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The Hobbit: How England Inspired Tolkien’s Middle-earth

By Rumeana Jahangir

[Snip] The Shire

In a letter to his publishers, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote that The Shire – home to the “little people” better known as hobbits – was “more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of [Queen Victoria’s] Diamond Jubilee” in 1897.

Although born in South Africa in 1892, Tolkien moved to England at the age of four with his mother and brother after the death of his father. They lived in and around Birmingham, including at the village of Sarehole, which, like the fictional Hobbiton, had a corn-grinding mill by the water.

In a newspaper interview Tolkien fondly recalled the area, saying the Shire was “inspired by a few cherished square miles of actual countryside at Sarehole”.

However, while the mill is still standing, the area is now surrounded by Birmingham’s suburbs.

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