I suppose I would have to go back 40 years to establish when the spirit of Middle-earth entered my life. We were all sitting cross legged in timber out building away from the main school. This was Mr Kidd's class room . Funny now I think of It the wooden planking of the cabin was painted a good Hobbit hue of green, and if my memory serves me well, it had a roofed wooden veranda to the front, with wooden rails that you could sit or climb on.

Every afternoon for nearly a month we would sit enthralled by this tale of tales. I would leave for the short walk home in the late afternoon totally absorbed with the vivid mental pictures the author's words had painted in my mind. I am still not sure how, to be honest, that fairly simply written children’s ‘fairy story’, had the power to lodge so powerfully into my mind, but it did. Surprisingly even after the afternoon story time had long finished, the flavour stayed, infact it grew more intense with each year. I had my own copy by now, and read and read it time and again, lingering on my favourite episodes. The imagery we create in our minds when we read good books is precious, unique and personal. Even the New Line Cinema trilogy blockbuster didn’t match up to the perfect joy of that first childhood experience. When I finally read LOTR at the age of eleven the possession was complete. It has been said that the things we give ourselves too, possess us and I know that to be true. For good and for ill.

C S Lewis explained the phenomenon so well when he said.colinpatten

"I chiefly remember delighting in dwarfs. Those old bright hooded, snowy bearded dwarfs we had in those days, before Arthur Rackham sublimed, or Walt Disney vulgarised the earth men. I visualised them so intensely that I came to the very frontiers of hallucination: once, walking in the garden, I was for a second not quite sure that a little man had not run past me into the shrubbery."

I love that, C S Lewis got it so right when he said he’ visualised them so intensely’ that they became almost real. For the last forty years I have been accompanied by intense visualisations of Tolkien’s epic works. These visualisations can become triggered wherever one finds oneself, whether walking by a stream or through a wood, standing high on the battlements of a castle, or in the quietness of a church sanctuary. Someone once said that a good book becomes a good friend, well for me and millions of other readers the books ‘The Hobbit’, and ‘the Lord of the Rings’, are our childhood friends, our best friends, and our lifelong friends all rolled into one!

Tolkien's writings have a unique and mysterious power. As a word smith he is unparalleled. He has taken the likes of The Sagas of Icelanders, the Anglo Saxon chronicles, Beowulf and Wagner’s Ring Cycles and pattern welded them together, hammering into them his store of fairy tales, myth and legends his childhood experiences and his own unique personality. The results are truly astonishing. One reviewer put it so well when he wrote.

‘How, given little over half a century of work, did one man become the creative equivalent of a people’.

I admit to a disturbing and exciting combination of feelings when presented with the chance of sculpting my own personal renditions for the Middle-earthTM collection. The word pictures that leap from the authors pages offer the illustrator or model maker such a fabulous wealth of creative opportunities that knowing just how and where to begin can be truly bewildering.

My first reaction was that I wanted to go deeper into the coverage than most people might feel is necessary. ‘Why not just do the Big things that most people would want to see and leave those lesser subjects alone, after all they are not worth it, how many would want them?’

J.R.R. Tolkien’s close friend and writing companion C S Lewis wrote the books that he would like to read himself, and I decided that I would attempt to sculpt the things I would like to see. That is why in the ‘Shire’, section you will find places like the post office, the smaller inns, Bagshot row and the dwellings of the lesser known Hobbit folk. To be honest, Tolkien needn’t have bothered with these seemingly inconsequential diversions from the main plot. He could still have produced a great ripping yarn without these additional details. But isn’t that just the point? These tiny stokes are the moments of genius that flow through the tale giving it a mysterious engaging quality and also the reason why we come away from reading the artist’s works feeling we have been engaged on an intimate and highly personal level as well as with an epic and sweeping grandeur.

Tolkien built solidly on the cultural foundations of heroic warrior societies. I feel strongly that if we stray too far from these origins we are bound to be leaving Middle-earthTM.  Essentially these foundations stretch to encompass 6th through to 14th century north and western Europe. I have tried to be true in reflecting these historical origins in the flavour of my interpretations.

I am truly honoured to be allowed this opportunity to share my ‘experience’ of Middle-earthTM with you, it is a dream come true…

Best Wishes
Colin Patten

‘It was when I has was happiest that I longed most.
The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing
to find the place where all the beauty comes from’.
{ C S Lewis]