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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
# one ring to rule them all
Lord of the Rings' Middle-earth was inspired by... the Burren
A Derry-based academic says the time Tolkien spent in Ireland inspired his concept.

Poll na Gollum Cave in the Burren which event organisers suggest influenced the creation of one of Tolkien's most famous characters (Gollum) Poll na Gollum Cave in the Burren which event organisers suggest influenced the creation of one of Tolkien's most famous characters (Gollum)

IRISH MYTH AND the landscape of the West of Ireland were deeply embedded in J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings’ concept of Middle-earth, according to one Derry-based academic.

University of Ulster Lecturer and Tolkien scholar Dr. Liam Campbell will this weekend present new evidence suggesting that the world-famous karst landscape of the Burren Region and Celtic legends of the West of Ireland inspired Tolkien’s masterworks The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.


Campbell has based his assertions on his examination of the original Tolkien manuscripts and papers at Marquette University in Wisconsin, USA.

Dr. Campbell says his research findings and their outreach in terms of how the English writer’s acclaimed work has profound and traceable interconnections with Ireland.

He said that the inspiration for this was brought on in the wake of Tolkien’s visits to Ireland.

The Burren The Burren


Tolkien visited the West of Ireland on many occasions and spent considerable time in the Burren when he held the position of External Examiner to the English Department of NUI Galway between 1949 and 1959.

During this time he revised and published The Lord of the Rings.

“An unexpected body of evidence is beginning to emerge that unmasks Ireland and The Burren in particular as a significant influence on Tolkien’s creative imagination,” explained Dr. Campbell.

My wider research into Tolkien, Ireland and the Burren has been given real and unforeseen direction through my engagement with these original Marquette papers. Ireland and, in particular, the Burren, it seems may have played a key role in Tolkien’s conceptual design for masterworks such as The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

Campbell said his research had shown that there were some very late alterations to The Lord of the Rings including an entire very late passage that speaks of a risen and rugged landscape, “very much mirroring the Burren in some extremely revealing and specific aspects”.

Cliffs of Moher in the  Burren Geopark as seen from the sea The Cliffs of Moher

Having knowledge of Tolkien’s editing techniques, researched for specific evidences, and knowing of the chronology of Tolkien’s rewrites, I can place this addition to a main section of The Lord of the Rings to amongst the very last things to be added – and thus after the period he had actually experienced the Burren for himself.

It wasn’t just the landscape of the Burren that Campbell said Tolkein drew inspiration from.

Campabell said there are  there are also clear parallels to be drawn between the Tuatha de Danann, Tolkien’s Elves and their lands in Tolkien’s fiction.

Dr Cambell will present his findings the Burren Tolkien Society Festival which gets underway this Friday 15 August.

For more on the Burren Tolkien Society Festival taking place from August 15th-24th visit the website here and the Facebook page here

Read: Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkien was marking your exam papers?>

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