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Tolkien's map

Hasuwandil
Lorien

Apr 11 2019, 11:28pm

Post #1 of 13 (4727 views)
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Tolkien's map Can't Post

I've been thinking about cartography recently, and would like input from those who have access to The History of Middle-earth, The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, etc.

When Tolkien wrote, "I wisely started with a map, and made the story fit...", was he referring to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or some other story? I don't suppose he was referring to his first poem about Éarendel. My assumption is that he was referring to LOTR.

When you buy a copy of The Hobbit these days, it comes with a map of Wilderland as well as a map of Erebor. Was the map of Wilderland in the original edition of The Hobbit before Tolkien got started on the sequel?

When did Tolkien make the first maps of Beleriand?

To sum up, how did Tolkien's map of Middle-earth come to be? Did it originate mostly from the writing of LOTR, or was there some other process by which Beleriand, Númenor, Wilderland, the Shire, and Mordor coalesced (although not necessarily synchronously) into a single world?


squire
Half-elven


Apr 12 2019, 12:14am

Post #2 of 13 (4706 views)
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Briefly... [In reply to] Can't Post

...and it's not a brief topic, really. One should separate two worlds and their maps.

First, as Tolkien wrote out his Silmarillion stories he developed a map of Beleriand to express the geography he was writing about. It was based on a grid, and he would change sections, or the labeling of sections, as he needed to, by pasting new pieces over old pieces. Obviously this helped as he wrote out, increasingly, the history of a subcontinental sized area. That rough map was only redrawn for publication in the 1970s, when Christopher Tolkien pulled the Silm together and made it work as a coherent book. He, of course, drew it in the same style as he had drawn the Lord of the Rings map twenty years earlier.

What map is that? Wait - back up. When Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he invented an entirely new geography for a tale that at first had nothing to do with Beleriand. In his imagination, the events of The Hobbit took place many years later. Thus we see in a children's book references to the fall of Gondolin, the recycling of a Silmaril as the Arkenstone, the reappearance of the eagles, goblins/orcs, and a dragon, etc. with more comic personalities, even the Necromancer (Sauron/Thu) as 'survivors' or retreads from the epic he'd been writing for decades.

The Hobbit's map of Wilderland (not called Eriador yet), objectively speaking, is nothing but a plausible presentation of a set of obstacles to a West-to-East journey between Rivendell/Hobbiton and the Lonely Mountain. The Misty Mountains and Mirkwood have great length north-to-south, to show why going around them was not feasible for the dwarves. The Silmarillion's historical geography was far more complex, by contrast, and could not be simplified into a parallel sequence of barriers to a single quest. Thus the existing map of Beleriand (Tolkien's private project) and the new map of Wilderland (Tolkien's published children's story) had nothing to do with each other.

Enter: The Lord of the Rings. As a sequel to The Hobbit, naturally Tolkien started from The Hobbit's map as he developed the nature, direction, and destination of Frodo's quest. Imagine the Enemy's new home territory, Mordor (The Black Land; remember that the Necromancer was driven out of Mirkwood at the end of The Hobbit), where the Fire to destroy the Ring is located. Naturally it is to the East (in both The Hobbit and the Silm, a more dangerous direction, being opposite to the West where the Valar dwell), but wait! Erebor and Laketown are to the East of Hobbiton, as we already know. So Mordor must be to the South as well as the East. And so it proved.

Without recapitulating every twist and turn (covered in History of Middle-earth), that is what happened. Tolkien took his new quest south, looking to cross or end-run the Misty Mountains, because Frodo's destination to the East was not Bilbo's. Everything that followed: Moria, Lorien, the lower reaches of the Great River, Rohan, Gondor, the approaches and walls of Mordor, Harad ("The South"), Rhun ("The East"), etc. all grew from the need to create a new adventure to the south and east of the old one.

Did Tolkien "wisely start with a map and make the story fit"? Yes and no. As we see above, he started with The Hobbit's map. But in HoME we see, several times, points where he reinvented a piece of geography to fit a newly invented piece of story. At those points he drew a new piece of map, following his basic gridded plan, and (wait for it) PASTED IT OVER THE OLD MAP. So sometimes, in fact, he wisely made up a story and made the map fit. It was, in short, a two-way process from start to finish.

Finally, how do the Lord of the Rings (greater Hobbit) map and the long-existing Silmarillion map go together? Well, about half way through writing LotR, which took about 12 years, Tolkien began to see the new stories as taking place in a later "Age" after the events of the Silm - as had been implied since The Hobbit included references to that past history. In the meantime, he'd inserted his Numenor legends into the LotR story as well (Isildur, Dunedain, Aragorn, you get the picture), necessitating both a Second Age and a Third Age. It was all coming together. But what about the map?

Not to worry. Just go west from Hobbiton - where Frodo and Bilbo never go, by the way, but imagine that the Dwarves had done so - and put there, on the edge of the sea, the Blue Mountains. Yes, the same Dwarf-inhabited Blue Mountains that had always defined the eastern edge of Beleriand in the Silmarillion stories!

Done, done, and done. Except for drawing it all up. Christopher took that on, in the early 1950s and continuing into the 70s, and now it looks relatively seamless - almost as if his father had wisely started from a map and made the story fit.



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N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Apr 12 2019, 2:39am

Post #3 of 13 (4688 views)
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More briefly... [In reply to] Can't Post

I believe that Solicitr, who has returned after a long absence from these forums, once posited on a different site with an alternative take to the standard interpretation squire has helpfully offered above: that The Hobbit when published, and possibly the first chapters of The Lord of the Rings when drafted, were set in an alternative version of Beleriand, with the Misty Mountains of those two stories being equivalent to the Blue Mountains of Toklien's earlier Silmarillion material, and that he only shifted the whole story east in the late 1930s. Perhaps he can chime in to clarify how well I remember his earlier thoughts on this subject.


Treachery, treachery I fear; treachery of that miserable creature.

But so it must be. Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend.


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Chen G.
Gondor

Apr 12 2019, 8:10am

Post #4 of 13 (4658 views)
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Oh, it absolutely was [In reply to] Can't Post

I've said it numerous times.

For instance, Dol Guldur is Tol-in-Guarhoth. The Elvenking is Thingol. The Arkenstone is Nimphelos, and even Beorn (a character seemingly unlike any other in these stories) is akin to Huan and even to Beren himself, who is transformed into a wolf during the story.


squire
Half-elven


Apr 12 2019, 10:22am

Post #5 of 13 (4652 views)
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I'm not sure the two ideas go together [In reply to] Can't Post

If, as NEB and solicitr suggest(ed), the hobbit lives in eastern Beleriand so that he and the Dwarves cross the Blue Mountains after departing Elrond's house (the Blue Mountains being renamed the Misty Mountains for romantic reasons, I guess), then they meet the Elven King in Mirkwood, a new creepy forest inhabited by both Elves and Evil Beings, far to the east of Beleriand and well off The Silmarillion's map as it then stood. That works, possibly, for giving The Hobbit a new setting (Long Lake, Lonely Mountain) outside the existing legendarium's bounds. But it precludes the Elven King actually being Thingol, as Doriath his woodland realm is well to the West of the Blue Mountains in Beleriand.

I agree that Thingol inspired the Elven King in The Hobbit - Tolkien re-used the character for reasons of his own. But it doesn't make sense to call on this equivalence of mapping and geography as proof that they are the same character in the same story-context.



squire online:
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Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Chen G.
Gondor

Apr 12 2019, 10:28am

Post #6 of 13 (4644 views)
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The geography is different [In reply to] Can't Post

But than, the geography of Beleriand was in flux for quite a while. Originally, Nan Dungortheb (then Nan Dumgorthin) was alongside the Vales of Anduin.

Its a loose adaptation of Beleriand, but its still recognisable. Taur-nu-Fuin is there. Even Erebor can be equated to Dolmed.


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Apr 12 2019, 10:30am)


Solicitr
Gondor

Apr 12 2019, 2:04pm

Post #7 of 13 (4621 views)
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I don't think [In reply to] Can't Post

that Tolkien was deliberately putting The Hobbit in the Silmarillion universe; that just sort of crept in, as he said in his LR foreword. It was more a case of recycling favorite ideas, so that, so to speak, he wasn't repeating himself but rhyming with himself. Thus the Elvenking, resembles Thingol in that he lives in underground halls in a dense and baffling forest-- but the gates of the halls resemble Nargothrond's, not Menegroth's, and there's no suggestion that Thranduil's rusdtic dwellings have any of Menegroth's splendors (nor does the Elvenking have a powerful divine Queen!). It's even in the "wrong" forest, if Mirkwood is read as Taur-nu-fuin.

I think that there was a very, very early stage in which it's arguable that Hobbiton was somewhere in Hithlum, the Misty Mountains were Ered Wethrin "Mountains of Fog/Mist/Vapory Shadows", and The Great River was Sirion "THE River." And of course, Taur-nu-Fuin where the Necromancer hung out. Anfauglith = The Withered Heath? Possibly.

There may be discernable a secondary stage where the MM were vaguely the Ered Luin (mountain ranges are "blue" because of the mists, like the Blue Ridge), and the "Edge of the Wild" meant leaving 'civilised' Beleriand for terra incognito, hic sunt dracones.

On the other hand, it's equally clear that Tolkien had already conceived of the War of Wrath as having destroyed Beleriand, so he certainly wasn't in the same continuity at all. Moreover, it's only in the third chapter where he makes it clear that Gondolin had been sacked "long ages ago."


Hasuwandil
Lorien

Apr 12 2019, 7:45pm

Post #8 of 13 (4588 views)
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Thank you [In reply to] Can't Post

I had an idea that Beleriand and Wilderland were created separately and only later merged together, rather than that Wilderland was added to the same conceptual map as Beleriand. After this discussion it seems that something could be said for either hypothesis. I do find it interesting that the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit only covers Bilbo's adventures outside of the Shire, whereas LOTR compensates for this deficiency, and uses the Shire to connect Wilderland/Rhovanion with Beleriand (or what remained after its destruction).
A few more questions/observations:
  • I get the impression that Tolkien hadn't fleshed out the Shire, except for Bag End and maybe Hobbiton, before starting on LOTR.
  • Was Sauron conceived of before LOTR? (And I don't mean the Necromancer in The Hobbit.)
  • When was the map of Númenor created? Was it originally part of the same world as Beleriand?
  • What happened to the rest of the world after the destruction of Beleriand, before Tolkien added The Hobbit and LOTR to his legendarium?



Solicitr
Gondor

Apr 12 2019, 8:42pm

Post #9 of 13 (4583 views)
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By 1930, [In reply to] Can't Post

that is, when Tolkien began The Hobbit, most of The Silmarillion as we know it existed in precis- the Sketch of the Mythology (1926) and the Qenta Noldorinwa (1930). Sauron was there, especially as the chief villain of the Beren & Luthien story (composed at great but incomplete length as an epic poem, also ca. 1930). However, at that time there was nothing thereafter: the Valar defeated Morgoth, all the Elves sailed over the sea leaving Middle-earth to Men, and the legendarium was over.

Numenor didn't yet exist; the Second Age arose from Tolkien's aborted time-travel novel The Lost Road, written about 1935-36.

Also in the mid-30s Tolkien embarked on a grander retelling of the First Age legends, Quenta Silmarillion, which had reached (coincidentally) the end of Beren & Luthien when Tolkien set it aside because Unwins asked him for a new book about Hobbits. It was only with the writing of the Lord of the Rings that Tolkien invented the Shire and its geography, or for that matter anything west of Rivendell; and it was only at this time that Tolkien explicitly tied The Hobbit to the Elder Days/Numenor complex of legends.


Solicitr
Gondor

Apr 12 2019, 9:15pm

Post #10 of 13 (4576 views)
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Oh [In reply to] Can't Post

I see I didn't fully answer your question about Numenor. Yes, it was part of the Legendarium from the time Tolkien invented it. Concurrent with The Lost Road he wrote The Downfall of Anadune, precursor to Akallabeth, which lays out the origin of Numenor as the Valar's reward to the Edain for their struggle against Morgoth. Never existed apart from the Elder Days continuity.


Chen G.
Gondor

Apr 12 2019, 10:06pm

Post #11 of 13 (4571 views)
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Nope [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
the gates of the halls resemble Nargothrond's, not Menegroth's, and there's no suggestion that Thranduil's rusdtic dwellings have any of Menegroth's splendors.


Read Tolkien's early descriptions of Menegroth: they're much more similar to Thranduil's halls than you might think. The idea that Menegroth is at all beautiful was a later addition.

Also, the meriment in which the Wood-Elves were taking part in The Hobbit when Thorin and company barged in? Its the anniversary of the Hunting of the Wolf. Tolkien provides a very similar description of it in The Nauglafring, where he also calls Thingol "The Elvenking."


(This post was edited by Chen G. on Apr 12 2019, 10:09pm)


Solicitr
Gondor

Apr 13 2019, 12:57am

Post #12 of 13 (4553 views)
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Tenuous [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

In Reply To
the gates of the halls resemble Nargothrond's, not Menegroth's, and there's no suggestion that Thranduil's rusdtic dwellings have any of Menegroth's splendors.


Read Tolkien's early descriptions of Menegroth: they're much more similar to Thranduil's halls than you might think. The idea that Menegroth is at all beautiful was a later addition.


Early, as in the Lost Tales period, yes. But by the time The Hobbit was written, the Lay of Leithian had glorified Tinwelint's rustic caves into the Cavern of Wonders of the later mythology (See, e.g., HME III 188-89)


In Reply To
Also, the meriment in which the Wood-Elves were taking part in The Hobbit when Thorin and company barged in? Its the anniversary of the Hunting of the Wolf. Tolkien provides a very similar description of it in The Nauglafring, where he also calls Thingol "The Elvenking."


That's rather a bold assertion: it's a celebration, and so parallels are unsurprising, but what ties it to Carcharoth?


Hasuwandil
Lorien

May 13 2019, 6:23pm

Post #13 of 13 (2926 views)
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Confirmation [In reply to] Can't Post

Although this doesn't really add any information to this thread, I did find confirmation on the Tolkien Estate's website that the map of Wilderland was included in the first edition of The Hobbit:


Quote
Finally, you will find the ‘precious’ map (in black and red) of Wilderland, published in the first edition of The Hobbit in 1937, with the hand-written annotations of the author himself!


https://www.tolkienestate.com/en/painting/maps.html

 
 

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