Lost Map of Middle-Earth Reveals Tolkien's True LOTR Inspiration

Published On 10/26/2015 Published On 10/26/2015
Blackwell's Rare Books 

LOTR fans everywhere can finally sleep easy, because the real life location of Hobbiton has been revealed, and it's not in New Zealand. Even if you weren't losing sleep trying to figure out the inspiration for the mythical cities, Tolkien's annotated map of Middle-earth is still pretty cool. Unless you're a Harry Potter fan, and in that case, "HA!

The newly discovered map turned up in illustrator Pauline Baynes’s copy of The Lord of the Rings, which was recently handed into Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford. The illustrator at one time worked with Tolkien on a map for a 1970 edition of the classic, and Tolkien provided notes to help her make her way through this intensely detailed fictional world. The resulting map is such a big deal that even Gandalf the Grey/White tweeted about it. 

Tolkien's notes appear in green pen, and while they're hard to read, if you squint at the faded ink for long enough, you'll find that Tolkien discloses that Hobbiton, the OG hood of Bilbo, Frodo, and a whole lineage of Baggins, is on the same latitude as Oxford, England. The map also implies that the badass city of Minas Tirith is based on Ravenna, Italy. For those whose LOTR memory needs refreshing, that's one of the cities where men actually live, with all the stairs, where the best battle in the whole movie takes place with Orlando Bloom and the elephant (sorry, Oliphaunt) and everything.

Yeah, that cool place was inspired by this:

Flickr/Carlos Espejo

Commenting on Tolkien's annotations, Sian Wainwright of Blackwell's told The Guardian, "The map shows how completely obsessed he was with the details. Anyone else interfered at their peril." This comes as no surprise to anyone who spent their junior high evenings trying, and failing, to learn Elvish.

The map shown in full below is now on sale for approximately $92,000 (£60,000). For perspective, that's like 1,150 of that Battle Axe of Gimli replica that Santa never managed to deliver. 

Blackwell's Rare Books 

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Kara King is a News Writer at Thrillist and still holds back tears when she thinks of Frodo leaving with the elves. Send news tips to and follow her to Mordor at @karatillie.



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