TRAVEL
10/29/2014 08:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Middle-earth Looks Stunningly Like Tolkien's Old Hometown... And HOW Did We Never Notice?!

We already knew New Zealand -- and its Hobbit-inspired airline video -- were an 'LOTR' junkie's paradise. But England? Nobody told us the real Middle-earth was across the pond all along.

As Cracked reports, many venues from "The Lord of the Rings" look strikingly like the area surrounding Birmingham, England, where J.R.R. Tolkien grew up.

A vintage photo of the University of Birmingham, snapped right around the time Tolkien wrote the novels, looks chillingly similar to to the fictional fortress of Isengard does in the film adaptation. Take a look:

birmingham
(Photo Credit: English Heritage)

isen

The first photo shows the University of Birmingham and the surrounding land in 1938, about 27 years after Tolkien left Birmingham to attend college and 16 years before he first published "The Lord of the Rings." And as you'll notice, the university campus looks much -- almost too much -- like Isengard, the fictional fortress in the region of Gondor. It's a wonder students aren't paranoid that Dunlendings will pop out at any moment.

Though much of the films were shot in New Zealand, Cracked reports that other parts of Middle-earth -- the Shire, the forests and Mordor -- were also inspired by spots around Birmingham, making 'LOTR' a lot more like real life than we realized.

Apparently Birmingham has realized its status in the fantasy hall of fame, too. Last spring, the town released a revamped Tolkien Trail guide, which points visitors to Sarehole Mill -- said to have inspired the mill in Hobbiton -- and Tolkien's old home.

On a self-led 'LOTR' tour of Birmingham, you'll also visit Moseley Bog (aka the Old Forest) and walk the same streets as local surgeon Joseph Sampson Gamgee, whose name sounds bizarrely familiar.

Don't forget to sing "They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard" -- a well-known Hobbit hit -- as you go. Happy Hobbit hunting!

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