Hard as it may be for many Lord of the Rings fanboys to fathom, but J. R. R. Tolkien didn't conjure up his laboriously detailed world from whole cloth — it was based on much Germanic, Celtic, Finnish, and Norse mythology. Moreover, the intricately described geography of the world of Arda — wherein LOTR is set and the likes of the Shire, Rohan, and Mordor are located — borrows liberally from the geography of Europe. How much so? Well, UCLA cartographer and geologist Peter Bird has mapped out much of Middle Earth as it would appear on actual Earth.
The Strange Maps blog lays out the explicit parallels between our world and Tolkien's, according to Bird:
- The Shire is in the South-West of England, which further north is also home to the Old Forest (Yorkshire?), the Barrow Downs (north of England), the city of Bree (at or near Newcastle-upon-Tyne), and Amon Sul (Scottish Highlands).
- The Grey Havens are situated in Ireland.
- Eriador corresponds with Brittany.
- Helm's Deep is near the Franco-German-Swiss border tripoint, close to the city of Basel.
- The mountain chain of Ered Nimrais is the Alps.
- Gondor corresponds with the northern Italian plains, extended towards the unsubmerged Adriatic Sea.
- Rohan is in southern Germany, with Edoras at the foot of the Bavarian Alps. Also in Germany, but to the north, near present-day Hamburg, is Isengard. Close by is the forest of Fangorn.
- To the north is Mirkwood, further east are Rhovanion and the wastes of Rhûn, close to the Ural mountains.
- The Sea of Rhûn corresponds to the Black Sea.
- Khand is Turkey.
- Haradwaith is the eastern part of North Africa, Umbar corresponds with the Maghreb, the western part of North Africa.
- The Bay of Belfalas is the western part of the Mediterranean.
And, just in time for Halloween...
- Mordor is situated in Transylvania, with Mount Doom in Romania (probably), Minas Morgul in Hungary (approximately), and Minas Tirith in Austria (sort of).
Makes you wonder whether all that's left of Mount Doom are the famous Romanian "Muddy Volcanoes." Somehow, it would be appropriate.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.