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General Map of Middle-earth

The map of Middle-earth as appeared in the earliest editions.

General Map of Middle-earth is the original, unnamed[note 1] map of the Westlands that Christopher Tolkien made in late 1953 for the first edition of The Lord of the Rings.[1][2]

The map was drawn in haste by Christopher Tolkien, based on sketches of J.R.R. Tolkien. J.R.R. Tolkien consulted this map during his writing.[3]

While authoring Unfinished Tales, Christopher Tolkien considered including this map, adding the new place-names mentioned in the book. Eventually he opted to redraw it, maintaining the same "style and detail".[3] The new map bears the title "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age".

[edit] Mistakes

Christopher Tolkien admitted that there were both "minor" and "major defects" and oddities, and while his father used the map as the basis of his writing, he often noted its inadequacies. In the long term, Christopher regretted that his father did not proceed to make a better map of his own.[3]

Some of the errors include:

  • The Misty Mountains were misspelled as "Hithaiglin" in the original map, which was corrected to "Hithaeglir" in more recent maps.
  • Of former Arnor only the region of Rhudaur is named, oddly omitting Arthedain and Cardolan.[3]
  • The map suggests that the Icebay of Forochel is the small gulf north of Eriador. C. Tolkien realised that the name rather refers to the immense region of sea surrounded by the Cape of Forochel.[3]
  • Forodwaith is labelled as being a part of the wider Northern Waste, if not a separate region. C. Tolkien later became sure that the two are synonymous.[3]
  • The portion of the East Road between the Weathertop to the Ford of Bruinen was supposed to have two big curves, which were not depicted in the final map, creating a discrepancy with the text of the First Edition. The text was altered in the later editions in order to be more faithful to the map.[4]

With the opportunity of Unfinished Tales, Christopher Tolkien found a chance to correct the "minor defects" of the original map.[3]


  1. The name "General Map of Middle-earth" appears to be coined by Hammond and Scull.


  1. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, "The Maps of The Lord of the Rings", pp. lv-lxvii
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 187, (undated, written April 1956), p. 247
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Introduction", "The Map of Middle-earth"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: XI. From Weathertop to the Ford, Note on the course of the Road between Weathertop and Rivendell"
Maps of Arda made by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit:  Thrór's Map · Map of Wilderland
 TLOTR:  A Part of the Shire · General Map of Middle-earth · Map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor · The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age
Other:  Númenórë‎ · A Map of Middle-earth · There and Back Again · Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North
Early maps:  The earliest map‎ · I Vene Kemen · The First 'Silmarillion' Map · Ambarkanta maps · The Second 'Silmarillion' Map · First Map of The Lord of the Rings