The Atlas of Middle-earth

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The Atlas of Middle-Earth
Publication Information
AuthorKaren Wynn Fonstad
PublisherHoughton Mifflin
Released29 May 1981
1991 (revised edition)
ISBN0395286654 (1981 first edition)

0395535166 (1991 revised edition)

0618126996 (2001 reprint, pictured)

The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad is an atlas of various lands in Arda. It includes specific maps for The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, for which it is intended as a reading companion.


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, the Last Alliance and 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 into account. In 2001, the publishers issued a reprint of the 1991 revised edition with a new cover (pictured) but identical contents.

Fonstad also made a bold attempt to fill the gaps by using early conceptual work, mainly from The Book of Lost Tales Part One and the Ambarkanta, combining the later known maps with the sketches used by Tolkien to provide "world maps" of Arda in its entirety and show Aman, Beleriand's position relative to Eriador, and the place of Númenor in the Sea.

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

Errors and criticism

Despite being a thoroughly researched and well-respected reference book, the Atlas is known to contain several errors. However, a number of these were corrected in the revised edition, as noted below.

Inconsistencies with earlier publications

  • Pages 4 and 5: The Grey Mountains are shown in western Haradwaith south of the Great Gulf rather than in the Southlands.[1]
  • Page 13: Nogrod is shown north of Belegost, and both south of Mount Dolmed. The Silmarillion states that Belegost was "to the north of the great height of Mount Dolmed" and that Nogrod was the more southerly of the two.[2]
  • Pages 39 and 88: On both pages, Drúwaith Iaur is shown north of the Ered Nimrais and south of the Angren, and on page 39 extending east below the Adorn. In the Unfinished Tales map, Drúwaith Iaur is in the narrow area between the ocean and the southern Ered Nimrais, south of the mouth of the Angren.[3]
  • Page 71: Hardbottle is shown in the Southfarthing rather than the Northfarthing.[4] Sackville, shown in the Southfarthing, is entirely invented (compare the Sackville Family).
  • Page 89: Tarnost is shown as a city separate from Ethring though it may be a discarded name for the latter from early drafts.[5]
  • Pages 92 and 93: Lithlad is shown in the south of Mordor rather than the northeast.
  • Page 99: It is written that Bilbo gave the Arkenstone to the Elvenking and Bard on 22 November, then Dáin arrived in the early morning on 23 November. In The Hobbit, Bilbo gave away the Arkenstone and then returned before midnight to wake up Bombur.[6] The next day, there was a new parley, it was revealed that the Elves and Men had the Arkenstone, and Thorin expelled Bilbo from the Lonely Mountain. On the next morning, Dáin arrived.[7] Fonstad's timeline has Dáin arrive in one day, while the text of The Hobbit has him arrive in two days. Either Dáin must have arrived on 24 November or Bilbo must have handed over the Arkenstone late on 21 November.
  • Page 106: In The Hobbit, when the Dwarves saw a fire off in the woods, "The light was ahead of them and to the left of the path".[8] In Fonstad's map, the Dwarves left the path to the right. (Corrected in 2nd edition.)
  • Page 125: Combe is shown laying to the northwest of Staddle on the east side of the Bree-hill, while in fact Combe should lie a little east of Staddle's location.[9]

Inconsistencies with later publications

Both the first and second editions of the Atlas were written before the final three volumes of The History of Middle-earth were published, so at certain points it is contradicted by this later material. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, which was published between the first and second editions of the Atlas, is not taken into account in the revision.

Internal inconsistencies

  • Pages 12 and 53: Dorthonion and Himring are slightly above parallel J, but Tol Fuin and Himling are shown further north, above parallel I.
  • Pages 38 and 41: Belegost has been moved 150 miles further south than previously shown to the middle of the southern Blue Mountains.
  • Pages 53, 76, and 80: On page 53, Rhosgobel is located near the border of Mirkwood well south of the Old Forest Road, due east of Moria. On pages 76 and 80, Rhosgobel is still at the edge of the forest, but north of the Old Forest Road. One or the other location should have been used, not both.
  • Pages 89 and 210: In the map on p.89, Tarnost is located in Q-34, but the "Index of Selected Place Names" on p.210 places it at R-35.
  • Pages 97 and 200: In the text of p.97, Fonstad refers to the book Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey, but there is no reference to this work in "Selected References" on pp. 200-201.
  • Page 144: In the upper-right inset, the cleft of the brazen gate (which appears in the upper-left inset) is not depicted.
  • Pages 205 and 209: The index entry "Grey Mountains" is a mix of references to the "Grey Mountains" (or Ered Mithrin, located at coordinates I-35) and the "Grey Mountains (of the South)" (located at coordinates V/Zh-30). Additionally, the index entry "Grey Mountains (of the South)" is incomplete. A more complete and accurate list of maps on which each set of Grey Mountains appear and are labeled is as follows (they appear unlabeled on many more):
    • Northern: pp. 53, 65, 76, 80
    • Southern: pp. 2, 4, 38

Typographical errors

  • Page 2: Mts. of the Wind is written as "Mts. of the World".
  • Page 2: Sea of Ringil is written as "Sea of Ringol".
  • Page 7: Ezellohar is written as "Ezollahar". Ilmarin is written as "Ilmaren". Eressëa is written as "Erresëa". Hyarmentir is written as "Hyamentir".
  • Pages 6 and 38: Avallónë is written as "Avalónnë" and "Avalonnë", respectively.
  • Pages 7 and 38: Alqualondë is written as "Aqualondë" and "Aqualóndë", respectively.
  • Page 13: Gabilgathol is written as "Gabilgathod".
  • Page 53: Caras Galadhon is written as "Caras Galadon".
  • Page 58 : River Lune is written "River Lûne".
  • Page 71: Tuckborough is written as "Tuckburrow".
  • Page 113: Bolg is written as "Borg".[7] (Corrected in 2nd edition.)
  • Page 135: Methedras is written as "Mathedras".
  • Page 148: Gamling the Old is written as "Gambling the Old".
  • Pages 189 and 190: Khuzdul, the language of the Dwarves, is labeled as "Khazâd".

Use of early sources

Fonstad uses early names from the Book of Lost Tales era of Tolkien's development of the legendarium for some locations, particularly in Aman and Tol Eressëa.

In Aman, Fonstad identifies the place where Mandos delivered the Doom of the Noldor with the early name "Hanstovánen" rather than Araman. She also describes various dwellings of the Valar in Valinor. In the Second Age map of Tol Eressëa, she uses the early names Tavrobel and Kortirion, rather than the later names "Tathrobel" and "Cortirion" for the same places.[13] In the map of Gondolin, she identifies several landmarks that are only said to exist in the earliest works.

Incorporation of these names and places on equal footing with those from later in the legendarium's evolution is questionable, but Fonstad seems to have been aware of the potential issues and explicitly notes in the accompanying text the speculative nature of the maps of the Undying Lands.

"Dor Daidelos"

One clear error relating to use of early materials appears on the maps of the far north of Beleriand in the First Age printed on pages 4, 5, and 15. In the Atlas, the lands at the foot of Thangorodrim are labeled "Dor Daedeloth (Land of Shadow Horror)" on various maps, while the wide region north of the Ered Engrin is labeled "Dor Daidelos (Region of Everlasting Cold)" (the p.15 map uses "Regions" plural).

However, the published Silmarillion uses "Dor Daedeloth" (Land of the Shadow of Horror) as the name for the northern lands under the control of Morgoth without distinguishing the regions north and south of the mountains.[14] The name "Daidelos" for the lands north of the Ered Engrin was used only on Ambarkanta Map V; in other draft material this was changed or corrected variously to "Dor-na-Dhaideloth ('Sky-roof')," "Daideloth ('High plain')," "Dor-Daidelos," "Dor-Daedeloth," and, ultimately, "Dor Daedeloth" as it appears in the published Silmarillion.[15] It seems clear from this documented evolutionary process that Tolkien intended "Dor Daedeloth" to be equivalent to, and a replacement of, the earlier term "Daidelos," not for the two to be separate coexisting regions.

As such, the label "Dor Daidelos" is in error in three ways: First, the lands north of the Ered Engrin should share the name "Dor Daedeloth" with the lands in the shadow of Thangorodrim to the south. Second, the spelling "Dor Daidelos," unhyphenated, never appears in any primary source material. Third, the translation "Region(s) of Everlasting Cold" is entirely unattested and appears to be Fonstad's own invention.

Translated editions

  • Atlas de la Tierra Media (Spanish), editor Timun Mas Narrativa, 1993.
  • L'atlante della Terra-di-mezzo di Tolkien (Italian), editor Rusconi Libri, 1997, translated by Isabella Murro.
  • Atlas Středozemě (Czech), editor Mladá fronta, 1998, translated by Stanislava Pošustová-Menšíková.
  • Historischer Atlas von Mittelerde (German), editor Klett-Cotta, translated by Hans J. Schütz. The first german edition was published in 2001.
  • Atlas Śródziemia (Polish), editor Wydawnictwo Amber, 2016, translated by Tadeusz Andrzej Olszański.
  • Középfölde atlasza (Hungarian), editor Cicero, 2017, translated by Gabriella Buki, Tamás Füzessy, and Balázs Tallian.
  • O Atlas da Terra-média (Portuguese), HarperCollins Brasil, 2022, translated by Cristina Casagrande.
  • L'Atlas de la Terre du Milieu (French), Bragelonne, 2022, translated by Daniel Lauzon. All the maps were redrawn by the freelance illustrator Stéphane Arson in a similar style than Fonstad but modernized.
  • A Japanese edition was published in 2002.

External links

  • List of English-language versions of the first edition
  • List of English-language versions of the revised edition
  • Webpage about the Atlas on (French language)
  • Webpage on the first edition on (French language)


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "V. The Ambarkanta: Of the Fashion of the World" p. 239
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Sindar"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Index, "Map"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 771
  5. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 139
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Thief in the Night"
  7. 7.0 7.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Clouds Burst"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "At the Sign of the Prancing Pony"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "X. Of Dwarves and Men", "The Atani and their Languages" p.313
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", Note 4
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, VI. Quenta Silmarillion"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names", entry "Dor Daedeloth"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "Index", entry "Dor-Daideloth"