Rivendell in Swizterland

Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien
Lauterbrunnental in Switzerland
This page was prompted by reading a post in David & Dorothea Salo's Caveat Lector blog where David Salo concludes that the Lauterbrunnental (Lauterbrunnen Valley) in Switzerland (shown above) was the inspiration for Tolkien's Rivendell (also above).

Beyond the amazing similarities of the images, Mr. Salo is a Tolkien linguistic scholor and draws his conclusion from several similarities of the names Tolkien uses to the name of the valley and that Tolkien specifically states (in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #306) that "The hobbit's (Bilbo's) journey from Rivendell to the other side of the Misty Mountains... is based on my adventures in 1911..." Although Tolkien does not specifically identify the Lauterbrunnental, apparently he did travel in this valley during his 1911 (aged 19) travels in Switzerland.

Marie Barnfield writes to tell me that she drew this conclusion (earlier and independently) some years ago in the 1990's and published an article in a Tolkien Society publication entitled The Lyfe ant the Auncestrye noting:

"not only the similarity between Tolkien's painting of Rivndell and the Lauterbrunnen, Valley, but also:
a) that Tolkien had visited Lauterbrunnen in 1911
b) that he had come down into the valley by an unusual route that extactly mirrors the rather perverse route his charaters insist on taking into Rivendell
c) That Lauterbrunnen essentially means the same as Greyflood & Hoarwell
d) That Tolkien mirrored the sound of the name Lauterbrunnen itself in the English and Elivsh names for the Rivendell river: ie Loudwater & Bruinen.

She also notes:
"I never got round to another article, but the Lauterbrunnen! valley appears again in Lord of the Rings as the valley of the Snowbourne in Rohan, with the Wengen area, and the Eiger, Monch and Jungrfrau, becoming respectively Dunharrow, and the three mountains at their back of which one was the haunted Dwimmorberg. If you sit and look at the valley walls from the Breithorn campsite, I swear you can see the Pukel-road."

I am entirely convinced and find this fascinating, particularly as I am part Swiss. I will hopefully at some point get a chance to visit this valley in person. Thank you, David and Marie!

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