This Lord of the Rings Middle-earth map can help you navigate The Rings of Power
Tolkien adored maps, and you should as well.
J.R.R. Tolkien loved maps so much that he attributed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings’ entire world-building success to them. And it’s no surprise that Tolkien’s skill in depicting Middle-earth in map form is honored in the new Amazon series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, both as a stunning technique and as a key narrative aspect involving a very enigmatic symbol.
“I sensibly started [The Lord of the Rings] with a map, and made the tale fit (usually with painstaking care for distances,” Tolkien said in a 1954 letter to his friend and fellow novelist Naomi Mitchison. Reverse-engineering a fantasy world, in his opinion, “falls one in confusions and impossibilities,” and documenting every square inch of Middle-earth was important to wrapping his mind around the story’s complexities. In the same sentence, he apologized to Mitchison for shipping the books without the illustrations.
“I apologize for the geography,” he wrote. “It must have been a nightmare without a map or maps.”
Tolkien’s work was map-worthy, and the practice of beginning or ending a fantasy book with a map is still followed by genre publishers. However, adaptations of illustrated works are rarely successful. To a point, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is an exception; while the first two episodes move throughout Middle-earth introducing us to new elves, dwarves, humans, harfoots, and others, the action periodically cuts away to the same drawings Tolkien drew from when piecing together Frodo’s narrative. It’s so exciting to see the map on screen that I wanted to see the whole thing. So there you have it.
In the first two episodes of Rings of Power, a few major locales appear, including Forodwaith, where Galadriel is looking for traces of a lingering evil; Rhovanion, home to the hobbit-like harfoots; and the Eregion region, where the dwarven realm of Khazad-dûm is hidden behind a mountain range. The camera swoops across areas of this map in Rings of Power, much like in an Indiana Jones film. But, as Tolkien intended, the complete picture offers viewers a deeper feeling of remoteness. Amazon even made an interactive version of this map so you could do your own swooping.
Fans of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy may be perplexed by how the map of the Second Age corresponds to more famous locales such as The Shire, the Mines of Moria, and Mordor. Fortunately, The LOTR Project has provided us with another map.
The LOTR Project’s maps, based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s drawings (and Christopher Tolkien’s more mathematically skilled graph-paper drafts), link the landform dots between Middle-past earth’s and distant past. As you might guess, an interactive version of the above is a total thrill.
The fun with the map doesn’t stop there. Here’s a nice little Rings of Power spoiler.
[Editor’s note: This section includes spoilers for The Rings of Power episode 3].
Galadriel discovers a sign relating to a lingering evil in Middle-earth in the first episode of the fantasy series. She quickly knows it, etched into the frigid cave stone of Forodwaith. In episode 3, the elf finds herself in Nmenor’s Hall of Law, where she discovers a spy’s account recovered from an enemy dungeon. “He sketched this to mark the site of the tower,” Elendil, her confidante on Nmenor, says. The symbol, it turns out, is a map, which anyone who has studied the previous visuals would recognize.
This location on the map is known to Galadriel as the Southlands. Anyone who compares it to the Lord of the Rings map will identify it as Mordor.
A map is a tale that is formed by vision and communicated to anybody who may use it on their trip. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power understands this better than other fantasy adaptations, including it directly into the graphics. Of course, on television, the resource is limited. So grab these maps and go exploring. Tolkien knew his intelligent friend Naomi would require them, and so would you.