It has been noted in other questions and answers on this site that Tolkien's conception of Middle-Earth has an imaginative relation to Earth history. Some salient sections of Tolkien quotes from answers to this question are worth repeating here for background:

Then a final one from an answer on this question:

"May I say that all this is ‘mythical’, and not any kind of new religion or vision. As far as I know it is merely an imaginative invention, to express, in the only way I can, some of my (dim) apprehensions of the world."

So the question is does Tolkien ever express in his own words that he himself is still living in "Middle-earth"—in an imaginative sense, I would suspect, but one in which Tolkien's time (A.D. 1892-1973) and place (Britain/Europe) he refers to as Middle-earth, rather than Earth or Europe, etc.?

Another way to state this is if Tolkien conceives the identity of what he calls "Middle-earth" as passed away, and what remains during his time is no longer Middle-earth, but simply Earth—or does he view "Middle-earth" as still continuing in his day.

Some might ask why this matters. It matters in determining the "voice" Tolkien might use in his narration of events, specifically in a fundamental difference between what is plausible for how Tolkien would voice a narrative aside in his writing, which is the basis for this question (and a difference in view on his voice as this answer to that question gives). So an answer here could resolve the validity of that answer to my question.

Clarifying How this is a Distinct Question

This question has been closed as a duplicate to one that it had linked to as background. But that other question is a very distinct question from this one.

That question is asking about whether Tolkien conceived of Middle-earth being a part of "our Universe." It was a question about where Tolkien imagined the stories of Middle-earth taking place. Fundamentally, it was a question about how he conceived his world of Middle-earth.

This question is asking how Tolkien conceived of himself in relation to his world. That is, did he perceive Middle-earth to be continuing as Middle-earth during his own time period, such that he was himself still living in Middle-earth.

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    @WadCheber: No, not a duplicate at all. I in fact link to that question in my question. The point is not whether Middle-earth is in our universe, that is established. The question here is whether Tolkien conceived of Middle-earth still continuing/existing within his own time and space in which he lived. That is a distinctly different question.
    – ScottS
    Nov 16, 2016 at 1:52
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    @WadCheber: As best I can tell, your final quote in your answer in that other question supports best your lead statement to that answer (emphasis added): "Middle-earth became Europe, the Shire became Great Britain and Ireland." That, for me, would imply from Tolkien's view that he conceives Middle-earth as past (gone), replaced by what now is (and so be a basis for an answer in the negative to this question here; but it is still a different question). But if there is any evidence to the contrary, I would like to see it. Essentially, anything like "I/we live now in Middle-earth" or similar.
    – ScottS
    Nov 16, 2016 at 2:07
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    @WadCheber: "But the answer to that question also answers this one as best anyone can" may be true, but "which is what 'duplicate' means here" is not. Many questions can have the same answer, but not be duplicate questions (e.g., Yes/No questions). A duplicate is whether "this question has been asked before," not whether a similar answer applies to a different question. Regarding the other point, Midgard/Middle-earth, even as a planet, had the qualification by Tolkien "as imagined surrounded by the Ocean." So are you saying "YES!" Tolkien in his own space/time imagined the planet still so?
    – ScottS
    Nov 16, 2016 at 2:39
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    However, closing based off answers is (1) not at all clearly a consensus on the meta questions you link to, (2) counter the Stack Exchange general policy, (3) counter to the statement of the close reason (based on question, not answer), and (4) counter to logic (again, many questions could have a "yes" answer, but they are not all the same question; ergo not all such questions can be closed as duplicate simply because they have the same potential answer).
    – ScottS
    Nov 16, 2016 at 3:00

1 Answer 1


Evidence appears to indicate "No."

While Tolkien acknowledges that he conceives Middle-earth to have existed within the universe of our current Earth, even being the same planet, there are distinctions he makes between the "then" (as imagined) and the "now" (of his time on Earth).

For example, the transcription of an interview with Tolkien found here (and quoted above in the OP) specifically notes that Middle-earth is (emphasis added):

an old fashioned word for this world we live in, as imagined surrounded by the Ocean

That last part specifically is clarified not merely as a "different era," but:

a different stage of imagination

That is, a defining factor of Middle-earth is the imagining of this planet as surrounded by water. In this quote he uses "Ocean," but in the other quotes given in the OP above, "set amidst the encircling Seas" and "between the seas."

A further quote relates to how what was Middle-earth has changed to become what is now Earth in Tolkien's imagined conception:

In (5) we meet the conception of the dragging of Tol Eressëa back eastwards across the Ocean to the geographical position of England—it becomes England (see I.26); that the part which was torn off by Ossë, the Isle of Íverin, is Ireland is explicitly stated in the Qenya dictionary. The promontory of Rôs is perhaps Brittany (The Book of Lost Tales: Part II)

That there is an imaginative time continuum linking then and his now is clear, but as the first interview quotes above noted, an "era" difference is not enough of a distinction in Tolkien's mind, it is the imagination of Middle-earth being surrounded by water that is the distinction.

So he would not conceive himself as living "in" Middle-earth during his lifetime.

  • +1 Well argued. I agree. And I suppose the answer to your question which sparked this question is: "Tolkien made a mistake when he talked about the Mûmak not walking Middle-earth now", because "now" Middle-earth no longer exists :) A tiny, excusable mistake.
    – Andres F.
    Aug 24, 2018 at 18:00

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