Dimitra Fimi is a Lecturer in English at UWIC and a specialist in the uses of folklore and mythology in fantasy literature. Her monograph Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) explores the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien's (1892-1973) mythology by examining how it changed as a result of Tolkien's life story and contemporary cultural and intellectual history.
Tolkien was inspired by Wales: he adapted Welsh grammar and phonology to create the languages of some of his fictional peoples and drew on Welsh toponymy for his fantastical place names. This short walk, originally led by Fimi, explores the Black Mountains, which are often linked to Tolkien’s fictional landscapes, and draws on Tolkien’s work and his Welsh connections and inspiration. It offers the opportunity to develop an understanding of the exact nature of Welsh themes within Tolkien’s work.
The route ascends Buckland Hill and follows the ridge overlooking the Usk Valley and mountains to the east and west. This is a landscape which was almost certainly known to Tolkien; many of his place names have strangely similar equivalents in the vicinity (e.g. Buckland and Crick Hollow/Crickhowell), whilst others draw on place-based Welsh common nouns (e.g. Chetwood – a tautology since ‘chet’ derives from ’coed’ - the -Welsh for ‘wood’).
Tolkien conceived the relationship between the the heart of The Shire and its eastern fringes as equivalent to the contemporary relationship between England and Wales. This inspired his use of Celtic, and specifically Welsh, languages and toponymy for these borderlands. On the original tour, Fimi discussed these themes within the context of Tolkien’s life, drawing on his interests, tragic childhood and academic career. The walk descends back through the forest and ends at Buckland Hall.
The original tour was in partnership with the Brecon Beacons Park Authority
Reviews of the original walk:
84% of walkers rated the walk 11/11 for 'Enjoyment' (source: BBPNA feedback summary)
1 - Buckland Hall (private property so access grounds only with prior permission). Talybont-on-Usk, where Tolkien wrote parts of The Lord of the Rings, can be seen to the north-west
2 - Buckland Hill Forest. In The Lord of the Rings, Buckland is the land between the Old Forest and the east bank of the Brandywine river
3 - Public footpath along ridge overlooking the Usk Valley and mountains to the west; possible inspiration for The Shire. Crickhowell (Crick Hollow) can be seen to the north-east
4 - Descent away from the ridgeway. Look south-east to Llangynidr Bridge (Brandywine Bridge?)
The OS map above is reproduced with permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland
Photographs of the original tour:
Photos copyright Literature Wales / John Briggs. For more photos visit the gallery here
Copyright Dimitra Fimi / Literature Wales
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