August 13, 2015

The Real Amon Rudh: Pilot Mountain

Detail from Turin and His Band  are Led to Amon Rudh by Ted Nasmith and the peak of Pilot Mountain, NC

Amon Rudh, one of the most striking geological features in Tolkien's works, is, like nearly everything else in his legendarium, strongly influenced by reality (the "primary world").  Such solitary peaks like this one featured in chapters seven and eight of the tragic tale, The Children of Hurin, are rarely found, but one mountain in particular bears striking resemblance to the Bald Hill, Pilot Mountain...

Located in western North Carolina, the 2,400 foot mountain is easily distinguishable from its flat surroundings, rising alone amongst a sea of piedmont forest.  With its peak atop cliffs that seem to jut out of the rest of the hill, anyone who's read The Children of Hurin or seen illustrations of Amon Rudh can't help but think of Mim the Petty Dwarf and Turin's band of outlaws climbing up its slopes.

While its head may be covered with trees instead of blood-red flowers and the terrain at its base may not be all that rough, its distinct shape and position comes closer to matching Tolkien's description than any other hill I've seen.  Its size, shape, and setting within a small and large geological context is almost perfect.

The two even both lie south-east of mountain ranges!
The similarities become even more interesting up close to its peak.  Along the sometimes narrow, rocky, winding trails are several outcroppings in the stony mountain that could almost pass as the entrance to caves and stony steps could be pictured as large ancient dwarvish carvings.  The entire time I could not stop imagining an old little dwarf leading me on or orcs sneaking up to the crown.  

Here are some quick pictures taken by my sister during our family's most recent visit.  Take a look for yourself! (Click to expand and open gallery.)


I'm am not trying to suggest that Tolkien had this little mountain from North Carolina in mind when conceiving his tragic epic.  I have found no evidence to support that claim whatsoever.  But, I do wonder if Ted Nasmith or Alan Lee discovered the location before painting their own ideas of Amon Rudh.  I also think it could serve as a great shooting location for the Bald Hill in any future film adaptation of Turin's life (or at least as inspiration for the art department).  

If any fellow Tolkien fans are passing through the area I highly recommend taking a stop at this state park to take the short hike around the peak and try to find any remaining vestiges of the Petty-dwarves.  It's an easy place to lose yourself and let your imagination run free...

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