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The Alps that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's writing

News from Bree

Sep 17 2013, 4:35pm

Post #1 of 5 (143 views)
The Alps that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's writing Can't Post

[caption id="attachment_79261" align="alignright" width="300"] The Eiger. Photo by Wunderalpen.com[/caption] One of the most glorious aspects of reading The Lord of the Rings, is his abiding love of nature -- and particularly of mountains.

`Only once before have I seen them from afar in waking life, but I know them and their names, for under them lies Khazad-dum, the Dwarrowdelf, that is now called the Black Pit, Moria in the Elvish tongue. Yonder stands Barazinbar, the Redhorn, cruel Caradhras; and beyond him are Silvertine and Cloudyhead: Celebdil the White, and Fanuidhol the Grey, that we call Zirak-zigil and Bundushathar.
Gimli, The Lord of the Rings.

This lovely feature guides us through the alpine regions of Switzerland that proved so inspirational to Tolkien when he travelled there in 1911.

[J.R.R. Tolkien] created the legendary landscapes of Middle Earth and interwove motifs of the Celtic and of the Northern European mythology to his world-famous novel "The Lord of the Rings". Taking a closer look at Tolkien's biography and the geography of Middle Earth, we, maybe unsuspectedly but inevitably, encounter the Alps, more precisely the four-thousand-metre peaks of the Berner Oberland (Bernese Oberland).

It was those mountains, on his journey through Switzerland in 1911, which inspired Tolkien to create some of the fantastic locations in the novel:

First, he and his 11 companions travelled from Interlaken to the Lauterbrunnen Valley, a U-shaped glacial valley, with breath-taking steep faces. Tolkien was so deeply impressed by Lauterbrunnen, that decades later he modeled Rivendell, meaning "deeply cloven valley", after it. In her essay "The Lyfe and the Auncestrye" Marie Barnfield points out that even the name of the river flowing through Rivendell is a reminiscent of Lauterbrunnen (possible meaning: "lauter"-loud, and "Brunnen"-well, fountain, spring): Loudwater.

Their journey continued up to Wengen and down again to Grindelwald, passing the Kleine Scheidegg (a mountain pass), always beneath the mighty, glacial mountain range of Eiger, Manch ("monk") and Jungfrau ("maiden/virgin"). The panorama is absolutely breath-taking even for people who have travelled the whole world. Tolkien, who was only 19 years old when he saw - and experienced - the high mountains for the first time, must have been simply overwhelmed by the sight of those four-thousanders.

No wonder that the Eiger, the Manch and the Jungfrau occur in his great novel. That is they are mirrored in the mountain range, and more precisely the three peaks, of the Misty Mountains, which are part of the Dwarven realm Khazad-dum: Caradhras (Redhorn), Celebdil (Silvertine) and Fanuidhol (Cloudyhead).

[Read More]

(This post was edited by entmaiden on Sep 17 2013, 10:22pm)

Tol Eressea

Sep 18 2013, 5:27pm

Post #2 of 5 (117 views)
Side-by-side Rivendell pictures: [In reply to] Can't Post

The photo is taken from the small village one stop before Wengen on the tram route up from Lauterbrunnen.

The Lauterbrunnen Valley is very much worth a visit for Tolkien fans. http://www.myswitzerland.com/...s/lauterbrunnen.html

Thanks for the article, Demosthenes.

Na Vedui

Sep 18 2013, 7:01pm

Post #3 of 5 (78 views)
Many thanks [In reply to] Can't Post

A very interesting article!

The Fanggen reminded me of when I was in Appenzell in Eastern Switzerland at Old New Year (13 January) a long time ago. They had groups of about half a dozen men in amazing costumes doing a New Year rite.

Some were dressed in local costume (as men or women, with masks on, and flat wide hats with little scenes of Swiss houses and cows etc on top, a bit like ornaments put on an iced Christmas cake).

The others - and this is where the Fanggen may come in - were "Waldgeister" (forest spirits) with costumes made from fir twigs, moss and lichen, decorated with pinecones and snail-shells and stuff like that. They all had either six big round bells fore and aft on a leather harness, like braces (US suspenders), or else their costume was cape-like, with one huuuuge cowbell in front and behind under the cape. They all had masks too, some beautifully made from the individual scales of pinecones, like some sort of reptile skin.

At intervals along the street (imagine this in the snow on a sunny day, with white mountains above) they stopped and shook their bells to scare away any lurking evil spirits, then did a sort of yodel, in parts, not unison.

So maybe the Fanggen were part of quite a widespread tradition. I never made the connection with Tolkien's Ents but Fanggen - Fangorn, it does make one wonder.

(For anyone who's interested further: - if you put the word silvesterklausen into Google Images, it will come up with some pictures similar to what I saw.)


Sep 18 2013, 7:16pm

Post #4 of 5 (81 views)
Rivendell visited [In reply to] Can't Post

I have been able to visit this beautiful corner of Switzerland three different times over the past 20 years and it is definitely easy to see how these mountains, valleys and waterfalls inspired Tolkien in many ways.

Lauterbrunnen Valley is one of the most beautiful and peaceful mountain valleys I have seen. I have grown up in a mountainous region and the mountains were my backyard but the Bernese Mountains of Switzerland are by far the most beautiful I have ever seen.

Here is just one of many photos from my most recent trip there. You can definitely imagine the company of 13 dwarves, 1 wizard and 1 hobbit making their way down the mountainside and into this valley.

Makes me want to go back again!

(This post was edited by Oden on Sep 18 2013, 7:17pm)
Attachments: lauterbrunnen2.JPG (33.3 KB)


Sep 18 2013, 7:38pm

Post #5 of 5 (81 views)
What a beautiful shot! // [In reply to] Can't Post


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