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Where on Earth is Middle Earth?

Landroval

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When I was young (a long time ago) and had read LotR a few times, I wondered if any real location on Earth had inspired JRRT in his creation of the geography of ME. My friend had a map on a wall in his basement that really looked alot like ME (including Mordor) but the map was in some language I could not read and I never found out where it was.

Around the time of the release of the movie I read or heard that JRRT had based ME geography on South Africa where he was born, but after checking out maps of SA, I was not convinced.

Does anyone know where (if anywhere) on Earth is the inspiration for the geography of Middle Earth? I'm sure the answer is obvious to the Wise and my question is foolish (please don't hurt me Harad) but I want to know anyway.
 

Goro Shimura

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Rivendell is located at the same latitude and longitude as Oxford.

ME is supposed to be our own fair planet... but JRRT spent more time studying words than Geography! The stories and places evolved first... so this premise doesn't quite work without some serious suspension of belief. (Our generation is notoriously bad a that, IMHO....)

SO... when you look at the typical map of ME, you are looking at a garbled mythified map of Europe about... oh... maybe 10 or 20 thousand years ago?? Somewhere around there.

The 'good guys' are always in the North and/or the West-- as you would expect from a good Englishman in the Northern Hemisphere and from Westen Civilization. (Valinor represents America! :D Just kidding....)
 
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ReadWryt

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Actually, according to Plato's description of the fall of Atlantis it happened about 9 thousand years ago, so that would pretty well peg when Numenor sank...since that was 3319 S.A. and the battle in which Isildur took the ring from Sauron was in 3441 S.A., marking the end of the Second Age and beginning of the First Age, we can quickly see that by the time Frodo and the boys set out for Bree it was 3018 T.A., so it can be derived that the maps in The Lord of the Rings are set as 6000 years old, give or take a couple hundred...

R.W.
 

Goro Shimura

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6000 years ago would be, to traditional Christian thinking, about the time that Adam and Eve left the Garden.

LotR is set in a time that Tolkien would have thought of as fundamentally mythical.... I suppose in Greek thinking it would be "the golden age."

Thanks for the bit about Plato, rw....


I definitely think that LotR being "Our Past" makes it much more compelling. Is this not what sets it apart from "Fantasy?"

To tie it into another idea... Tolkien found these words (elf and dwarf and dragon and wizard) show up in all of these various languages. The myth he wrote is an explanation not only of where we came from, but also what those words actually signified originally in the distant past. So in a philological sense, Tolkien was discovering, not inventing.

All other fairy tales are twistings of the "true" story that we find in LotR... just as the tale of "Mad Baggins" was a fairy tale based on truth.
 

Dhôn-Buri-Dhôn

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Someone here has said that Tolkien described LotR as set "in a real place, but in a mythical time" (not an exact quote, sorry). That is, it's not intended to describe any particular time at all.

If you think about it, there's no way it could be real. If it actually happened on Earth, it must have been a very, very long time ago (Plato notwithstanding). The map of Middle-Earth is quite unlike modern Europe, and it takes a long time to wear down mountains and change the course of mighty rivers.

But the technology in LotR (magic aside) is quite modern -- more like Medieval Europe than prehistory. There is iron and steel, armor and shields, bows and arrows, and water-driven mills. These things simply did not exist in the Stone Age.

So let's not take LotR too literally in its parallels to legends like Atlantis.
 

Hama

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Tolkien, who has done great translations of olde English works and Norse myths, was clearly inspired by these to write his tales on Middle Earth. Many names are taken directly from Norse mythology. Middle Earth itself is from Midgard, the land inhabited by men in the norse cosmos. Elves, giants, dragons, and dwarves also feature there. JRRT did write that he was writing a mythology for the English people, and the Shire is often believed to be the rural Oxfordshire he grew up in. From certain geographic descriptions, Eriador and Gondor and Rhovanion vaguely correspond to Europe, and Harad and Far Harad are Africa, with their exotic 'oliphaunts'. But I would not look for strict parallels between ME and the world of today. Yes, geologically speaking it would take far too many years to metamorposize into today's geography...
 

Legolam

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I'm sure I've got a book with maps of each ME age in it, and our present time, and it shows how ME metamorphosises into present day Western Europe. Hang on a minute ...

It's in "Tolkien - the illustrated encyclopedia" by David Day which has a section on Geography, people, flora and fauna etc etc. It's really cool!

Far Harad is Africa
Harad is the Middle East
Gondor and Mordor are West and Eastern Europe respectively
The Shire and Rivendell are Britain (approximately)
Lindon is Scandinavia
The Sunlands (where the sun and moon rest) are the Americas
The West Sea is the Atlantic
The Darklands are Antarctica

Hope that helps!
 

Lantarion

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I would have thought that Valinor was the Americas.. And I'm sure you're correct, but I don't see any connection with Lindon (neither pre- nor post- Beleriand) and Scandinavia. Hmm..
The 'good guys' are always in the North and/or the West
The West, yes; but unless I am mistaken both Angband and Angmar, in Beleriand and Eriador respectively, were in the North.
And about your crack on the America=Valinor theory, I think you're at least a bit correct. What Valinor actually was--a sort of paradise on Earth--was the vision of the Americas that was given to Europeans and Asians through massive propaganda, only decades before Tolkien wrote the Sil. Didn't the American ambassadors praise the USA on their trips to China, calling it the land of gold? That is what Valinor was, a land of utter peace and righteousness; but I'm afraid that is not what the US were at that time. So perhaps he did mean Valinor to be a sort of light, inperceptible joke on America! :)
Well, it's a theory.
 

Legolam

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That would be amusing!

However, in my book (and I'm not expressing an opinion here, I'm just saying that this is what the book says), Valinor has already been removed from the confines of Earth to become "heaven" and the Americas are where the sun and moon rest.
 
R

ReadWryt

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So Horace Greely was an Elf? I never knew!! I mean, I allways saw that quote of his, "Go west young man, go west..." and never put two and two together...
 

Hama

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Is this Atlas widely available? I haven't yet come across it. It is not the Atlas of Middle Earth by any chance is it? (I can't remember who did it, but it was very good. I am sure it didn't show any metamorphosis from Middle Earth to the modern world). Are there any other good maps in it? And is that map part of the cartographer's imagination or is it from something Tolkien wrote or drew?
 

Legolam

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My dad gave me it when I first got into Tolkien, about 11 years ago, and it's a lovely hardback copy with a rather faded spine now (like all my books!). Here are the details:

Tolkien - The Illustrated Encyclopedia
By David Day
Publishers - Mitchell Beazley
Published in 1991
ISBN - 0 85533 924 1

It has a short timeline of JRR's life, a potted history of ME, which I never read until I bought the Sil a month ago and it helped me understand what was going on there. It has the Geography of ME (which is where I got all that info from), an A-Z of ME people, natural history of ME and a biography of everyone in Tolkien's works. It also has loads of illustrations, which is really cool.

At the time I got this, I never realised how good this book was! The maps are by a Sally Davies, and there are also ones of Numenor, the First Age Geography and the Undying Lands :cool:

Oh, and I made a mistake about Lindon being Scandinavia. The next page shows it clearly as being sort of West Britain.

Hope all that helps! :D
 

Goro Shimura

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I found evidence that blows up my "North" theory.

The Witchking of Angmar (a long-time baddie) was in the North. (Was Thangorodrim also Northerly? I never looked at the maps when I read Sil!!!)

Tolkien said his ME political Geography points more to ROME than anything else!!!!

Gondor == Vatican... seat of a new Holy Roman Empire!!
(After Aragorn takes the reigns, anyway.)

:eek:

I was quite shocked to read the snippet in Tolkien: Man and Myth where he said that. (I'll post the snip in this thread if there's any interest.)

(Tolkien was definitely a papist and a medievalist... and he seemed to think that society had gone downhill since the Reformation and the Enlightenment.)

I also found another quote that links the Numenoreans to Egyptians. It's written in the Akallabeth that in the search for longevity and immortality, they only succeeded in learning embalming techniques.

Furthermore... there is also evidence that Tolkien intentionally wrote his mythology so as to be compatable with the Genesis account. I did not see this at first... and I'm still trying to figure out what I think about it. If this is the correct reading, I will have to revise some of my opinions. :eek:
 

Ged

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There are two threads of opinion here in the UK about where Tolkien based ME, or at least the Shire region (which most closely resembles the landscape of Britain).

One is near his childhood stamping ground in the Midlands (which Tolkien later admitted had largely been concreted over by the time he was 10), the other is in the north west of England in a place called the Forest of Bowland ("Forest" is a mis-nomer, as it isn't all wooded) where his son went to college and he is known to have written many sections of the earlier parts of the book.

As it happens I live near the Forest of Bowland, and it is an area I love. I did a lot of treking and backpacking there when I was younger, and when I later read the LoTR (when I was 19) I felt it was perfect for the Shire. I was therefore very pleased when I later discovered the connection between JRRT and this area.

There is an interesting article about this subject here:

http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/03/04/1014705028498.html

which has web links so that you can see what the area looks like.

(credit: I found this on www.theonering.net)
 

Ged

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By the way, If you connect to the "Ribble Valley Council" page

http://www.ribblevalley.gov.uk/

and look at the photo, the hill in the background is called Pendle Hill. This is a spooky place, with all sorts of past connections with witchcraft and wizardry. I have camped on its top (summit is too strong - it's only 1827 feet high - though it does dominate the landscape for miles around) and it can be a spooky place.

In my imagination I always associated this hill with Weathertop.
 

Hama

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I hadn't read anywhere that Tolkien had written his mythology to be compatible with the good book, but it does not surprise me. Both Tolkien and his literary and scholarly colleague CS Lewis were profoundly religious, and both were inspired by Christian morality. I also see how Gondor can be Italy and Minas Tirith Rome, and the Bay of Balar the Mediterranean. The Misty Mountains and White Mountains are roughly analogous to the alps. I did read a paper in a literary journal that suggests that tolkien was inspired by the second world war. His tales of the first age may have been inspired by the first world war which he fought in. It was while he was in the trenches that he initially penned a story about Gondolin. The fact that our protagonists have to fight a two front war (Japan/Germany) and that Sauron (Hitler) is a reincarnation of Morgoth (the Kaiser?), solidifies this theory. In the War of Wrath, the deciding factor was overseas allies (the americans?). Considering when the LotR was written is also important. In the '50s, the economy of Europe was being rebuilt (some of the older members could help me out here). I have been thinking about this analogy for over a year, since I read this paper, and I am not quite sure what to make of it. People do tend to find a lot of parallels between a lot of history and the world of Tolkien, do they not?
 

Hama

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Sorry, I didn't mean reincarnation. Sauron was not a reincarnation of Morgoth, but was a shadow of him. That was what I meant to say. I have many more examples of the parallels but I can't recall all of them right now. Will post up any I remember. Has someone else read that same paper by any chance? It was in a compilation of literary criticism.
 

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