Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Christmas Again! The Atlas of Middle-Earth Arrives!

I feel sorry for all the people out there for whom Christmas ended 14 days ago. I just received a Christmas present in the mail this morning. My son, who knew what I really wanted for Christmas, got me a gift certificate, which I promptly turned into The Atlas of Middle-Earth (rev. ed.) by Karen Wynn Fonstad (Houghton Miflin, 1991). It is just beautiful: "An updated and authentic guide to the geography of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion." The price is only $21.23, but it would be bargain at twice the price.

I can only marvel at the richness, detail and lovingly drawn world that arose from the mind of Tolkien; the idea that one can put together an atlas that makes sense of a fictional world described in hundreds of pages of what Tolkien called: "made up history." It is astonishing.

You know, people who dig up our civilization two thousand years from now will never believe that one man conceived and wrote what Tolkien did all by himself. They will posit Tolkien circles, a gradual evolution of ideas, names and manuscripts over hundreds of years. There will likely be source criticism "proving" the differences between author A and B and C and so on. This should be a lesson to us not to underestimate the creative ability of the human imagination.

The Atlas contains physical maps drawn to scale with landforms, minerals and climate noted, political maps, battles, migrations, traveler's paths, and site maps (eg. of houses or towns). Distances are marked and accompanying charts give the approximate distances cover day by day on various journeys.

There is a lot of text that goes with the many maps explaining the events that occurred there and the significance of the places. I have yet to read the whole think; I've just skimmed through so far, but I think the part that will be of most value to me is the section on the first and second ages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoy, Craig. I just read "Pillars of the Earth" in preparation for the upcoming mini series.