Art and Literature News / Tolkien News

Middle-earth overlapping Earth

“I have, I suppose, constructed an imaginary time, but kept my feet on my own mother-earth for place.” Tolkien, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: 211 To Rhona Beare

Tolkien once mentioned in one of his letters that Middle-earth is supposed to be our world way back in an imaginary time. Since then, many readers have wondered where Middle-earth and our Earth overlap. It is a known fact that England was used as a source of inspiration for the Shire. A question that occupies many is whether it is possible to simply overlap Middle-earth and Europe.

One map that has been composed, where Middle-earth overlaps Europe, was created by Peter Bird a professor of Geophysics and Geology at UCLA.

In his map, the Shire is in the South-West of England, Gondor corresponds with the northern Italian plains, Mordor is situated in Transylvania, and Rohan is in southern Germany.

While it seems that Middle-earth and Europe seem to possess many similarities, Frank Jakobs highlights that  Tolkien himself states in the prologue to The Lord of the Rings that one cannot compare the geography of Middle-earth with any area of our Earth: “Those days, the Third Age of Middle-earth, are now long past, and the shape of all lands has been changed…” Moreover, the very name of Middle-earth has to be taken into consideration. As Jacobs also highlights, the term Middle-earth was not an invention of Tollkien: “Ancient Germanic myths divide the Universe in nine worlds, inhabited by elves, dwarves, giants, etc. The world of men is the one in the middle, called Midgard, Middenheim or Middle-earth. That term doesn’t thus describe the entirety of the world Tolkien thought up. The correct term for the total world is Arda – probably derived from German Erde (‘Earth’) and only first mentioned posthumously in the Silmarillion (1977); and Eä (for the whole Universe).”

Another way how Middle-earth overlaps Earth is in its cartography style. Many artists used Middle-earth as an inspiration to visualize various regions on earth as if cartographers of Middle-earth created them. According to a satirical website, Alberta, Canada would look like this:


This re-imagined version of Alberta is part of a satirical suggestion to re-create the LOTR movie trilogy by using Canadian politicians, personalities, and activists as actors.

Another beloved and well-known reimagined real place on earth has been, of course, New Zealand. In this map, Daniel Reeve, the main calligrapher of both movie trilogies, has drawn New Zealand in the style of Middle-eath. Thus, further blurring the lines between New Zealand and Middle-earth.

Do you have a theory on where Middle-earth could have been situated on our Earth? Or have you created your own re-imagined map inspired by Middle-earth? Leave a comment down below!

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  1. Alice Greenleaf says:

    Yay! I live in Gondor! 😀

  2. Ron Poteet says:

    Yay, I live in The Undying Lands to the West!:D