Walking Through Rivendell

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.

 

Feeling Light

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I love the way the light falls at this time of year.

There is a golden richness to it, one that invites you to sit outside for a while with hot tea or cold cider, savouring the last sweetness of summer before the long dark of winter sets in. It feels melancholy to me as well – the bittersweet turning of the year seen in the way that the sun sets earlier each night, sending long furls of colour across the sky.

This may sound like a whole lot of waffle – however, light is something that has always fascinated me. I’ve travelled to quite a few places and each had their own light, caught in the feel of the sky and the way the sun hits the land. The high wide skies of Canada, speedwell blue reaching north. The blinding white hot of a Sydney beach at midday, when to be without sunglasses would render you almost blind. The pearl grey light of the Irish coast, mist from the sea softening the sky. The silver-blue-grey of a Melbourne winter, dark nights and frost on the gum trees. The shimmer of Venice, light reflecting from the water onto ancient pastel palazzos, crumbling into the dreaming lagoon.

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I saw the northern lights once. It was in the mountains north of Vancouver, the sky full of stars as there were no man-made lights to obscure their show. I woke in the night to see a slowly expanding starburst of light above me, floating above the dark pine-clad peaks. While it wasn’t the rainbow shimmer of Scandinavia, it was still awe-inspiring to see – one day I hope to go further north and see the curtains of colour ripple across the sky.

I also like the way light behaves at different times of day, and often use it in my descriptions when writing. I think it’s a nice way to convey to the reader what time of day it is, as well as adding mood when necessary. My favourite time of day is sunset, though I do enjoy the early light of dawn as well – there is something about the transition between day and night that I find to be full of potential, stories lying in the shadows between light and dark.

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