The climate of Middle Earth


#1

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#2

Do those climate models include Magic as one of the variables? After all, any decent wizard or witch can make minor changes to the weather. Whether its lightning storms to destroy an enemy army or clear skies to help the harvest, those have an effect on climate, don’t they?


#3

Is Middle Earth even round? If not, has any thought been given to modeling climate and weather on an infinite plane?


#4

The movies certainly made it look like agriculture might be an issue even with predictable weather. Every large population outside of the Shire seemed to have little or no visible food source.

Dwarves: Live underground, completely dependent on imported foodstuffs.

Orcs: Live underground or in the shadows. Not much opportunity to grow anything, not affluent or sociable enough to trade.

Elves: Vegans who have a spiritual connection with plants. Bad combination.

Humans: All large areas of viable land surrounding human settlements left undeveloped to make room for epic battle sequences.


#5

By the time of the The Lord of the Rings, yes. Whether it always was is kind of complicated.


#6

Ya never know. Fungus, to start with. There may be some underground ecosystem drawing upon nutrients coming from outside – cave fish are mentioned, and as you note the orcs have to be living on something.

Re vegans with a spiritual connection with plants: That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t eat 'em. Consider the classic sacred cows; they aren’t slaughtered for meat but they are milked. Fruiting bodies exist to distribute seeds; edible fruits do so by getting critters to eat them and, uhm, deposit the seeds elsewhere. Treating something with respect may require respecting its lifecycle, but not necesessarily every individual life or every single branch or corm. (I’m also not sure where your assertion of “spiritual connection with plants” comes from; neither book nor movie seems to particularly support that, other than the observation that elves are generally better at living with half-tamed nature whereas humans and hobbits lean toward fully domesticating it.)

((Yeah, I know, you weren’t entirely serious. I’m serious, but not solemn.))


#7

Dude, that’s a pretty sexist thing to say about Ents.


#8

Yep, it’s supposed to be our Earth.


#9

Mordor’s food was supplied by slave-worked farms surrounding the sad waters of Lake Nurn.

(Almost an exact quote.)

I always figured that dwarves had little plots of land and pastures up in the hills.

Elves: Old fields, like Native Americans. Little plots of land in forest clearings.

Gondor DID have extensive farmland, around the capital but especially down south.

Tolkein never went into how they dealt with pigsplosions.


#10

SPOILER!


#11

Thanks. Given how much work Tolkein put into creating his world, I suspect he did in fact have this worked out.


#12

Used to be flat, though. But was a sphere at the time of the books.


#13

Vegans can eat seeds, nuts, flowers or fruits without harming a plant.


#14

Yes, it was created flat, but when Numenor (Aragirn’s ancestors) tried to invade the city of the gods, they made it round.


#15

Elves: Vegans who have a spiritual connection with plants. Bad combination.

In the hobbit the wood elves would eat meat. They went hunting for deer in Mirkwood. But interesting to suggest that worlds need to conform to some sort of Anthropic principle. After all where did the oxygen come from on Dune if the world was entirely dessert?

I don’t personally think that the shire was like Lincolnshire. It’s cold, flat and windy in winter. I imagine that the Shire would be more like central southern England where he lived. Inland with no trace of the sea in the air which you definitely get in coastal counties like Lincolnshire. Warm in the summer but not boiling and cold but not freezing in winter but with occasional bad winters (like 1948). Sheltered valleys and blue hills in the distance.
Tolkein hints of distant lands in Middle Earth but the overiding impression is of a temperate landscape with edges verging on polar bleakness - the northern wastes similar to the Scottish flowlands with Ithilian and southern Gondor and Lebennin similar to the maritime Alps downwards to the Mediterrenean. The misty mountains perhaps was reminiscent of his holiday in Switzerland. The east basically undescribed but beyond the desolations drifted into a far featureless steppe. Presumably with a continental climate of extremes. With stable high pressure systems in winter and low pressure in summer. Thismight welll have produced monsoon conditions for those in the very far south and east.
Mordor was dry and parched because of the surrounding mountains and the porous nature of the volcanic rock so there would be low humidity the volcanic gasses would trap the heat and it probably would be like LA or else some SE asian cities with high polution but not necessarily the temperature that you would experience there. The volcanic region of NI New Zealand which in fact Jackson used for Mordor was probably not far wrong (it probably has more rainfall than Mordor). The shire though looked terrible in the same way that hotels in Vegas make their mock ups of Venice and the Pyramids seem like mockery. Quite simply there were not enough trees around Hobbiton and it lacked that gentle fecundity that is so reminiscent of the english landscape.


#16

Physics aside, has anybody addressed the mathematical issues that raises?

Pretty sure it was desert; it’s the Big Rock Candy Mountain that’s made of dessert. But yea, the ecology of Dune made no sense at all - despite fans’ insistence it’s “the first ecological novel.” Herbert at least explains the oxygen, by having the worms exhale it. But his “amazingly complex ecosystem” has only one species in it. I have to assume mommy eats her babies for three meals a day, because it’s a food chain with a top and no bottom.


#17

There are certainly valid challenges to Arrakas, But it’s not as trivial as you’re asserting.

Remember, desert does NOT mean lifeless. There are critters living happily in our deserts too. Mostly small ones – insects, a few fast-breeding-and-estivating amphibians, reptiles, a few small rodents. There also plants living in the deserts – again, mostly small and/or spiky. And some of those ARE mentioned in the books. Muad-dib himself, for example.

And there’s an explicit statement in one of the books that this is a relatively recent ecological disaster caused by the introduction of the worms from elsewhere. So, no, it doesn’t actually have to be long-term sustainable in its current form. (Which could mean that the oxygen is partly inherited from pre-worm times too…)

Some of these details can be found in the Wikipedia article on Arrakis, by the way. There’s a short list there, but it may not be a complete list; it just reflects what the point-of-view characters have seen and remarked upon.


#18

True, but only the sandworms are not from Earth. He never bothered to flesh out where they came from - which is too bad, because it could have opened up some cool plot directions.

So here’s this apex predator, together with absolutely nothing from its homeworld, living on rocks and kangaroo mice and its own babies. What a sophisticated ecosystem. I do love the books, but the ecology makes as much sense as Oz.


#19

The man’s name was J. R. R. Tolkien and he was born in South Africa but grew up mainly in Worcestershire. All the mountaineering stuff was inspired by a holiday in Switzerland in 1911. Which suggests the dwarves shop at Migros’.


#20

Yes, that’s what it says in the Silmarillion. The only complication is that the stories of the Silmarillion exist as stories in the universe of LotR, too. That isn’t a problem if you assume that they are completely literally true within that reality. However later in life Tolkien explored the idea that at least parts of the (then unpublished) stories of the Silmarillion are non-literal myths in the world of Frodo and Sam and that their “real world” was much closer to our own (round all along, older, in a more realistic solar system…) Of course this “Catholic Silmarillion” creates its own complications, especially because large parts of the Silmarillion seem to be accepted as true by characters in LotR who should know.