of Malvern Hills (pictured) in Worcestershire

The author’s inspiration for the White Mountains was the green and mist-soaked uplands of Malvern Hills (pictured) in Worcestershire

The Ered Nimrais mountain range, known colloquially as the White Mountains (pictured), marked the border between the kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor in Tolkien's Middle-Earth

The Ered Nimrais mountain range, known colloquially as the White Mountains (pictured), marked the border between the kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth

The Ered Nimrais mountain range, known colloquially as the White Mountains, marked the border between the kingdoms of Rohan and Gondor in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.

His inspiration for the great mountain range was the green and mist-soaked uplands of Malvern Hills in Worcestershire.

The Lord of the Rings author visited them often during the 1930s, according to Countryfile, arriving on the early train from Oxford and spending the day there. 

The link was confirmed by the novelist’s friend George Sayer, author of the biography of CS Lewis, who remembered hiking with Tolkien in the Malvern Hills.

The Lord of the Rings author ‘lived the book as we walked, sometimes comparing parts of the hills with, for instance, the White Mountains,’ he said.

A previous report in the Malvern Gazette also added of the pair’s trips: ‘By day, they tramped the hills and Tolkien compared them with his own creation, the White Mountains of Gondor.

‘At night, to entertain him, Mr Sayer brought out a tape recorder, for Tolkien had never seen one before. He was fascinated and asked if he might record some of the poems in The Lord of the Rings to find out how they sound to other people.

‘He recorded several long passages and, when he heard them played back, his confidence in the work returned.’ 

Sarehole Mill and rural Wales = The Shire

The roots of The Shire have never been confirmed, with fans speculating different areas helped shape the place. For instance, Sarehole Mill (pictured), historically in Worcestershire but now part of Bimingham, is strongly thought to be the inspiration for The Shire

The roots of The Shire have never been confirmed, with fans speculating different areas helped shape the place. For instance, Sarehole Mill (pictured), historically in Worcestershire but now part of Bimingham, is strongly thought to be the inspiration for The Shire

Meanwhile, the website for Visit Wales claims Tolkien is rumoured to have stayed in the appealing Powys village of Talybont-on-Usk in the 1940s while penning parts of his novels. The site says his 'nostalgic depiction of The Shire was inspired by rural Wales (pictured)

Meanwhile, the website for Visit Wales claims Tolkien is rumoured to have stayed in the appealing Powys village of Talybont-on-Usk in the 1940s while penning parts of his novels. The site says his ‘nostalgic depiction of The Shire was inspired by rural Wales (pictured)

The Shire (pictured) is an idyllic inland area settled exclusively by hobbits and largely sheltered from the goings-on in the rest of Middle-Earth

The Shire (pictured) is an idyllic inland area settled exclusively by hobbits and largely sheltered from the goings-on in the rest of Middle-Earth

Revealed: The Welsh language inspired Tolkien’s Elvish in the Lord of the Rings 

The Lord of the Rings author was known to be heavily influenced by the Welsh language.

Cardiff University’s Dr Carl Phelpstead told the BBC that the Elvish language bears a close resemblance to Welsh.

He said the author knew both the modern and medieval language very well, adding: ‘It’s not so much that he borrowed Welsh words, more the sounds. This particular Elvish language is very like the sounds of Welsh and deliberately so.’ 

Visit Wales said that Tolkien lived near a railway station in Birmingham, where Welsh words first appeared in his life.

Tolkien later said: ‘Welsh is of this soil, this island, the senior language of the men of Britain; Welsh is beautiful.’

The Shire is an idyllic inland area settled exclusively by hobbits and largely sheltered from the goings-on in the rest of Middle-Earth. 

The roots of The Shire have never been confirmed, with fans speculating different areas helped shape the place. 

For instance, Sarehole Mill, historically in Worcestershire but now part of Bimingham, is strongly thought to be the inspiration for The Shire.

The 16th-century working watermill powered by the River Cole is first believed to be referenced in the 1937 bestseller The Hobbit.

Bilbo Baggins sets off on his great adventure by running ‘past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more’. 

Today, the mill is a museum, with a permanent Tolkien exhibition.

Meanwhile, the website for Visit Wales claims Tolkien is rumoured to have stayed in the appealing Powys village of Talybont-on-Usk in the 1940s while penning parts of his novels.

The site says his ‘nostalgic depiction of The Shire was inspired by rural Wales.

This was at a time when industrialisation was transforming the British countryside, much to the author’s dismay.

It also notes that he named the Hobbit settlement of Crickhollow after nearby Crickhowell.

White Horse Hill = Barrow-downs

Fans are split over the inspiration for Barrow-downs - which was a series of low hills east of the Shire. Many insist they are shaped on White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire (pictured)

Fans are split over the inspiration for Barrow-downs – which was a series of low hills east of the Shire. Many insist they are shaped on White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire (pictured)

A former place of a battle, it's a location used by Tolkien where swords and spears clash once again in his novels (pictured)

 A former place of a battle, it’s a location used by Tolkien where swords and spears clash once again in his novels (pictured)

Fans are split over the inspiration for Barrow-downs – which was a series of low hills east of the Shire. 

A former place of a battle, it’s a location used by Tolkien where swords and spears clash once again in his novels. 

Many insist they are shaped on White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire, with its prehistoric horse hill figure, while others suggest they reflect the burial site of Wayland’s Smithy near Ashbury, according to The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, expert Garth believes Maiden Castle in Dorset, which is  one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe, is the atmospheric Barrow-downs. 

A year before Tolkien wrote the action-filled passage, Garth argued, major excavations at the castle had been written about in a newspaper column by his friend REM Wheeler, meaning it is likely he was also aware of the work.

Moseley Bog = The Old Forest

Moseley Bog (pictured) - an often forgotten nature reserve in Birmingham - is said to have inspired J R Tolkien's vision for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy

Moseley Bog (pictured) – an often forgotten nature reserve in Birmingham – is said to have inspired J R Tolkien’s vision for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy

He said the Bog inspired the mystical Old Forest (pictured) Frodo and his Hobbit companions travel through in the books

He said the Bog inspired the mystical Old Forest (pictured) Frodo and his Hobbit companions travel through in the books

Moseley Bog – an often forgotten nature reserve in Birmingham – is said to have inspired J R Tolkien’s vision for The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

The author would play in the grassy area with his younger brother, Hilary Tolkien, when they were children.

He said the Bog inspired the mystical Old Forest Frodo and his Hobbit companions travel through in the books.

Now a Local Nature Reserve, Moseley Bog was an ideal place for Tolkien’s childhood adventures. 

‘It is an ancient place with Bronze Age burnt mounds and a mill pool, probably a storage pool for Sarehole Mill,’ said the Tolkien Society.

Edgbaston Waterworks Tower and Perrott’s Folly = Two Towers of Gondor

During part of his childhood Tolkien lived in Edgbaston in Birmingham, and the area's landscapes can be spotted in the Lord of the Rings' Two Towers, according to many fans. It is believed the eerie towers were inspired by two local buildings the Perrott's Folly (pictured), and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower

During part of his childhood Tolkien lived in Edgbaston in Birmingham, and the area’s landscapes can be spotted in the Lord of the Rings’ Two Towers, according to many fans. It is believed the eerie towers were inspired by two local buildings the Perrott’s Folly (pictured), and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower

The two Birmingham buildings are said to have shaped the Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith towers in the Lord of the Ring novels, which both taking the shape of the inspirational builds (pictured one of the Lord of the Ring films)

The two Birmingham buildings are said to have shaped the Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith towers in the Lord of the Ring novels, which both taking the shape of the inspirational builds (pictured one of the Lord of the Ring films)

During part of his childhood Tolkien lived in Edgbaston in Birmingham, and the area’s landscapes can be spotted in the Lord of the Rings’ Two Towers, according to many fans.

It is believed the eerie towers were inspired by two local buildings the Gothic tower Perrott’s Folly, and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower.

The author would’ve passed these buildings regularly as a child since he lived in a nearby street at the time. 

The extraordinary 96ft high Perrott’s Folly is named after John Perrott who had it built in 1758, and was originally part of a hunting lodge.

Meanwhile, Edgbaston Waterworks features a Victorian chimney tower that was part of a complex of buildings designed by Joseph Chamberlain and William Martin in 1870. 

The two Birmingham buildings are said to have shaped the Minas Morgul and Minas Tirith towers in the Lord of the Ring novels, which both taking the shape of the inspirational builds. 

Warwick Castle = Elven forests

The Elven forests draw a link to the woods around Warwick and Warwick Castle (pictured), argued the author behind The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places

The Elven forests draw a link to the woods around Warwick and Warwick Castle (pictured), argued the author behind The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places

However, previous studies have suggested the Elven forests (pictured) are linked to Latuterbruunen, a valley in Switzerland where a quaint village sits amid snow-capped mountains

However, previous studies have suggested the Elven forests (pictured) are linked to Latuterbruunen, a valley in Switzerland where a quaint village sits amid snow-capped mountains 

The Elven forests draw a link to the woods around Warwick and Warwick Castle, argued the author behind The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places. 

The picturesque woodland was familiar to Tolkien, who married his partner Edith at St Mary’s Immaculate Roman Catholic Church in the city. 

His principal biographer Humphrey Carpenter also remarked that the author ‘found Warwick, its trees, its hills and its castle, to be a place of remarkable beauty’.

Tolkien also travelled to the area on romantic breaks with Edith, while a professor in Oxfordshire.

However, previous studies have suggested the Elven forests are linked to Latuterbruunen, a valley in Switzerland where a quaint village sits amid snow-capped mountains.

Tolkien acknowledged the link in 1950, writing to his son: ‘From Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains the journey… including the glissdale down the slithering stones into the pine woods… is based on my adventures in Switzerland in 1911.’

University of Birmingham’s ‘Old Joe’ Clock Tower = Eye of Sauron

It's an iconic building for any University of Birmingham students, past or present - but the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower (pictured) also inspired Tolkien

It’s an iconic building for any University of Birmingham students, past or present – but the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower (pictured) also inspired Tolkien

The tower's brightly shining clockface is believed to have shaped the Eye of Sauron (pictured) in the author's novels

The tower’s brightly shining clockface is believed to have shaped the Eye of Sauron (pictured) in the author’s novels 

It’s an iconic building for any University of Birmingham students, past or present – but the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower also inspired Tolkien.

Known affectionately as ‘Old Joe’, the build dominates over the Edgbaston campus and can be seen from far and wide. 

During the First World War, the University of Birmingham was requisitioned by the army as the 1st Southern Military Hospital and various parts of the campus were used as temporary wards, including the Great Hall.

In November 1916, Tolkien was brought to the hospital from the Somme after being diagnosed with trench fever, which is transmitted by lice, and causes fever.  

He stayed in the hospital for six weeks and at night, the tower’s brightly shining clockface is believed to have shaped the Eye of Sauron in the author’s novels. 

The Eye of Sauron keeps watch over Middle-Earth from its highest tower, the Dark Tower, located in northwest Mordor, near Mount Doom. 

WAS THIS CURSED ROMAN RING TOLKIEN’S INSPIRATION FOR THE HOBBIT?

A ‘cursed’ Roman ring that was dug up by a farmer is believed to have been the inspiration behind JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The piece of gold jewellery, known as the Ring of Silvianus, was discovered close to the Roman town of Silchester, Hampshire, in 1785.

The celebrated author was called in to investigate the incredible story of the ring’s past just two years before his famous novel was published. 

A 'cursed' Roman ring that was dug up by a farmer is believed to have been the inspiration behind JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. The piece of gold jewellery was discovered close to the Roman town of Silchester, Hampshire, in 1785

A ‘cursed’ Roman ring that was dug up by a farmer is believed to have been the inspiration behind JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The piece of gold jewellery was discovered close to the Roman town of Silchester, Hampshire, in 1785

It is thought it was unearthed by a farmer ploughing his field close to the Roman town in the 18th century.

Historians believe the large 12g gold ring once belonged to a Roman called Silvianus but he put a curse on it after it was stolen.

It is so large that it will only fit on the finger of a gloved hand. It has a Latin inscription which says ‘Senicianus live well in God’.

JRR Tolkien, who was an Oxford University professor with expertise in Anglo-Saxon history, is thought to have drawn inspiration from the tale when he started work on The Hobbit.

JRR Tolkien is thought to have drawn inspiration from the tale of the cursed ring in his novel the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy which followed. This image shows a still from the 2002 film adaptation of the The Fellowship Of The Ring

JRR Tolkien is thought to have drawn inspiration from the tale of the cursed ring in his novel the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy which followed. This image shows a still from the 2002 film adaptation of the The Fellowship Of The Ring

The book, which has a ring at the centre of the plot, was published in 1937 and was well-received by critics. 

The novel, which was turned into a film in 2012, was the precursor for the Lord of the Ring trilogy.

After the ring was discovered in a field it is thought to have been sold to the Chute family who owned The Vyne, a 16th-century country house outside Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire. 

It then passed into the hands of The National Trust when it was bequeathed the property by its final owner.

It was several decades after the farmer found it before the curse was discovered on a tablet in Lydney, Gloucestershire, more than 100 miles away.

The Ring of Silvianus was stolen and cursed. The One Ring from the Lord of The Rings, shown here in a mock up, exerts a powerful draw and curses any wearer who kills to obtain it to become a grotesque creature

The Ring of Silvianus was stolen and cursed. The One Ring from the Lord of The Rings, shown here in a mock up, exerts a powerful draw and curses any wearer who kills to obtain it to become a grotesque creature

The victim, Silvianus, knew the thief responsible and called on the god Nodens to strike him down.

The great archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the director of later excavations at Lydney, realised the connection between the ring and the curse tablet, and in 1929 asked JRR Tolkien to work on the etymology of the name Nodens.

The tablet said: ‘To the god Nodens: Silvianus has lost his ring and promises half its value to Nodens.

‘Among those named Senecianus, let none enjoy health until he brings it back to the temple of Nodens.’ 

Senicianus apparently only got as far as the field in Silchester when he abandoned the ring.



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