Leeds: Did Meanwood Valley inspire Middle Earth?

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Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien may have been inspired to create Middle Earth while walking through woods in Leeds.

The suggestion came from Kevin Grady, the director of Leeds Civic Trust, as a plaque is set to be unveiled commemorating the writer’s time at Leeds University.

Dr Grady, himself a graduate of the university, said: “I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1961 when I was aged 11 and was immediately captivated by the world Tolkien had created.

“The books were then relatively little known. By the time I reached Leeds University, Tolkien had become a cult figure and since then Peter Jackson’s films have made the stories world famous.

“It’s fascinating to think that the world Tolkien created was evolving in his mind as he enjoyed woodland walks in the Meanwood Valley in the 1920s.”

Tolkien, who was born in South Africa in 1892 but spent most of his life in England, was an academic at Oxford University before taking up a post as reader in English language at the University of Leeds in 1920.

In his five years in the city he lived at St Michael’s Road in Headingley, before moving to Holly Bank, also in Headingley, and later St Mark’s Terrace, closer to the university.

His final address was 2 Darnley Road in West Park.

He produced A Middle English Vocabulary and a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with E.V. Gordon, with both becoming academic standard works.

But it his for his later works of fantasy, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings written from 1937 to 1949, that Tolkien remains most famous.

Dr Kersten Hall, from the university, will unveil the blue plaque at Darnley Road on Monday.

He said: “According to a BBC poll, J.R.R Tolkien’s book The Lord of the Rings
is officially the nation’s favourite book.

“To be asked to unveil a plaque commemorating a writer whose work has meant so much to the nation is therefore a great honour and a privilege.

“The city of Leeds deserves to be proud that its local heritage is connected to a literary figure who is cherished not just here in the UK, but also across the world.”