Episode 43
October 3, 2022

Little Broccoli Trees

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Ned’s choice of topic: cartography. To say that maps help define Middle-earth is to understate; besides the famous map featured in The Hobbit and also given as a key visual element with the book itself, one of two Tolkien drew for it, his own many other maps of Middle-earth he created over time, finalized for publication by Christopher Tolkien both before and after his father’s death, establish a visual sense of what Middle-earth ‘looks’ like in a broad sense, to the point of spawning numerous atlases, charts and online explorations of that wider world. But then again, cartography in a modern sense is a very Eurocentric proposition, and even the fantasy fiction cartography that Tolkien’s maps both drew on and then subsequently influenced in a massive way is very much a product of that wider influence, sometimes in very subtly skewed ways. How do maps function ‘in’ Middle-earth themselves, whether as plot device, something referenced casually or even seemingly not needed at all, depending on the character? What about the historical context of the British Empire and the sense of ‘discovering’ the world might have fed into Tolkien’s own views about how to create his own maps and charts, as much as his own knowledge of medieval manuscripts and maps in turn? How have the various visual interpretations of Middle-earth in other media used maps in turn in their efforts and to what purpose? And how is the long shadow of Middle-earth’s maps and their impact being interrogated by creative artists around the world as newer worlds are envisioned and explored? (And yes…we have some initial thoughts on a certain streaming TV series.)

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Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. We cover the Middle-earth globe for you. (When it became a globe.)

Look we know, WE KNOW. For now we just recommend Gita Jackson’s piece “Whose Fantasy Is This?” Fuck racists and then some.

Ned’s Twitter threads on the time compression problem in the series with specific regard to Númenor.

Jared’s Patreon piece on the show a few episodes in.

Cartography! It’s got a history.

The Tolkien Estate’s map section on its website.

The Tolkien Society’s closer look at the annotations that Tolkien wrote for Pauline Baynes regarding her poster map.

Jonathan Crowe’s two excellent pieces for Tor: “Celebrating Christopher Tolkien’s Cartographic Legacy” and “Where Do Fantasy Maps Come From?

Barbara Strachey’s Journeys of Frodo and Karen Wynn Fonstad’s The Atlas of Middle-earth both remain enjoyable reads, Fonstad’s volume being especially key.

Crowe’s Tolkien entries on his own blog, The Map Room.

Stentor Danielson’s articles on cartography at the Journal of Tolkien Studies.

Sally Bushell’s “Mapping Worlds: Tolkien’s Cartographic Imagination” from her book Reading and Mapping Fiction (you’ll likely need library or academic access to read it directly).

Nicholas Tam’s “Here Be Cartographers: Reading the Fantasy Map.”

The British Library’s “What Is a Fantasy Map?

A 1999 New York Times piece summarizing the increasing study and work being done throughout the decade working against the Eurocentric cartographic approach.

A 2019 undergrad paper by Luke Maxwell on imperialism and Eurocentrism in fantasy cartography.

The 2021 Dream Foundry panel discussion, “Fantasy Maps and Worldbuilding from a Non-Eurocentric Perspective,” archived on YouTube.

Our episode on the Red Book of Westmarch, a putative source of the Lord of the Rings maps.

There are indeed many online Middle-earth maps and atlases – including as mentioned the Minecraft Middle-earth. Other examples include LOTRProject’s Interactive Map of Middle-earth and Arda Maps.

On a psychogeographical tip, Nowhere and Back Again might be of esoteric interest.

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