Alden Boon

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, Is JRR Tolkien’s Rivendell


Soaring higher than charming alpine cottages, bakeries, and churches as well as a tapestry of steep-sided cliffs, jagged rock faces, wildflowers and verdant trees whose measure are beyond my reckoning is a waterfall. Staubbach Falls is her name. Staub means dust, the waterfall so christened because its spray, when borne by summer winds, goes hither and thither in all directions, as disturbed dust motes do. Staubbach Falls is just one of the enchanting waterfalls — and probably the first that most tourists would see — in Lauterbrunnen; the latter’s very name meaning seventy-two waterfalls.

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland Tolkien Rivendell
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In 1911, nineteen-year-old John Ronald Reuel Tolkien along with eleven companions began an expedition on foot from Interlaken, traversing mountain paths and then reaching Lauterbrunnen. The quaint beauty of the village, as well as the unsleeping waterfalls, must have had quite an effect on the would-be author. A hundred years ago its beauty must have been pristine, unspoilt, or at least to a much lesser degree, by civilisation. The party of twelve, by Tolkien’s account in a letter to his son, slept in hayloft or cowbyre. Lauterbrunnen was a muse for Tolkien, and he fashioned after it Rivendell, which means “deeply-cloven valley” and is the dwelling of Elf-ruler Elrond.

In Rivendell, there flowed the southern tributary of the river Bruinen, which Elrond commanded to rise when the Ringwraiths in hot pursuit of the Ringbearer dared to cross it, eventually sinking and destroying their horses and raiment. The name Lauterbrunnen inspires the Elvish name of “Bruinen” as well as its English counterpart: Loudwater.

Tolkien’s ensuing journey covered most of the Jungfrau region, taking him first eastwards to Grindelwald, and he gazed upon the majestic Eiger and Mönch. When camping near Mürren, the Silberhorn appeared to him, and later he endeared himself to it, calling it “the Silvertine (Celebdil)” of his dreams. The Dwarves call this mountain-summit Zirakzigil, and here it was that Gandalf the Grey squared off with the Balrog of Moria, eventually overthrowing his enemy but also perishing in his valiant efforts.

Banner photo credit: Stephen Leonardi


Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.