Tribute to Tolkien: Magical Mystical Mossy-Green Muse for Middle-earth, Puzzlewood

September 2nd, 2011 Permalink

All writers and artists have a muse; for some it’s music, for some a person, place or thing, but fiction writers can take a place that is real and twist it until it’s flat-out fantasy. For high-fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien, Puzzlewood was one such mystical, magical muse that inspired him to create the fabled forests of Middle-earth within The Lord of the Rings. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 and died at age 81 on September 2, 1973. On this anniversary of his death, we wanted to pay tribute to Tolkien and Puzzlewood — his extraordinarily enchanted backdrop for Middle-earth. [26 Photos]

Magical Mystical Mossy Green Muse

Magical Mystical Mossy Green Muse: J.R.R. Tolkien saw much more than a woods in such settings. In his mind’s eye, Tolkien saw high fantasy forests which he then painted with words to describe Middle-earth. Photo #1 by Wallpaper Stock

puzzlewood path, enchanted forest

Puzzlewood is an ancient woods in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England. This is one of paths in Puzzlewood. In the early 1800s, a local landowner set out to please his kids and friends by laying down over a mile of pathways, twisting and turning through the ancient trees, around fantastic moss-covered rock formations, and passing by secret caves. 100 years later, the unique fantasy landscape of Puzzlewood was opened to the public. Photo #2 by Trubble


Puzzlewood inspiration

Tolkien frequently visited Puzzlewood, taking picturesque walks through winding pathways to draw inspiration. He once wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.” He certainly wasn’t lost among the beautiful moss-covered rocks. Instead, Tolkien found a way to transport us into his fantasy forests in Middle-earth. Photo #3 by Meandering Mammal

Glorious Green of Puzzlewood

“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” quote by J.R.R. Tolkien who escaped in these glorious greens of Puzzlewood. Photo #4 by Neil Barnwell

Where hobbits hide puzzlewood

Do you suppose this Puzzlewood setting might have been the mystical muse for where the Hobbits hid from Sauron’s Ringwraiths? “The Hobbits are just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien. Photo #5 by Neil Barnwell

Puzzlewood bridge

Wikipedia says, Many people believe Puzzlewood was the inspiration for the fabled forests of Middle-earth, such as the Old Forest, Mirkwood, Fangorn or Lothl√≥rien contained within The Lord of the Rings. When LOTR was named Britain’s favourite book in the “Big Read”, TV presenter Ray Mears chose Puzzlewood as the location from which to champion Tolkien’s work. J.K Rowling is also said to have visited Puzzlewood, and it may have been this that influenced her idea of The Forbidden Forest in the Harry Potter books. Photo #6 by World of Oddy

Forest of Dean at Puzzlewood August 2011

Forest of Dean at Puzzlewood August 2011. “The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien from The Lord of the Rings. Photo #7 by Vix_B

Puzzlewood pathways

Puzzlewood has also been the enchanted forest backdrop for filming the fantasy adventures in Merlin and Dr. Who TV series. In regards to writing fairy stories and the old and deep desire for “escape,” Tolkien mused, “Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker….The mind that thought of light, heavy, grey, yellow, still, swift also conceived of magic that would make heavy things light and able to fly, turn grey lead into yellow gold, and the still rock into swift water. If it could do the one, it could do the other; it inevitably did both. When we have taken green from the grass, blue from heaven, and red from blood, we have already an enchanter’s power.” Photo #8 by Meandering Mammal

Open-air Caves At Puzzlewood

Open-air Caves At Puzzlewood. “The Road goes ever on and on — Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way — Where many paths and errands meet. — And whither then? I cannot say,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring Photo #9 by Stuart Herbert

Enchanted woods puzzlewood

Tolkien said, “Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story… The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd.” Photo #10 by Neil Barnwell

Mossy Puzzlewood

“Fairy tale does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat…giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy; Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien. Photo #11 by Trubble

Tolkien landscape

Another writer and great friend to Tolkien was C.S. Lewis, the creator of fantasy Narnia. Lewis wrote, “On one memorable occasion a small group had gathered in Lewis’s rooms and were listening to Tolkien read the last installment of The Lord of the Rings. They were sitting there puffing on pipes and sipping tea when Hugo Dyson, who had been lounging on a sofa and growing increasingly bored with the proceedings, suddenly exclaimed: ‘Oh, f**k! Not another elf!’” Peter Jackson, director of the epic film trilogy The Lord of the Rings said of Tolkien, “I wonder how could he have been able to invent all this stuff. It feels more like Tolkien discovered some sort of long-lost scrolls.”
Photo #12 by Neil Barnwell

Amazing Greens at Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire

Truly a Tolkeinesque landscape. “The greatest adventure is what lies ahead. Today and tomorrow are yet to be said. The chances, the changes are all yours to make. The mold of your life is in your hands to break,” by ~ J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit. Photo #13 by Rachel Macniven

Magical mushrooms, Tolkien's trip-induced muse

Magical mushrooms were doubtfully Tolkien’s trip-induced muse, although he was a master of writing fantasy which has touched and inspired countless millions of minds. Photo #14 by Tom (most uncool)

Puzzlewood traversing Middle Earth

Traversing Middle-earth at Puzzlewood. “Courage is found in unlikely places,” J.R.R. Tolkien. “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” Photo #15 by twitter @tamsee13

tranquil middle-earth puzzlewood

A tranquil Middle-earth scene at Puzzlewood. Tolkien said “For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more–remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men’s hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words.” He added, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” Photo #16 by twitter @tamsee13

Entrance to Puzzlewood. A pre-Roman iron mine

This is the entrance to Puzzlewood. It was a pre-Roman iron mine, although prehistoric tools and weapons show chemical traces of the same ore. The Puzzlewood Treasure supports Roman occupation of the area. In 1848 after moving a block of stone in the woods, workmen found a small hidden cavity in the rocks where three earthenware jars contained over 3,000 3rd Century AD coins. Photo #17 by World of Oddy

Puzzlewood Middle Earth

Like the mystical, magical scenery of Puzzlewood, a wide variety of works inspired Tolkien: religion, mythology, history, war and family. Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean, it has been suggested, inspired Tolkien’s vision of The Shire as did early tales told to him by his father. Photo #18 by Andy Dingley

Fisheye puzzlewood

“Little by little, one travels far.” Dizzying fisheye of Puzzlewood and a piece of advice from Tolkien, “Never laugh at live dragons.” Photo #19 by Dave Smith

Looking For Angels at Puzzlewood

The photographer was swept away in the magic of this forest, calling this photo, “Looking For Angels at Puzzlewood.” Tolkien, in The Lord of the Rings, wrote: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Photo #20 by Stuart Herbert

Puzzlewood Tolkien muse

“Still round the corner there may wait – A new road or a secret gate – And though I oft have passed them by – A day will come at last when I – Shall take the hidden paths that run – West of the Moon, East of the Sun,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien. Photo #21 by Trubble

Misty woods - At Puzzlewood

Misty, mystical forest at Puzzlewood. J.R.R. Tolkien said, “I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which ‘Escape’ is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” Photo #22 by Vix_B

foggy forest - Howling in the night

Can you set your imagination free now via Puzzlewood as a muse? Can you howl at the full moon in a foggy forest during the night? “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien from The Fellowship of the Ring. Photo #23 by Wallpaper Stock

hobbit house

Okay, if not a howling wolf, how about Hobbits and the Shire? “A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities,” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien. Photo #24 by fj2 Eastday

Rivendell by Karezoid

Could you make the leap to Rivendell like Tolkien did? Rivendell by Karezoid. To all artists out there, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, he wrote, “Criticism – however valid or intellectually engaging – tends to get in the way of a writer who has anything personal to say. A tightrope walker may require practice, but if he starts a theory of equilibrium he will lose grace (and probably fall off).” So don’t let the doubters or the critics stop you from creating your dream. Tolkien wrote, “Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” Last but not least, “It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.” Don’t give up; thank goodness Tolkien did not. Photo #25 by pixdaus via Karezoid

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 and died at age 81 on September 2, 1973. The photo of Tolkien on the left was taken in 1911. In the middle photo, he’s wearing a WWI-era British Army uniform taken in 1916. On the right is the Tolkien family photo taken on November 15, 1892, for a Christmas card. Photo #26 by Wikimedia


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