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Tolkien's Birmingham

smallheathexplorer

master brummie
I joined this site - only a few days ago - to pursue research in family history and found, as I suspect many others have done, that I was drawn in by all the other fascinating aspects of the site and the history of Birmingham and the area.
However, I'm a little surprised not to have seen anything on the site referring to J R R Tolkien. Is anyone on here doing any research on him and links between his writing and the city? I have studied links between his writing and English mediaeval literature but would be interested to discuss his Brummie roots and how his writing relates to the area and its people.
 

Topsy

master brummie
Hi,
Check the thread from the Timelord - testing something new
He talks about JRR Tolkien, you'll enjoy it.
Cheers
 

smallheathexplorer

master brummie
Just watched it and yes, you're right, I enjoyed it very much. Would still like to hear more from all true brummies regarding views of Tolkien, his writing and the places he describes.
 

Big Gee

master brummie
Legend has it that Tolkien based The Shire on the land in and around Sarehole Mill, and that The Two Towers (second part of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy) was inspired by the two towers in Waterworks Road, Edgbaston, close to where he lived.

I just wonder, old cynic that I am, how many people subscribing to this site have actually read Lord Of The Rings....which was but a mere fraction of Tolkien's vast output.

I first read LOTR in the early 1970's and have been hooked ever since, to the extent of re-reading it every year around Autumn-time. The film, I have to say, was a huge disappointment to me. It lacked the wonder and the magic of the books, and it also left out large chunks of the story. And the actor (I forget his name) portraying Aragorn was an absolute disaster!

Big Gee
 
J

Jeoffry

Guest
I may be wrong but isnt the Saracens Head in Shirley somehow connected to Tolkein, either from a personal point in his life or his books.
 

smallheathexplorer

master brummie
Can't say I have read LOTR every year but certainly have read it a number of times. My first reading of it was in 1979, when I left school after my A levels. I used the book token I was given as a school prize to buy it - not what my headmistress had in mind, I'm certain!

I was so looking forward to the film released shortly afterwards and what a disappointment that was. It was an animated film and only covered the Fellowship. I then had to wait years for the recent productions. Some things I thought came across very well and others, inevitably, were a let down. However, I thought Aragorn wasn't as bad as other aspects. I particularly disliked the comical skits between the elf and the dwarf - it was not written like that. And the stuff between Aragorn and Arwen was pure Hollywood mush, Tolkien would have been apalled.

The New Zealand settings were, on the other hand, wonderful. I also thought that Gollum came across extremely well, better than I could have envisaged a film version of the creature could have been. I saw 'the making of' and when you see how they 'created' Gollum, it's amazing. The actor who was the original for the computer generated image / animation is the unsung hero of the films.

Which area of Birmingham is thought to have been the basis of Mordor, do you know?
 

Big Gee

master brummie
I agree with what you say, Smallheathexplorer. The film took the basic concept of LOTR and did a Hollywood on it. I believe Tolkien's son Christopher, who I understand was supposed to be acting as consultant, disassociated himself from the film. But yes, Gollum was excellent, as was Shelob (I'm a total arachnophobe, and those scenes really did put the wind up me...). With the exception of Frodo and Gandalf, I thought most of the principal characters were just silly caricatures of how Tolkien created them.

The first LOTR film was appalling. It was an 'overlayed animation', and in parts you could actually see the human actors beneath the 'cartoon'. I saw it in the USA and it was booed - I walked out after half an hour.

Just recently I've tried (again) to read The Silmarillion, but I find it very, very hard going compared with LOTR.

Maybe the Brum equivalent of Mordor is Nechells....or even better, certain parts of the Black Country prior to the de-industrialisation of those parts. With apologies to anyone from Nechells or the Black Country - goes without saying!

Big Gee
 

smallheathexplorer

master brummie
The Silmarillion is hard going, tried it myself a few years ago and gave up, I'm embarrassed to say.
As I'm sure you're aware, Tolkien's specialist area was medieval studies. His style, language (especially names and words he invented) and many other aspects of his writing have medieval associations. Some of the battles in LOTR are virtual re-enactments of actual battles of the Middle Ages. And of course the quest and code of chivalry are straight out of the pages of medieval literature. Maybe that's why Americans can't translate it to film, despite the advanced technology to create special effects. So Shelob, Gollum and others like the orcs and the ents are well created but the depth of character needed to reproduce the likes of Saruman, Eowen etc. And you're right about Gandalf - thank goodness they had the good sense to cast Ian McKellern.
Black Country refs - I take on board what you have said about the Shire but do you think it might be a possibility that Tolkien may have reflected the urbanisation and industrialisation of rural Warwickshire and Staffordshire in his depiction of the ravaging of the beautiful landscape of Middle Earth. I'm thinking especially of Saruman's abuse of his power.
 

Graham

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
As kids my sister and I used to play in/at the 'Dingles', if I'm not mistaken wasn't this place at Sarhole Mill?

Graham.
 

smallheathexplorer

master brummie
I would agree in part, though I think commercial considerations and modern audience demands for romance and comedy have a lot to do with it.
Interestingly, though, Dickens has always successfully translated into film / tv in my view. The film does not need to slavishly follow the book to work well, as David Lean has proved many times.
 

anthea

master brummie
JRR Tolkien, A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, provides information about Tolkiens birth, early days living in Wake Green Road opposite Sarehole Mill and nearby MoseleyBog, as we know it today, and his eventual interest in ancient languages.

Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers and also talked to his friends and family, so this is the book, in my opinion, for anyone who is seeking the real story of Tolkien's life

IBSN 0 261 10245 1 Pub:George Allen & Unwin (Publishers) Ltd.

Anthea
 

smallheathexplorer

master brummie
Many thanks for that. However, I'm most interested in the perceptions and opinions of normal Birmingham people of Tolkien and his references to places which many 'experts' have commented on in articles etc in the past. I seem to remember that Tolkien denied quite a few of th Birmingham connection assumptions.
 
W

Wendy

Guest
That sound like a facinating book thanks Anthea. Some years ago I sent a photo to the Tolkien family and info about the grave at Key Hill Cemetery. I recieved a lovely letter from his granddaughter.
 

anthea

master brummie
Wendy, How nice of the family to acknowledge your information. I am not sure whether the book is still in print, I hope so. I know other so called 'experts' come up with explanations about Tolkien, but Humphrey Carpenter, as I mentioned previously, did have access to Tolkien's papers and his family and friends.

Anthea.
 

anthea

master brummie
Cadeau, The 'Dingles' run the length of Cole Valley Road starting at the bridge in Highfield Road and ending at the bridge in Brook Lane. Sarehole Mill is situated in Cole Bank Road. Hope this jogs your memory.

Anthea
 

Graham

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Anthea,

thank you for posting that on the forum as I'm sure it will jog quite a few memories. I had forgotten all about the 'Dingles', and playing there as a child, until my sister mentioned it last week while I was talking to her on the telephone.

Graham.
 
C

Catkin

Guest
John Ronald Reuel TOLKIEN. Just thought you would like to know his first names...Cat
 
T

Tancred

Guest
Theres much on the web about Tolkiens association with Birmingham.

I bought the book in the early 70's and still love it now. I dont have a problem with the latest films - they have to be commericail and for any studio to comit to 3, 3hr+, films to form the trilogy was amazing.

Spooky co-incidences in my life is that I was born in Mosely where he lived, on the 3rd January - same birthday, different year!

I lived just up the road from his Aunts house at Rednal, got married at the Oratory where he went to church and lived as an orphan and, recently, my dad's funeral was held a St Peters church in Bromsgrove where Tolkien's mum is buried.

Apart from the Sarhole connection he also spent a lot of time in Rednal and it is believed he developed a lot of ideas from the Lickey Hills. Looking across from Beacon Hill it would have been easy to contrast the beauty around him with the smoke palls that hung over B'ham and the Black Country and think of Mordor. He is on record as saying that he based the Hobbits on Bromsgrove children as he was struck by their happy rosy cheeked faces - a stark contrast to the gaunt hungry kids he saw in Brummagem slums. There temprament was based upon the steadfast and reliable Tommies he commanded in the war - he preferred the company of his men to the other officers. He has used local names and also Sam Gamgee was based on Samuel Gamgee the founder of the Birmingham Saturday Fund and inventor of cotton wool.
 

Arkrite

master brummie
Its amazing how many people first read LOTR in the 1970s. It became the book to read for some reason and I cannot remember why. BBC radio also serialised it. Like everyone who reads a book I give the characters a voice, personality and appearance. These never match the film characters which is where disappointment with the film sets in.
 
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