AILSA CHANG, HOST:
To Middle Earth - that's where author J. R. R. Tolkien transported readers in "The Hobbit" and "The Lord Of The Rings" to follow the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and this creature?
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS")
ANDY SERKIS: (As Gollum) Must have the Precious.
CHANG: Ugh, Gollum.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The Precious. While most fans were captivated by the characters and the plot, Walter Judd - well, he couldn't stop thinking about the plants.
WALTER JUDD: I started underlining every name of a plant as I was reading "The Lord Of The Rings."
MARTIN: Professor Walter Judd had spent decades studying plants. He's a botanist. And he was moved by Tolkien's passion for them.
W. JUDD: One of the quotes I love that is in one of Tolkien's letters is he says, "I am obviously much in love with plants and, above all, trees - and always have been."
CHANG: Judd decided to create a botanical guide to Middle Earth. It's a book describing 141 plants that populate Tolkien's mythical universe.
MARTIN: The book has illustrations by another Judd, the grown-up son to whom Walter used to read Tolkien years ago. Graham Judd, now an artist, spent four years helping his dad with this literary quest.
GRAHAM JUDD: We started breaking it down into memorable quotes in which plants were listed and how those plants affected the story.
CHANG: They looked for passages like this one from "The Lord Of The Rings." Frodo's been wounded, and the hobbits are seeking cover.
G. JUDD: (Reading) As quickly as they could, they scrambled off the beaten way and up into a deep heather and bilberry brushwood on the slopes above, until they came to a small patch of thick-growing hazels.
CHANG: So even the most ardent fans might be wondering, do we really need to know what bilberry brushwood is?
MARTIN: For Walter Judd, the project is more than a gateway to a fantasy world. It is a reminder to appreciate nature as it really is.
W. JUDD: And I think that's because Tolkien specifically wants us to reconnect with the world around us, the real world - and that he is correct when he says that his writing is not escapism but it has a view of reconnection.
CHANG: Walter Judd - he's written a new book with his son Graham called "Flora Of Middle-Earth: Plants of J. R. R. Tolkien's Legendarium."
(SOUNDBITE OF HOWARD SHORE'S "FOUNDATIONS OF STONE")
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