Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

Last week a British meteorologist at the University of Bristol published a weather analysis of Middle Earth. Tres cool.

Here’s a link to the paper:

According to the report, the weather in The Shire was much the same as that of Lincolnshire – which is pretty much what Tolkien was envisaging. It’s also like Belarus, but that may be coincidence. The place in New Zealand where the weather is closest to The Shire is north of Dunedin. Curiously – though the report didn’t mention it – there’s an area there called Middlemarch, which sounds suitably Tolkienish.

Not really Mordor - this is a photo I took of the open cast coal mine on the Stockton Plateau, near Westport in the South Island of New Zealand.
Not really Gorgoroth – this is a photo I took of the open cast coal mine on the Stockton Plateau, near Westport in the South Island of New Zealand.

When it comes to Mordor, the real-world place I immediately think of is the open cast coal mine on the Stockton Plateau, which I visited earlier this year. Tolkien’s explicit imagery was First World War trenches and Birmingham factories. But that isn’t where the British meteorologist found Mordor weather. Oh no. turns out the places most like Mordor, weather-wise, are New South Wales, western Texas and Los Angeles. (That said, Tolkien also made clear that the gloom around Mordor was made by Sauron.)

It was spring when I took this picture of a railway station in Soest, Netherlands.
Ok, so it wasn’t raining when I took this picture in Soest, Netherlands…but it was overcast.

What struck me about the report was how close Tolkien got to what we’d expect from a scientific perspective, if his land was real. There is a reason for this – Tolkien was basing his world on Europe. The Shire was approximately where Britain lies; Gondor and Mordor in North Italy. The weather he described followed, especially the constant rain around Trollshaws in The Hobbit, a place geographically congruent to Soest, Netherlands.

All of which is pretty neat. And it goes to show that there is often a lot more in the creations of fantasy writers than they perhaps imagine when they come up with the concept.

What do you think of Middle Earth weather?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

Coming up: More writing tips, more science, more humour and more Tolkien stuff. Not that I’m a fan. Well, I am really.

11 thoughts on “Guess which real-world place is most like Mordor…

  1. Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    I have always admired how much work Tolkein put into Middle Earth. I think I have read somewhere that, when he died, he still hadn’t finished working on the world. In my opinion, that makes it even more amazing.


    1. He never stopped working on his mythos. Even published stuff was subject to revision. I recently read the chaptets he wrote for the 1960 edition of The Hobbit. These were never published in the book but were intended to bring it more up with The Lord of the Rings. Extraordinary material.


  2. Right now, my briefcase. I need to destroy it. It holds for me far too much work. Still, an interesting post. Thanks!!


  3. Some of the locals are rather chuffed at the mention of Dunedin in that paper. Although I have to say that so far this summer there have been an unusually high number of thunderstorms in the Shire…. At the moment it is absolutely bucketing down!


  4. In saw part 2 of The Hobbit yesterday and kept reflecting on ‘who’ Tolkien was referring to in history with the Orcs and the Elves etc. I’d love to read a book which correlates the story with history.


    1. I gather he was consciously attempting to write a mythology for England that was in the league of the Norse mythos. As I understand it, Middle Earth was firmly our world in the sense that any mythos portrays the past of the place that the stories are about. I have seen attempted chronologies. Needless to say, to my mind Tolkien succeeded enormously. I suspect I am not alone in that view!


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