Every member of my family are passionate Tolkien fans, and sometimes I ask my children “If you could choose between Bag End and Rivendell, where you would want to live?” Of course, I remind them that the elves already left Middle Earth, so Rivendell is just sitting there empty, waiting for someone to move in. . . we just have to find it. But surprisingly, they always choose Bag End, and this in spite of the fact that any ski mountain (my boys live to ski) would be very far away at Bag End compared to Rivendell.
Of course Peter Jackson’s version of Bag End is quite luxurious with a gloriously over-stocked pantry (very appealing to active and growing young boys) and a large number of beautiful rooms stuffed with plump furnishings, colorful rugs and exotic objects from his many adventures. It would probably cost a fortune to build this home in today’s housing marked, but I love the inspiration that Bag End gives me. As a matter of fact, the region of Norway where I grew up has many similarities with the Shire with its well kept farms and small towns.
But having said that, I would add that the Norwegian architecture presented in this blog is actually closer to that of Rohan than to Bag End, and this is even more evident when we go back into the Viking age (main focus for the next blog).
So here we go…
For as far back as I can remember I have been obsessed with architecture. Especially traditional architecture that blends in with the natural landscape – not too grand or too humble – but rich and well-crafted with natural materials and surrounded with lots of trees, berry bushes, vegetable gardens, flowers and other green things. And of course, there would be a stone path and a small stream flowing through the property and perhaps a pond stocked with trout.
So every time I go back to Norway, I visit all the places that I know where I can find inspiration from Scandinavian architecture. Many of the cultural museums in Norway have numerous large farms that are examples of some of the finest timber design that I know. Many of these wooden buildings are over 500 hundred years old, and yet they are still standing there, as sturdy as the day they were built.
Norwegian history is very much tied to the land, and people have been cultivating the landscape for thousands of years. The architecture very much reflects this. Open valleys are dotted with well-maintained farms, broken up by hills, and lush forest before you entered the next valley. I grew up in such a landscape.
Yet there are still vast areas of mountains, wild rivers and great forests all across the country. I spent so much of my childhood exploring this wilderness with my friends and I loved every minute of it, but it is in the cultivated landscape where I feel at home – peaceful and quiet – and not too far away from people, a warm bed, and a well-stocked pantry.
I must say that I have been lucky to find a beautiful home in Montana, but it’s still a work in progress, and wherever I travel, I look for practical ideas that will make the property closer to my ideal. So this is my quest, to build my own “Bag End” in the Spring Hills, and it will based on Norwegian architecture, and it will be on top of the hills. But I would not mind if part of my home was under the hill, all cozy and safe and full of good stuff, like Bilbo Baggins’ home.
Dragon Head on Stave Church
Early Christians felt safer if there were dragon heads on the eaves of the churches to fend of evil. Christ was new to these people who still had deep roots in the ancient Norse beliefs.