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Real eye opener - Visiting the Greisinger Museum

11.01.2013 by Cirdan; Source: www.Herr-der-Ringe-Film.de

He is one of the most important collectors of ´Tolkien´s World´ and has come to realise the dream of many Tolkien fans: a real hobbit-hole in your backyard. Of course we had to take a look, so we visited Bernd Greisinger and his impressive Middle Earth collection in the Swiss village of Jenins.

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Bernd Greisinger´s land is situated on the slopes of the 2376-meter-high Vilan far above the Rhine Valley. The view is breathtaking. Entering through the garden, we reached the impressive hobbit-hole (inspired by the drawings of John Howe) built with high quality materials on the slope below the house. Entering through the solid oak door with iron fittings and sophisticated locking mechanism, we found ourselves in the famous hall. If we were not careful, we would have knocked our heads on the chandelier, because Bag End, naturally, is hobbit-sized!

It was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

- J.R.R. Tolkien

Everything looks extremely authentic - ignoring a few small modern details such as sockets, underfloor heating and a ventilation system. It gets really cosy in the living room with a typical fireplace, old-fashioned windows and rustic wooden chairs (which came from China). One feels at home immediately and hobbits could wish for nothing more than to enjoy cosy evenings reading good books by the fireplace.

In the third room of the hobbit-hole we viewed many paintings packed carefully in bubble wrap which are an important part of the Greisinger Middle Earth Collection (GMEC). Bernd Greisinger has over 600 original paintings by over 100 artists (including Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith, Roger Garland, the Hildebrandt brothers and many others), the largest and most important collection of paintings of Middle-earth to be found anywhere. He is particularly proud of the many paintings which have served to illustrate book covers.

Many of the paintings are to be displayed later this year in the halls of the Middle Earth Museum which Bernd Greisinger is currently building underground on his property in the middle of the Alps. He has long held a strong interest in fantasy themes. As far back as the 90s, Bernd played Table Top Games - especially ‘Midgard’, and until 2006 he was regularly participating at LARP conventions (a total of 60 conventions). Currently, the building of the Greisinger Museum fills most of his daily schedule.

Next we entered the sanctuary: the library. Since 2005 Bernd Greisinger has, in a short time, built up a remarkable collection of about 3.000 pieces, including all impressions of the English first edition of "The Lord of the Rings" and a copy of every English impression of "The Hobbit" from 1937 to 1999. The highlight though of the book collection is the books signed by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, including a first edition of "The Hobbit" from 1937 for which Bernd Greisinger paid a six figure amount (in Swiss Francs). In addition there is a signed first edition of "The Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien dedicated in Quenya to his girlfriend Mary Elaine Griffiths (1909 -1996): "Elainen Tárin Periondion ar meldenya anyáran." ("For Elaine the Queen of Hobbits my very old friend."). As Tolkien fans know, it is partly due to Elaine Griffiths that "The Hobbit" was released as a book.

In contrast, the other collectibles seem almost trivial, an American first edition (1955) of "The Lord of The Rings" that Tolkien signed for Deirdre Levinson and an Italian translation of the LOTR (1971) which he dedicated to his friend Professor Talbot D' Alessandro. Not to mention all the other Tolkien-autographed books in the collection, the likes of "Farmer Giles of Ham", "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil", "Smith of Wootton Major" and others. Each of these books alone would probably be THE highlight in any other collection.

Without doubt Bernd Greisinger owns not only one of the most important but also one of the most valuable Tolkien collections in existence. Not the most expensive, but perhaps the most beautiful piece in his collection is an extremely rare copy of the ‘Red Book of Westmarch’, handwritten and bound in red leather (consisting of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings") by the Hungarian Istvan Hari. Assisting in building up the library and a very valuable adviser for Bernd Greisinger, is the Belgian Pieter Collier (Tolkien Library), who for many years has studied the literary heritage of the professor.

The next step lead us into the exhibition rooms which are currently under construction. In future – occupying a space of about 300 square meters - we will be able to enjoy viewing books, paintings and collectibles in a unique environment. The aim is that the rooms will symbolise different locations from Middle-earth and with certain ambiances they will transport visitors into the world of Tolkien. Together with Creative Director ´Ivan Cavini´ and Art Director ´Davide Martini´, as well as the support of his father Wolfgang, Bernd Greisinger is building ‘experience rooms’ with oversized creatures in atmospheric exhibition spaces.

For example, in the Moria Room a life-size Balrog awaits visitors, the transition from the Rohan Room to the Gondor Room is guarded by the Argonath, and in the Fangorn Room a seven meter tall Treebeard stands bent under a blanket. In the museum's cinema we see a huge sculpture of Smaug flying under a sky full of stars. Could there be a better and more exclusive place for sharing a´The Lord of the Rings´movie night (excepting perhaps inside Peter Jackson's private cinema)?

The question remaining is how Bernd Greisinger can support this museum financially. Being a native of Mainz he does not speak much about money. Therefore, we restrict ourselves to mentioning the fact that he recently retired after a career as a rather successful fund manager at the beginning of the new millennium. Now he's a privateer and is dedicated entirely to his passion for Tolkien's works. His dream of a Middle Earth Museum is slowly taking shape.

Not only a pile of hundreds of Weta collectibles in the garage still waiting to be utilised. Many parts of the museum are currently in progress, so there’s still plenty to be done. The work is to be completed no later than September 2013 and then the museum will then be open to visitors. Bernd Greisinger himself is willing to guide groups through the rooms. He will by then have the time to do this and if someone seeks the very best information, he will. And if one day he starts to become boring, hey, no problem, he has an idea for a new project: A Silmarillion Museum.

Official information about the GMEC and the Greisinger Museum you can get from www.gmec.ch .


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