It has recently been reported that a Roman ring, suggested by some to have inspired Tolkien when he was writing The Hobbit, has been put on display at The Vyne, a Tudor house in Hampshire, in association with the Tolkien Society.
I have some reservations about this story, both from the perspective of a writer and as the holder of a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology.
The media reporting this story, as well as the people at the Vyne and in the Tolkien Society, display a lack of understanding of how inspiration works for a writer. In fairness, I can’t speak for other writers, but I find inspiration is never about one thing. Inspiration comes from a thousand sources, and the way I link my experiences to one another.
This will be somewhat of a mixed review, because The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first of three rather long installments chronicling Bilbo Baggins’ adventure in Middle Earth, is somewhat of a mixed film. I will avoid spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet and haven’t read the book, though I consider the start safe.
Director Peter Jackson chose to start with a prologue giving the background for this quest, the story of how Erebor, greatest city of the Dwarfs, fell to Smaug the dragon. This is the whole reason for the quest: thirteen dwarfs, the wizard Gandalf and little Bilbo Baggins the quiet, respectable, titular hobbit, go on an adventure to retake the city under the mountain from Smaug. It is not how Tolkien chose to begin the tale, but it worked well enough, though perhaps went on a little too long, and in general prologues seem to work better in film than in print.
One thing fantasy excels at is presenting incredible new worlds to the reader. The imagination of fantasy authors knows no bounds when worldbuilding is involved. So below I have picked out some of my favourite fantasy locations to celebrate and illustrate the variety and brilliance on offer.
The Mines of Moria
Tolkien’s Middle Earth contained such incredible places, from Hobbiton to the Lonely Mountain, the splendour of Gondor to the windswept plains of Rohan, or the dark cave of Shelob to the great troll-operated gates of Mordor, that picking just one location is a difficult task. Tolkien put so much into developing his world and its varied peoples that I could create a whole article series on memorable places in Middle Earth. I have picked Moria because of its size, its atmosphere and because of the contrast between Gimli’s expectations and the dark, frightening truth the Fellowship finds within. Continue reading Five great locations in fantasy→