Tolkien News

West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village’s Real Life Hobbit-hole and Ring Quest

If you would like to go on your own quest or see a real-life Hobbit hole, the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village is the place to be! The West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village is one of the great archaeological sites in England. It is a recreation of an original Anglo-Saxon village on its original site where many archaeological finds have been found, such as the first humans, Vikings, and gems.

Tolkien was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon origins at Oxford University, and has said in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings that the name “Hobbit” comes from “hol-bytla” which means hole-builder. Because of Tolkien’s connection to Anglo-Saxon, the staff of this village say that West Stow is the perfect place to build a Hobbit hole.

The Hobbit hole is based off of Farmer Cotton’s (Rosie’s father) home in The Lord of the Rings; it took the village’s staff 20 days over three months to complete. They used traditional woodworking techniques and timbers that have been recycled from other projects on the site. It’s the first Hobbit hole available for public display in the UK!

Though fans aren’t able to actually go inside, they are able to take photos from the outside. Alan Baxter, the village’s Heritage Manager and Tolkien Society member says, “Like the film set, sadly fans cannot pop inside the Hobbit hole for a look around but as ‘big people’, as the Hobbits call us, we would only end up with a headache from banging our heads on the low ceiling as Gandalf himself did on the ceiling at Bag End in Lord of the Rings.”

The Hobbit hole will be on display from February 16th through the 24th during the village’s Ring Quest event and “is available if groups of enthusiasts want to arrange special evening options and talks so that they can have the site opened specially,” Baxter adds.

West Stow Hobbit Hole

I had the chance to ask Alan Baxter some questions about West Stow’s upcoming Tolkien-themed events and I got quite excited for them! (Though, unfortunately, I live too far away to be able to attend. *sad sigh*)

“Ring Quest started in 2003 as a result of the interest around the Peter Jackson film trilogy.  It was staff members who suggested it as a way to introduce fictional and media themes as a new way to interpret the Anglo-Saxon Village via Tolkien’s Anglo-Saxon influences,” Baxter says.

During the Quest, fans can go on a journey to find the Rings of Power and translate dwarf runes.

People are given a pack which includes two maps, one for the park and one for the Village. “This year the maps have been redrawn to look more like the style of those in The Hobbit.  They have rune lists, rune messages and Hobbit script.  The Park map shows the local features and names them ‘the River Running’, ‘the Long Lake’, ‘Mirkwood’ and ‘Edge of the Wild’.  The Village map names the local features ‘the Withered Heath’, ‘The Lonely Stone’ (rather than Lonely Mountain), ‘The Hobbit hole’ and ‘to Rivendell’ (the café!),” Baxter explains.

Also included in the pack is a sheet to record the clues to find the 19 Rings of power. The Rings are placed in different places; Elven and Dwarf Rings can be found in the Country Park, and the Rings for the race of Men are in the Anglo-Saxon Village. The clues to help people find them are all in verse from Tolkien’s original work in the books. It would take a couple hours for an expert group to complete the Quest, but people are able to take their time if they want and return the following day to complete it.

Attendees will also be able to meet some characters along the way. Characters include: a Dunedain Ranger named Halbarad, a very friendly Orc, an Elven princess, and sometimes a Hobbit and another Orc, who will help the groups on their quest save Middle-earth!

“The Ranger spends much of his time out in the wilds helping people to find the clues and complete the Quest; he also checks their runes to ensure that they have not been misled by the dark powers. His other duty is to keep watch on the Shire and the Hobbit hole.  The Orc is to be found trying to befriend visitors at the start of the Quest and the Elven princess greets all the visitors and helps explain the nature of the Quest they must undertake.”

Costumed characters were first introduced after the (highly successful) fan-made film, Born of Hope was released (West Stow was used as a location for the Dunedain Rangers and their settlement, Taurdal). The film “follows the lives of Arathorn and Gilraen, the parents of Aragorn, from their first meeting through a turbulent time in their people’s history,” courtesy of the Born of Hope website. The full film is available to watch on Youtube; I definitely recommend it!

At the end of the week, a “big prize” will be awarded to a lucky group! The winner is chosen randomly from the completed entries that are put into a model of Mount Doom. Most of the entries are checked by either the friendly Orc, the Ranger, or the Elven Princess.

Characters for Ring Quest - West Stow

On the 21st of February, West Stow will have another Tolkien-themed event entitled, “The Real Middle Earth”, which will be given by Alan Baxter. Baxter, who had the chance to visit the New Zealand sites, says, “It covers the Anglo-Saxon influences and also the childhood influences in the Midlands but is mainly about the film locations in New Zealand for The Hobbit and LOTR trilogy.” The lecture is going to be held at Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St. Edmunds and will include videos and photos of UK and NZ sites. Booking is essential so if you plan to attend be sure to plan ahead!

Along with the Tolkien events, people are able to go on a Middle-earth tour in the Village with Halbarad the Ranger to find out more about the connections between the Anglo-Saxons and Tolkien. Other Tolkien-themed activities include: LOTR archery, displays of replicas, dressing up, quizzes and so much more! You can also visit the heritage shop which has a Ring Quest section that sells badges, books, postcards and other LOTR related items.

So if you’re near the West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village this month, don’t forget to look at their Tolkien-themed events and go buy tickets! The Ring Quest will also return back in the summer during July 27-28.

For more information visit their website and be sure to check them out on Twitter and Facebook!

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  1. victorialadybug says: