Tolkien Gateway

The Atlas of Middle-earth

Revision as of 08:55, 9 January 2009 by (Talk)
The Atlas of Middle-Earth
The Atlas of Middle-earth.jpg
AuthorKaren Wynn Fonstad
PublisherHoughton Mifflin
Released2001 (revised edition)

The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad is an atlas of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.

It is a reference book for Tolkien's writings such as The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, and includes many detailed maps of the lands described in those books.

The maps are treated as if they are of real landscapes, and are drawn according to the same rules that a real atlas is drawn: for each area the history of the land is taken into account, as well as geography on a larger scale and from there maps are drawn. Discussion includes suggestions as to the geology that could explain various formations, and points that are contradictory between multiple accounts.

City maps and floor plans for important buildings are also included; these are very often useful for making sense of the narratives, especially in The Lord of the Rings. As well, many battles such as those of Beleriand and those in the War of the Ring are illustrated.

The book was published in 1981, but in 1991 a revised and updated version was published, which took information from The History of Middle-earth series into account.

Fonstad also makes a bold attempt to fill the gaps by using early conceptual work, mainly from the Book of Lost Tales and the Ambarkanta, combining the later known maps with the sketches used by Tolkien to provide 'world maps' of the whole Arda and show where Beleriand would have stood relative to Eriador.

It was, however, published before the final three volumes of The History of Middle-earth were published, and thus some maps are based on Tolkien's early works, which were revised in later writings.

Errors and criticism

Despite a thorough and respected reference book, the Atlas has been known for several mistakes.

  • Belegost and Nogrod seem to have switched positions: Silmarillion mentions that Nogrod was the southern one.

The usage of early concepts are also ambiguous. The early name Hanstovánen is seen in Aman as well as the dwellings of the Valar in Valinor, described thoroughly in the Book of Lost Tales. Same happens with Tol Eressëa whose (tentative) maps portray Tavrobel and Kortirion as well as some places in Gondolin.