In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, British author J.R.R. Tolkien created a fantasy world called Middle-Earth for his dragons, elves, dwarves, and wizards to inhabit, but he only ever rendered it in text.

Now, a team of Danish programmers is taking Tolkien’s descriptions of Middle-Earth and rendering it on computers, on a truly planetary scale.

The scale model is called the Middle-Earth Project, and it is so epic in scope that you can see the Eye of Sauron from space, yet so finely detailed that you could zoom from space right into Bilbo's Hobbit hole.

It's all accomplished with Outerra, a middleware graphics engine that specializes in letting programmers model terrain, flora, and water using relatively sparse data sets through the use of fractals.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote thousands upon thousands of pages of fiction, lore and notes that takes place on Middle-Earth, but on the scale of planetary models, that's not a lot of data.

For Outerra, though, this corpus is enough to extrapolate a pretty detailed model of what Middle-Earth would look like from space.

It's all a work in progress for right now, and there are a few things the Middle-Earth Project gets wrong.

For example, Mordor in Tolkien’s universe is a barren, nearly uninhabitable land filled with lava and ash, but Outerra is only rendering it as a desert for now.

Over time, the developers hope to create such an accurate model of Middle-Earth that you could tour the mines of Moria if you wanted to.

If you'd like to explore Middle-Earth for yourself, you can download the simulation here.

The Eye of Sauron from space?

The Eye of Sauron from space?

The plains of the Rhohirim?

Mordor, rendered as a desert.

Hopefully the next version will make this the lava-and-ash choked hellhole Tolkien meant for it to be.

Co.Design

What Middle-Earth Would Look Like From Space

Think Peter Jackson did a detailed job of recreating Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings? You ain't seen nothing yet.

In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, British author J.R.R. Tolkien created a fantasy world called Middle-Earth for his dragons, elves, dwarves, and wizards to inhabit, but he only ever rendered it in text. Now, a team of Danish programmers is taking Tolkien’s descriptions of Middle-Earth and rendering it on computers, on a truly planetary scale.

The scale model is called the Middle-Earth Project, and it is so epic in scope that you can see the Eye of Sauron from space, yet so finely detailed that you could zoom from space right into Bilbo's Hobbit hole. It's all accomplished with Outerra, a middleware graphics engine that specializes in letting programmers model terrain, flora, and water using relatively sparse data sets through the use of fractals.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote thousands upon thousands of pages of fiction, lore and notes that takes place on Middle-Earth, but on the scale of planetary models, that's not a lot of data. For Outerra, though, this corpus is enough to extrapolate a pretty detailed model of what Middle-Earth would look like from space.

It's all a work in progress for right now, and there are a few things the Middle-Earth Project gets wrong. For example, Mordor in Tolkien’s universe is a barren, nearly uninhabitable land filled with lava and ash, but Outerra is only rendering it as a desert for now. Over time, the developers hope to create such an accurate model of Middle-Earth that you could tour the mines of Moria if you wanted to. Just don't delve too deep.

If you'd like to explore Middle-Earth for yourself, you can download the simulation here.

Add New Comment

5 Comments

  • Antonin Ganner

    'Programmers' lol, yeah we all found Terragen great entertainment when we were 12 years old =)

  • "...but he only ever rendered it in text. "

    Not true. Tolkien did the illustrations and maps for the first editions of the books as well.

  • Clearly the writer of this article knows nothing about Tolkien beyond the movies. Indeed, anyone who's touched a fantasy book knows maps are mainstays of the genre. It is almost impossible to describe geography effectively with text alone.