The screen version of Tolkien’s classic epic, The Lord of the Rings, although not due out until Christmas 2001, is already generating excitement worldwide. Yet how many are aware that J.R. Tolkien’s entire fantasy world is actually to be found in West Cork?
West Cork is the home of Mithril Minatures, makes of Tolkien collectibles. Here is an excerpt of an article about the company.
In 1987, while the business of model soldiers and chess sets was thriving, Lars [Edman, the owner of Prince August miniatures] was offered the opportunity to become the only authorised creator of figures to illustrate Tolkien’s much-loved classic stories. A long-time fan of the books, he jumped at the chance and so Mithril Miniatures was born as a subsidiary of the main company. Virtually all the staff come from the village and surrounding area, and the atmosphere is more like that of a big cheerful family than a workplace.
Normally, the figures are supplied in kit form and purchasers like to paint their own according to their preferences. Mithril, however, keeps an example of every model made up and painted so that customers can see what they will look like on completion. A great deal of the business is done overseas, particularly since the advent of the Internet.
This is a factory which welcomes visitors. Here you can easily spend hours gazing in fascination at the hundreds of exquisitely-painted samples of all the figures produced. Perhaps you are searching for one particular character who caught your imagination when you first read Tolkien’s classics. Or with a delighted cry of recognition you discover one you had almost forgotten. Treebeard, for example, the calm and slow-moving Ent – and there he is, towering a full four inches high, frowning with concentration as he carefully clasps a hobbit in either branched arm.It’s only when you finally leave, clutching your precious packages that you look around at the countryside and see it with new eyes. Because surely this peaceful part of West Cork actually is Middle Earth. This could be the very Shire where life has continued its pleasant way for centuries.
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