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Geo-referencing Middle Earth


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When J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was published, it not only set the standard for fantasy novels but also established how maps of fantasy lands were to appear. It seems that any fantasy novel that is published must come with a map - something that can hardly be said for any other type of novel. These maps tend to appear much the same, employing drawings of trees and mountains to indicate forested areas and areas of rough terrain. While details on key geographic features are usually abundant, spatial positioning and scale details are not.

This is also the case with Tolkien’s map. A few cartographically-minded Tolkien afficionados have taken it upon themselves to tie the map of Middle Earth to real world coordinates. Obviously, a number of assumptions have to made to be able to do this. Lalaith attempts a somewhat scientific discussion of the issues faced when trying to geo-reference Tolkien’s world but his/her uses of abbreviations without explanations tends to detract from his/her discourse. Inspite of this, an interesting overlay of the maps of Europe and Middle Earth is provided.

Alberto Monteiro provides a couple of maps, one based on Lalaith’s suggestions, and one based on Beregond’s suggestions whose web page, sadly, is no longer available.

On a larger scale level, The Atlas of Middle Earth is a fairly comprehensive effort at providing greater mapping detail than is available at the back of most of the paperback versions of the novel. The maps included in the book include the route of the travels of the main characters in the novel as well as contour elevations. It also includes an extensive gazetteer.


2 Responses to “Geo-referencing Middle Earth”

  1. Anonymous monks 

    At the Middle Earth DEM Project, we did look at the above schemes. Lalaith's pages are especially insightful on a lot of Tolkien related subjects.
    We finally decided to opt for Florence and Sarehole as our georeferences vis a vis Minas Tirith and Hobbiton. Tolkien explicitly stated that he did not consider north Oxford (the place most often cited as the inspiration for Hobbiton and The Shire ) to be anything like Hobbiton.

    monks

  2. Anonymous zyaepf kgypbx 

    lrgutz tbmzasu bcsrwfm ukiyvote gxclp pekmnz rzhmutsb

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