By Thomas Burmeister
The filming of JRR Tolkien's works has led many to believe that Middle-earth lies in New Zealand, but there are those in Switzerland who like to note that the creator of The Hobbit may well have been inspired by his walks among alpine peaks.
One of them is Bern`d Greisinger, a German national who has put his money behind a museum intended to be a point of pilgrimage for the legions of fans who have become lovers of Bilbo, Frodo and the rest through the films of Peter Jackson.
The Greisinger Middle-earth Collection is set to open in the outskirts of the village of Jenins in the eastern canton of Graubuenden by September next year, according to Greisinger.
The collection, displayed in 14 rooms over 300 square metres on Greisinger's extensive property, contains the art, literature and merchandising articles related to The Hobbit - all assembled by Greisinger, a Hobbit fanatic who made his money as a fund manager.
It will be "the largest international collection of its kind," he said.
"The world created by Tolkien has fascinated me for years with all its creatures and wonderful ideas," Greisinger said.
"Visitors will feel as though they were in Middle-earth."
The fact that the film of Tolkien's children's book The Hobbit is coming to the screen following the successful Lord of the Rings trilogy has lent additional media interest to Greisinger's project.
He has spent two million euro ($NZ3.1m) of his own money to set up the museum.
His passion now lies buried under the earth, for example in the home where the hobbits live, fully equipped with kitchen, shower and three rooms, as in The Lord of the Rings films.
"You can spend the night there," he said.
Greisinger says he is hard at work on getting his museum ready. The exhibition will include Hobbit-sized likenesses from Tolkien's fantasy world, from Frodo via Gollum to Gandalf, as well as dwarves and magician outfits, giant spiders and the evil dragon Smaug.
On show are around 600 paintings by more than 100 artists inspired by Tolkien. There are also more than 3000 books from various countries.