Basing Your High-Fantasy Towns and Cities in the Real World

Nicholas C. Rossis

map of Beleriand | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

I wisely started the map and made the story fit.

The above words, spoken by none other than J.R.R Tolkien, have been taken as sage advice by many an accomplished – or budding – fantasy writer who felt inspired to create their own world. While Tolkien, like many others, has been lauded for his incredible imagination in bringing places like Middle-Earth to life, it’s worth noting that the creation of these worlds is not something done from scratch. At least, not exactly.

What I mean by this is that there is a – let’s call it a tethering – of the fantasy world to the real world. For instance, if you have a look at some of Tolkien’s hand-annotated maps of Middle-Earth, you will see he has made reference to things like The Shire being on the same latitude as Oxford. You can see the logic of doing this, as…

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