Tolkien News

Hear J R R Tolkien’s childhood in a Birmingham audio walk


J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination was fired by a difficult childhood spent mostly in Birmingham.

“Light From the Shadows” is a Birmingham Repertory Theatre Neighbourhood REP project in collaboration with Hall Green Library, created by writers Charlotte Goodwin and Kate Chapman and launched on June 16, 2013. It is a magnificent performance that will take you on a journey through Tolkien’s young years of inspiration and beyond, unveiling shapes of living memory before your eyes, as your feet carry you through the Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog, where the master himself with every breath absorbed the immense foundation for his upcoming masterpiece.

After Tolkien’s father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, had died in Africa aged only 39 from a sever hemorrhaging, his mother, Mabel Tolkien, was left alone with two children and limited means. They returned to Birmingham and moved into 5, Gracewell – or what is now 264 Wake Green Road opposite Sarehole Mill. It was the place where it all began, where young Tolkien spent wonderful four years piling up the dramatic experience. Along with his younger brother, Hilary, they shared one frightful character, the miller’s son at Sarehole Mill, which they nicknamed “The White Ogre.”

The pictures below feature The Sarehole Mill the way Tolkien saw it from his doorstep and the way we can see it today.



But it is not only the wonderful childhood moments of the author that will take you back in time on one of these tranquil Sundays of the summer. As writer Kate Chapman explains:

“We decided that we didn’t want to make it an audio walk that was wholly ‘about Tolkien,’ but we did incorporate some of his life experiences and some aspects of his relationship with his wife Edith, which is a beautiful love story. We hope people will see themselves and their own families in the audio journey.”

As well as a marvelous audio walk that will last about an hour, an extended entertainment is provided for all of the visitors. Say, you have less than half a mind to try out bug hunting and more than half a mind to investigate a wildlife of the pond, or build a den, or create a magic wand–there will always be a group of wonderful benevolent people that will be happy to assist you with anything. And for somewhat older souls who like to venture in the deep, there will also be an opportunity to join a writing workshop and enjoy a mug of ale in your hand, putting the feet up on a settle after a hard day’s work, whilst free unique performances will take place.

A little preview of the audio walk is available here.

For more information visit or call 0121 236 4455.

Or simply use this link for more details on dates and time:

If you decide to embark on this wonderful journey, we hope you get back to us with all the awesome details! Until then, may your beard grow ever longer, mates!

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  1. Brilliant article, well done.

  2. Great article! I bet the audio tour will be really popular.

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