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The Tolkien Connection

tokhos.tif (67794 bytes)Both Tolkien’s parents were from Birmingham but their son, John Ronald Reuel was born in 1892 while they were living in South Africa At the time, his father was working there as a bank manager. John became sick and his mother returned to England with him and his younger brother, Hilary.

Tolkien’s father had intended to come home to England to join his wife and young sons but he too became sick and died in 1896 before he could return.

The following summer, Mrs. Tolkien rented a house called Gracewell in a part of Birmingham called Hall Green which was a quiet country village at the time -(now it has been swallowed up by the city as many of these outlying villages were at the turn of the century)

Sarehole Mill was just across the road from the Tolkien’s house and it held a fascination for the two young boys. They often sneaked into the grounds of the mill and were chased away by the two millers at the time a father and son. Tolkien described them as ‘characters of wonder and terror to a small child’ in particular, the son who he described as ‘the White Ogre’

There is no doubt that Tolkien used the area around Sarehole Mill as the setting for the ‘Shire’ in The Lord of the Rings. Soon after it was published, he said that ‘The Shire…is in fact more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee.’ (he was referring to the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1897) ‘There is no special reference to England in the ‘Shire’ - except of course that as an Englishman brought up in an ‘almost rural’ village of Warwickshire …I take my models like anyone else - from such life as I know’.

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