Sunday, October 2

The route that turns the Sierra Norte de Madrid into the world of ‘The Lord of the Rings’

the fever for The Lord of the rings reborn from this September 1 with the arrival on Amazon Prime Video of The Rings of Power, the long-awaited series set in the universe created by JRR Tolkien. Although the truth is, to honor the truth, that the interest and legacy left by Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s films have remained very much alive. In the least expected places, his mark is felt. This is the case of the Sierra Norte de Madrid, where a group of people saw an amazing resemblance to Middle Earth and decided to take advantage of it. The result, as surprising as it is stimulating, is The Way of the Ring.

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In your websitethis initiative is defined as follows: “Un themed tour, a 122-kilometre pilgrimage to be done on foot inspired by the work of JRR Tolkien. The path evokes the great story of the hobbit Frodo and the company of the ring. It allows you to travel to the mythical Middle Earth where dwarves, elves or orcs walked. The Valley of Moria, Bree, Rivendell, the Shire, Hobbiton, the Top of the Winds and many more key locations from the film and the book will make you feel like the protagonist of your inner and outer journey as you discover fascinating nature and you will develop a sense of wonder, of beauty and of caring for it”. There is nothing.

In this way, in a route that can be done on your own or with the accompaniment of the organization team, El Berrueco becomes La Comarca, Buitrago de Lozoya in Bree, La Hiruela in Rivendell or Torrelaguna in Góndor. An engine for the development of these municipalities, in which some businesses have even established a system known as ring and breakfast: visitors call, spend the night and the next morning they continue their journey.

All this thanks to the fact that the natural landscapes of all these areas bear a surprising similarity to those that the members of the Company of the Ring traversed. At least that is what Gonzalo Fernández and Gemma Álvarez defended, Civil Protection agents in the Sierra Norte and the first people to visualize the resemblance.

Gemma, a staunch Tolkenian, took her partner to the movies to see The two Towers (2002). Gonzalo did not know anything about this universe, he had not even seen the first installment of the trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. He did not understand much of the story, but something obsessed him: it seemed recorded in the Sierra Norte of Madrid. When Gemma told him no, the filming took place in New Zealand, he couldn’t believe it. It was the beginning of an idea for which they fought tooth and nail until they almost abandoned it.

Initially, back in 2005, they thought of raising some kind of theme park or recreation area inspired by Middle Earth. They even had the support of several municipalities. But nothing had just materialized due to certain economic and environmental uncertainties. Perhaps it was just a matter of turning the concept around, lowering expectations or rather conditioning them to reality. All that was needed was a project that would shape the adventure.

This is where the person who tells us all these facts comes into play. Proud even if he says it jokingly, he believes that Gonzalo and Gemma were “a bit like Frodo and Sam”, so they needed “their own Gandalf”. And that’s where he appeared. Pablo Martínez de Anguita met them in 2012. This university professor had just returned from a stay in Oxford, where he investigated Tolkien’s work and legacy. He was invited to a conference about it and that’s where he ran into Gonzalo and Gemma. They told him about his initiative, condemned to failure after seven years and from which “they were saying goodbye”, he recalls. He asked them to reconsider and allow him to help them.

And so what seemed like madness began to take shape. “We turned the project into something more discreet and respectful. During the weekends, the three of us, together with some of my students, began to walk the paths. We realized that it was a wonderful boost for rural development”, explains Martínez de Anguita.

“We presented him to the authorities, but they did not pay much attention to him. They thought we were freaks, freaks,” he laments. He doesn’t understand where the problem is in some people hiking as a dwarf or elf (of course the costume is not mandatory): “I’m not turning the Sierra into a bike theme park when I dress up for cycling, so why not? let’s not make a dramatization or a game based on this universe either, it’s not any violence against the territory”.

A religious experience, not dogmatic

They had to spend another five years to finally activate the project. In 2017, our particular Gandalf has “an intuition”: “I realized that The Lord of the rings it’s about getting rid of evil, depicting in the ring. This had to be a pilgrimage, have a spiritual meaning, emphasize the importance of preserving nature and fill us with beauty”. The objective, he says, is “to try to get rid of that inner ring that we all carry and that grips us.”

My goal is not for people to come to my faith through proselytism, but for them to be better people, and if we do it by playing, then the better.

He presented the idea to the Archbishop of Madrid, Carlos Osoro, who thought it was “very nice”. Martínez de Anguita was therefore encouraged to create an organization with which to promote it: the Laudato Si Foundation, of which he is the director. The name refers to the encyclical of Pope Francis praise yes (2015), one of the most severe calls for the preservation of Nature by society made from the Catholic Church. “And the first thing to take care of it is to admire it,” says this professor at the Rey Juan Carlos University, specialized in projects and management of natural resources.

Despite these roots in the Catholic faith, The Way of the Ring is open to anyone regardless of their beliefs (in fact, as we already pointed out, it can be done freely without even having to notify the organizers): “My The objective is not for people to come to my faith through proselytism, but for them to be better people, and if we do it by playing, then better”, Martínez de Anguita points out.

He believes that for this purpose there are few better tools than The Lord of the rings: “His story is that of knowledge through affection. Who does not want in his life a commander like Gandalf, who guides him? A friendship as faithful as that of Frodo and Sam? Bravery like Aragorn’s? Tolkien creates a community of very different people to save an Earth and end evil. Getting rid of that evil that we suffer or that we have inside, even if it is just a pinch, is a path that we must take together. What is always present in Tolkien’s work, what saves Middle-earth, is just that: mercy.

For its manager, there is no single or correct way to live the experience: “There are people who notice the same Christian faith on the Camino that I see in Tolkien, and other people who don’t. Well, blessed be God, I don’t want to give anyone the ember.”

Martínez de Anguita especially values ​​the involvement and work with the parishes, with volunteers and with people at risk of social exclusion: “We have managed to give a more open and participatory character to the original idea, which was very attractive but at the same time very primitive”.

These good intentions culminate in the last stage of the pilgrimage, with a surprise ending that the interviewee asks to keep secret. The circle closes in a way that, while enriching, does not have its dark point. The Rings of Powerwith Juan Antonio Bayona at the helm of its first two chapters, has a hard time overcoming the emotional impact of this slightly more modest project.