LA PAZ – Bolivia boasts the closest real-life analogues to the landscapes of Middle Earth as described in the “Lord of the Rings” saga, at least according to the members of the Club J.R.R. Tolkien Bolivia.
Forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to put aside many of their usual activities, the club invited people to submit images of Bolivia’s most Middle Earth-like spots with the hope of using the popularity of Tolkien to promote their country’s natural wonders.
“We always had the idea of showing this great richness and diversity we have in the country and comparing it with the fantastical world of Tolkien,” club president Aaron Galvez told EFE, explaining the reasoning behind the “Inspired by the Legendarium Photography Contest.”
(Legendarium refers to everything Tolkien wrote about his imagined world of Arda.)
The original plan was to combine the best images into a video, but the response to the contest was such that the club is now considering making a second video, vice president Christian Villanueva said.
On Aug. 6, Bolivia’s Independence Day, the club debuted the first video, “On the way to Middle Earth,” featuring the vineyards of the southern Bolivian province of Tarija as the equivalent of the Shire, home to Tolkien’s Hobbits.
The Green Dragon, the tavern where Frodo Baggins and his friends gather at the end of the day, also has its counterpart in Bolivia, in this case, an imposing wooden home in La Paz’s Sopocachi neighborhood that has been turned into a Legendarium-themed restaurant.
Tolkien devotees also see a resemblance between the Old Forest traversed by the Hobbits at the start of their journey and the Bosquecillo de Pura Pura, an expanse of green that covers a mountain in La Paz.
Muela del Diablo (Devil’s Molar), a peak south of La Paz, could stand in for Tolkien’s Weathertop as the setting for the scene where Frodo is stabbed by the Lord of the Nazgul.
And Illimani, the iconic snow-covered peak visible from both La Paz and neighboring El Alto, represents the Pass of Caradhras, a landmark on the route of the Fellowship of the Ring.
The Valley of the Spirits, just south of La Paz, can be identified with Tolkien’s Paths of the Dead.
Besides trying to inspire Tolkien fans from around the world to visit Bolivia, the club members were hoping to sell Amazon on the notion of filming its planned multiyear Lord of the Rings series here in the Andean nation.
Amazon announced months ago that its series, like the feature films based on Tolkien’s books, would be produced in New Zealand.
But the Club Tolkien members, noting that a battle sequence in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was shot in Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats, will be happy if they can persuade Amazon to film “even one scene” in their country, Galvez said.