Where is Middle Earth? Is It a Real Place?

Hobbiton which is located in Middle Earth.
Hobbiton which is located in Middle Earth.

Middle-earth is a mythical setting described by J. R. R Tolkien and imagined as the central continent of the Earth. Most of Tolkien’s widely read works like “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” take place in Middle-earth. The stories by Tolkien about Middle-earth are focused on the north-west of the continent, which is today referred to as Europe. The Shire, which is home to the Hobbit, is located on the same latitude as Oxford, England.

About Tolkien and His Legendarium

John R. R. Tolkien was an English poet, writer, and philologist who became popular for his classic fantasy works such as "The Silmarillion," "The Lord of the Rings," and "The Hobbit." His stories mainly highlight the struggle to control the world (which he refers to as Arda) and the Middle-earth between two forces between the demonic Melkor and his minions and angelic Valar and allies. Later, Malkor is defeated and expelled from the Earth and his place is taken by Sauron. However, in later years Istari (wizards) are sent to fight against Sauron but they become corrupted in the process. The early stages of the conflict between the two forces are recorded in "The Silmarillion" while the final stages are recorded in "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit."

Geography and Description of Middle-Earth

Within the context of Tolkien’s legendarium, Middle-earth was considered part of Arda (World) which includes Eressea and Aman. The Great Sea Belegaer separated Aman from Middle-earth. Aman (western continent) hosted Elves and Valar. Several events in Tolkien’s writings were set in the northwestern portion of Middle-earth while the eastern side was washed by the Eastern Sea. Tolkien drew a number of maps of Middle-earth and its regions where the events of his stories occurred. Some of the maps were published before his death though the oldest maps were published later. The maps are characterized by distinct pictorial styles, portraying forests, highlands, and mountains. A well-defined map of Middle-earth was produced in "The Lord of the Rings," incorporating all the major locations for the story.

Actual Locations of Middle-Earth

From Tolkien’s fictional universe, several cities and landscapes exist and can be visited. One such place is the Shire, the home of the Hobbit. The Shire is known for its rural beauty and green pasture. Unlike other places in the Middle-earth, this region is surrounded by wood and forest and corresponds with England’s Oxford region.

Another important location in Tolkien’s Middle-earth topography is the Misty Mountains where his main characters fended off deadly foes. The mountains also formed a barrier between Wilderland and Eriador. In the eastern Eriador lies Rivendell. Most scholars believe that Tolkien visited Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland in 1911. The valley with its rocky cliffs matches the description of Rivendell while the mountains of Monch, Eiger, and Jungfrau form the peak of the Misty Mountains. Other places include Glendalough (Rohan), Fangorn Forest (Forest of Dean), and Mount Doom (Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park).


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