Lewis James Phillips


The Shire

In the begining were the peaceful rolling green hills that are cultivated to perfection, where orchards can be found with lush trees bearing fruit. The view of soft mist from the mornings cool air and the meandering river gently pacing itself while fish rise to take the early morning insects. And cattle grazing creating the mowed lawns whilst the hedges create the patchwork quilt landscape viewed from the hills. This can mean only one place, Tolkiens Shire in Lord Of The Rings. A place where the book and film start their journey by showcasing the simple lives of the Hobbits. Was this a place created in his imagination or is there more to the Shire than really meets the eye.

Since moving to Wales 10 years ago I have often been fascinated by this mystery, a debate which has caused many discussion between my friends and colleges, who themselves have ended up writing papers which have been accepted by the Tolkien estate. I have spent many hours researching his visits to the so called inspiration of the Shire in the Brecon Beacons, looking at local maps and then checking maps from middle earth to see if there is any reflection in characteristics . But these are allegedly just rumors or does all the information really stack up to convince that the Shire is really based on a region in Wales’s Brecon Beacons.

Tolkien was not from the Brecon Beacons but in fact from 20 Northmoor road, Oxford, England, a very different environment than that of rural Wales. The reasoning or basis on which I assume the Shire is based in the Brecon Beacons is that shortly after his late mother died in November 1904 he visited the village of Tallybont on Usk for a holiday. The journey was taken by train and apparently he was taken by the perqulier Welsh language and names of the stations he passed through on route. Whilst away in the region with his father and brother he visited the town of Brecon where it is said he sent some postcards back to family and friends of the area. It is also suggested that he was taken under the wing of a priest named Father Francis Morgan. Father Francis was influential in getting access to many of the locations that during this period of time may not have been easily reached.

It is also apparent that after his visits to the Brecon Beacons as a child there was an infatuation with the Celtic dialect. His imagination had become stimulated by the Welsh Language with names on the coal trucks he often noticed on the nearby railway when he lived along Westfield Road in Birmingham: Sengenhydd, Nantyglo, Penrhiwceiber, all names of valleys towns and villages in South Wales where the coal was delivered from. These names were crucial to the variations of places and names in the Lord Of The Rings, bringing the normal world into his imaginative world which is renowned as middle earth.

So I leave you to enjoy the shire in all its seasons, with many images taken by reading and imagining Tolkiens inspired writings from what this location meant to him.