A Map of Middle-earth

Dmitrii Godkin aka Arthoron and I have finally finished our map of Middle-earth.  Its current version looks like this (the picture is clickable):

map of Middle-earth in the Third Age

You can also download a PDF version here.  We used Inkscape to draw the map, I can send the source file in SVG format personally, if anybody is interested.  I don’t want to post it here in open access because it contains scans of several other maps by other authors.

A detailed rationale for the map is still available only in Russian, unfortunately, it can be seen in the Russian version of this post.  We presented the map at the Tolkien Seminar organized by the St. Petersburg Tolkien Society on 23 April, then the discussion went on in Arthoron’s blog.  The final version of the map which you can see above is drawn according to the results of those discussions.

Our main goal was to map all the geographical objects outside the West of Middle-earth, i.e. outside the territory shown on the well-known map of Middle-earth published in The Lord of the Rings and in Unfinished Tales.  We also tried to correct some calculations of Karen W. Fonstad because on her maps of Middle-earth as a whole the world looks very small, almost as small as Mars (see her The Atlas of Middle-earth (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991), pp. VIII, XI, 4–5), although we know that J. R. R. Tolkien regarded his own fiction as a kind of mythological past of the Earth.

For our own calculations we used first of all map V  from the Ambarkanta which we superimposed on a map of the world in polyconical projection.  We also used map IV from the Ambarkanta and the map of Middle-earth by Pauline Baynes for additional information.  What was a result is mostly a product of our own imagination, but we did our best to prevent any contradictions between our fantasy and known Tolkien’s works.  That is why the eastern and southern parts of the map look rather schematic.  Several most important moments should be noted:

  1. We had to ‘sink’ the north-western part of Africa/Harad as if it went into the sea at the end of the First Age; otherwise the contours of Harad would contradict to the known maps of the West, especially to the map of Pauline Baynes.
  2. The Sea of Helkar is rather small on our map and is separated from the Sea of Rhûn that corresponds to the later texts, but contradicts to map V from the Ambarkanta.  We decided that map can be seen as a map of Middle-earth in ‘prehistoric’ times.  So on our map we marked the borders of the Sea of ‘Paleo-Helkar’ which correspond to the coastline of the Sea of Helkar on Tolkien’s map V.  Its contours are also quite similar to those of the Paratethys sea about 7–9 million years ago.
  3. We divided the Southland into two parts in order to make our map a bit different both from the real map of the world and from the map in Ambarkanta, as the geography of Middle-earth in the Third Age should have differed both from the First Age and from the today’s geography of the Earth.  In the real geological history of the Earth, Tolkien’s Southland corresponds to the continent that existed approximately 90–40 million years ago and then divided into Australia and Antarctica.  In Tolkien’s world, the Southland could divide in the days of the downfall of Númenor.
  4. Although we have drawn a coordinate grid on our map, our superimposition of the map of Middle-earth on a map of the world is an approximate one, especially as there are no exact maps for the eastern and southern parts of Tolkien’s world.  So our map cannot be used to calculate exact geographic coordinates for any places in Middle-earth.  It was probably Brandon Rhodes who made the most correct superimposition of the map of the West on a map of Europe (see http://rhodesmill.org/brandon/2009/google-earth-and-middle-earth/), but even his method raises doubts.
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