Walking Through Rivendell (Revisited)

I forgot. Again. Heat is melting my brain, I guess? I have over 100 Wednesday Wanders just waiting to be reposed, but I keep forgetting. So here we are, Thursday and wanderless. However, in honour of it being such a stinking hot day here (30 degrees and humid), I’ve decided to post, not exactly a wander, but instead a memory of a cool valley replete with green grass, snowy mountains and a waterfall. Oh, and apparently it was the original inspiration for Rivendell, Tolkien being inspired by its beauty when he visited over a century ago. Enjoy…
This was the view from where I stayed

This was the view from my chalet. Pretty nice, hey?

About twenty-five years ago, I went on a trip around Europe. I was living in Canada at the time and this was my first big holiday by myself, so it was a Big Deal. The trip brought its own set of challenges and experiences, most of them positive, as well as some marvellous memories.

One of the places I visited was the valley of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. I stayed there for a couple of nights, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the nearby waterfall and the gentle chime of cowbells. It was an extraordinarily beautiful place, and I felt the spectacular landscape had a fairy-tale quality quite unlike anywhere else I’d been before. While I was there, I also took the cog railway up to the top of the Jungfrau mountain, taking photographs of the scenery along the way.

Ascending the Jungfrau

Ascending the Jungfrau

What I didn’t know at the time was that J.R.R Tolkien had visited the same valley in 1911, and was so taken by its beauty that he used it as the basis for Rivendell, home to Elrond and the Elves. (Apparently, on the same trip, he also picked up an illustration that inspired his description of Gandalf.) If you look at Tolkien’s painting of Rivendell (which I don’t have permission to reproduce here, so here’s a link), you can see the similarities between his fantasy world and the real one.

The glacier on top of the Jungfrau - the original Pass of Carahdras?

The glacier on top of the Jungfrau – the original Pass of Carahdras?

I recently wrote a post about the landscape that had inspired my own book, Oak and Mist. Though not quite as striking as the Lauterbrunnen valley and its towering mountains, the park near my childhood home holds both beauty and memory for me, making it the perfect starting point for my story. And this is one of the things I love about writing fantasy – blending the real world with the one I create.

The valley seen from the lower slopes of the Jungfrau

The valley seen from the lower slopes of the Jungfrau – look familiar?

I know you can visit Hobbiton and some of the other locations for the LOTR movies in New Zealand, and that they are spectacular. However, to walk through the actual landscape that inspired Tolkien to create Middle-Earth is quite something as well (even if I didn’t realise it at the time) 🙂

So how about you? Has your work been inspired by real places you’ve visited or lived in? Or have you walked in the footsteps of your literary heroes?


You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJFacebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon. Visit my Amazon Author Page to see more.

17 thoughts on “Walking Through Rivendell (Revisited)

  1. I remember my mother waxing lyrical about this landscape when she visited about sixty years ago. I always intended to go there, but never got to that part of Switzerland.

  2. I’ve set my urban fantasy series in the Inverness area, because I fell in love with it years ago – the beauty is breath taking, mountains, rivers, glens, waterfalls, moors – such diversity. And now I live here!

    • Wow, that sounds lovely! And now you’re living in your fantasy landscape – how wonderful 🙂 I’ve not been that far North, just outside Aberdeen is as far as I’ve got, but I have a dream of getting there one day…

      • I remember, you were in Oldmeldrum with one of Sue Vincent’s groups. I stay there when I work over Aberdeen side.
        Sue has (had?) a tour scheduled for around and above the Inverness area this autumn – I was rather hoping to gatecrash one day and meet everyone in person. It really is the most magical area, I keep having to pinch myself every day to accept that I really am living here now!

      • I bet you do – it sounds just lovely! And yes, that’s right – had a great time with Sue’s group up there. I was hoping to join them again this year at Avebury but of course everything has been cancelled – not sure whether anything will be going ahead later in the year. However if I do make it up there with Sue’s group it’s be lovely to see you again 🙂

  3. I haven’t been to Switzerland, I have always wanted to go. This makes me want to go! I can see the resemblance to Rivendell. Just as a quirky fact there is a Rivendell walk in Wellington New Zealand where they filmed some of LOTR…it is OK….but not on the scale of Switzerland that is for sure.

    • I lived in Australia for so many years and never made it to New Zealand – I wish I had. It’s still on my list of dream places to visit, and the LOTR sets will definitely be part of that trip 🙂

      • If you ever do make it back to this part of the world, come to Wellington, they have Weta studios, a special effects studio which is pretty cool. Also all of the amazing nature from LOTR which is in the South Island. 😁

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