Three Hills entrepreneur builds B&B fit for Middle-earth
Positive reaction to medieval-themed 'glampsite' motivates Daniel Smith to recreate Hobbit home
It's going to be a somewhat low-lying bed and breakfast built into a hillside, with low ceilings, round windows, round doorways — and a hearth.
If your mind leaps to a certain mythological Middle-earth world made popular by billion-dollar film adaptations of one of the most beloved fantasy trilogies ever written, you will understand the inspiration behind Daniel Smith's Bagg Inn Burrows.
That's the name of a three-room bed and breakfast that Smith and his wife are building near Three Hills.
He hopes to have one open for business by the spring, with all three available to rent by the end of 2018.
Just don't use the "H" word — Hobbit — when you talk about it.
"We can't use the H word because we don't want to get into a legal tangle," said Smith on the Calgary Eyeopener Friday.
Smith, who also opened a medieval "glampsite" on their property in 2017 that combines luxury camping with King Arthur-era cosplay, is quite open about what inspired him to build a shire-sized B&B in some of Three Hills' hills.
"We've been big fans of Tolkien's work for decades," he said. "My wife and I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings many times. Its just been something that's been part of our lives."
Smith has received letters from Warner Brothers and the Tolkien estate asking him not to use certain H words in any of its media or promotional material, although no formal legal action has been taken beyond that.
"They haven't told us to shut down or anything else," Smith said. "[And] they haven't got rights on a round door and window or anything like that, so we're plugging away."
What inspired Smith and his wife to transform their favourite literary mythology into a bed and breakfast for short-ish people who share their passion for fantastical worlds was the success of their Good Knights Medieval Encampment last summer.
"We had a really good year," he said. "Lots of people, lots of families coming out and staying with us in our large medieval tents."
The tents are wheelchair-accessible and have electricity, wooden floors, big beds and private "throne rooms" out back.
Crowdfunding 170% of goal
That led to a crowdfunding campaign launched through ATB Financial. It raised 70 per cent more than their goal of $10,000. They also pre-booked 50 nights stay at the yet-to-be-completed Bagg Inn Burrows.
"It's wonderful," Smith said. "We've been big fans of this and it's been our vision to build one. But when you're just building it for yourself, that's a little weird — it's a lot of money.
"But once we started doing our business with the Medieval Encampment, the light just went on," he added. "It's like [we said] wow, we could have a B&B here that's got that theme — Tolkien-inspired — and once we started talking to people doing market research, everyone just loved it. So we decided to go ahead with it."
As far as those delicate copyright issues, Smith feels confident there's a way to invoke the spirit of Middle-earth in Three Hills without incurring the wrath of lawyers in London and L.A.
"We are doing everything we can to stay away from using the copyright and trademarked terms — owned by them," he said. "But we do intend to proceed with the project as our interpretation of what Tolkien wrote about in his books. We want to be respectful and honour the ideas and vision of Professor Tolkien, and not try to rip them off."
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener