Which Tolkien fan doesn’t know the map designed by his son and included in almost every Lord of the Rings trilogy?
That’s so iconic, isn’t it? It’s just a piece of fantasy map, but I’m sure you have gazed upon it for hours and hours while reading all the events involving the War of the Ring and the quest for its destruction.
Well, instead of this traditional approach of mapping and following our Lord of the Rings characters through Middle-Earth, xkcd site brilliantly came up with this:
It charts the itinerary of the story’s main characters, individually and in group, showing when they meet, separate and rejoin each other. The progression is from left to right, not only in tune with the traditional (Western) reading direction but also mirroring the trajectory in the story itself, which starts in the Shire on Middle-Earth’s western edge and leads to Mordor in the east.
The geographic parallel only partly holds up: at the very end of the story, after they have returned to the Shire, some members of the Fellowship board ships to the west, but their trajectories trail off the map on its top right (i.e. northeastern) corner.
The map is however an excellent tool to identify the different strands of the story as it progresses. The main thread, in yellow, follows the Ring itself: first with Bilbo as Ringbearer and then Frodo, who carries it to Mordor to be destroyed. The trajectories are also colour-coded to identify the different races: green for Hobbits, grey for Wizards, light-brown for Men, dark-brown for Dwarves, light-blue for Elves, dark-blue for Ents. Sauron, the Evil One, is a dark red. Black is for the Orcs, Uruk-Hai and his other minions.
Battles, events and important episodes are indicated by a light grey background; the attack at Weathertop, the Council of Elrond, the Breaking of the Fellowship, the Battle at Helm’s Deep, etc.
Pretty cool and original way to draw a map! (I love maps) I wonder how a flow chart of A Game of Thrones would look like following the idea proposed here by this one.
Next time you reread Lord of the Rings, give a shot and consider grabbing this very different map to follow the story inch by inch while comparing the changes between the movies and the book.
THAT’s what I call a Lord of the Rings Marathon!