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My Ireland

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    The Burren, County Clare The Burren, County Clare

    The Burren and Tolkien

    Did you know that Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkein was inspired by the otherworldly landscape of The Burren?

    • #Literature
    • #Landscapes
    County Clare
    County Clare
    • #Literature
    • #Landscapes

    This tale begins with a man named Peter Curtin. Peter owns and runs The Roadside Tavern pub in County Clare. He is also a huge Burren enthusiast and is the man behind The Burren Society Tolkien Symposium, which is taking place on 9 May as part of The Gathering.

    Abbey Hill in the Burren, County Clare Abbey Hill in the Burren, County Clare

    Abbey Hill in the Burren, County Clare

    One rainy afternoon in County Clare, Peter began a friendly chat with an elderly lady in a pub. Her name was Ms Crowe, and for many years she had worked for man called Dr Martyn, who in turn had been friends with JRR Tolkien when the author worked as an external examiner to National University Galway in the 40s and 50s.

    Ms Crowe recalled how Tolkien and the doctor would often take trips to the lunar-like landscape of the Burren. When you consider that Tolkien was visiting the Burren around the same time that he was writing The Lord of The Rings, it’s easy to see how the stark beauty of this region might have inspired him.

    Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare

    Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare

    “Tolkien appreciated the unique landscape of the Burren,” says Peter. “Although there are many other places in the world with karst limestone landscape, none are equal to the beauty of the Burren.”

    The landscape here is certainly unusual, and for a fantasy author such as Tolkien it must have been magnetic.

    Amongst the craggy fissures and creeping woods of the Burren there is a cave called Pol na Gollum (Hole of Gollum). If you’re a Tolkien fan no doubt your ears just pricked up! The notorious character Gollum is essential to the entire plot of The Lord of The Rings. Did Tolkien get the name for his miserable wretch from this cave? We certainly think so. What’s more, Gollum in The Lord of The Rings had a distinctive gurgling cough, and at the mouth of this cave the chirps and calls of rock doves echo and transform into a similar guttural sound. 

    You can almost picture the lightbulb pinging above Tolkien’s head.

    Walking in the Burren, County Clare Walking in the Burren, County Clare

    Walking in the Burren, County Clare

    Given the strong connection between the author and region, Peter has committed to shining a spotlight on the Tolkien-Burren association.

    The Burren’s beauty is already world famous, and its natural oddities well explored. But thanks to Peter’s hard work and passion, it’s accepted that one of the most iconic authors of the 20th century, JRR Tolkien, was influenced by the otherworldly magic of this incredible place.

    Although Boromir’s iconic phrase in the novel – “One does not simply walk into Mordor” – may be true in Middle Earth. Here, in the Burren, you can do just that. Enjoy!