Lancaster Guardian, 08.03.2002
Does Halton´s legend have the Tolkien ring of truth?
by James Reader
A story of greed, betrayal and magic carved on an ancient Viking cross at Halton churchyard during the Dark Ages was this week claimed to be the inspiration for J R R Tolkien´s epic Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien knew the Lune Valley well and some speculate that he even based much of Middle Earth - home to Gandalf, Frodo Baggins and the Dark Riders - on the area.
It is hoped the news will boost tourism in the district.
"It is a saga which is built around magic rings, slaying a dragon, and magic swords that are broken and reconstructed," said John Darlington, a special advisor on archaeology and heritage for Lancashire County Council.
"Tolkien took his inspiration from this Viking saga.
"Here is a story that is still inspiring people in the 21st Century."
The version of Sigurd the Volsung, carved at Halton by Norse settlers who poured into the region in the 10th Century and is, said John, the best original version outside Scandinavia.
"We know that Tolkien knew and visited the area. His son taught at Stoneyhurst and there is quite a bit of speculation that the local landscape described by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings is actually based on this area of Lancashire.
"If you look at the top of Tolkien´s Middle Earth map in the Lord of the Rings, in the north west corner, rather appropriately, is the River Lune."
John, who lives in Halton, highlighted the connections during his work as part of Culture 2000, a project funded by the European Union and English Heritage to examine the landscape in terms of its historic and cultural associations.
Coun Carolyn Simpson, cabinet member with special responsibility for tourism, said: "This connection with Tolkien shows once again the diversity of our district.
"It is an excellent opportunity to capture the imagination of visitors of the Lune Valley.
"Particularly those interested in ancient myths and legends as highlighted in the Lord of the Rings.
"It is incredible that a Viking stone cross should survive out in the open for a thousand years.
"Although it has a prominent position in the churchyard, visitors will be able to see it more clearly; on a bright day and understand the story behind the dragon slayer in more detail by picking up a leaflet at the city museum."
John Darlington with part of the cross.