Mapping Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings

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As someone always interested in mapping in general, more specifically in how to convey mutliple realities in a single image, and in the wake of the new film The Hobbit by Peter Jackson, I've been looking at various attempts to map the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, a book I have been re-reading on a regular basis since age 12. 

Of course, this is a complex task, since any book by Tolkien reverberates with the echoes of past and future history, and the cast of characters is vast, inter-related, and of course the epitome of diversity with at least six of seven races present at all times (Elves, Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, Orcs, Ents, and Maia, not to mention Eagles, Ravens, large spiders, Balrogs, and Dragons).

Here's an example of a "narrative chart" (click to see large image) of the Lord of the Rings that maps character juxtaposition in time (not interactions, begging the pardon of the author, xkcd). You can also enjoy (Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Angry Men, and Primer (my personal favorite…).


Then there's The Lord of the Rings project  where you can find a very complete timeline going all the way back to the Time of the Two Trees.  I suppose this is useful when trying to remember timeframes and connections between different peoples, but not very exciting otherwise from a visual standpoint, being essentially a list of dates connected to a map of Middle Earth with interactive lines. They also have a geneology table that includes Eru (God), dragons and spiders (I always thought these were a king of evil maia, and they forgot the Balrogs) and "anomalies" such as Tom Bombadil and Goldberry (whom I suspect are also Maia).  Their blog is well worth a visit.  Here's a visual timeline in that time-honored format the circular time line of the history of the One Ring by Emil Johanssen:


Now for a circular time map by Co.Design published on that wonderful dataviz site Visual.ly, although here we are only following the members of the Fellowship. This representation gives the amount of writing devoted to certain places in Middle Earth in addition to tracing the paths of the members of the fellowship. 


In conclusion, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed!  Where are the maps of themes, languages, the philosophy of Middle-Earth?  The focus would appear to be purely chronological. I'm taking this as a personal challenge to produce something different.  Stay tuned!



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