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Maps were an integral part of Tolkien’s world-building. He drew maps and plotted charts as he wrote his stories and devised his invented languages. They were an essential element in creating a believable world.

‘The World about V.Y. 500 after the fall of the Lamps Helkar and Ringil and the first fortification of the North by Melko’. This map is part of a text called the Ambarkanta – The Shape of the World, created in the 1930s.

‘ILU The World: from Númen (West) to Rómen (East)’, 1930s. A map of the world from the text entitled, ‘The Ambarkanta – The Shape of the World’.

Small scale map drawn for the Quenta Silmarillion in the 1930s. It shows the lands of Beleriand which would be covered by the sea at the end of the First Age.

‘Thror’s Map’ drawn for The Hobbit, 1936. Tolkien wanted the moon runes to shine through from the reverse when the page was held up to the light (as in the text) but this was too difficult or too expensive to achieve in print and they were merely cut and pasted onto the front of the map.

‘Wilderland’, 1937. This pictorial map for The Hobbit shows the perils that lie in wait for the dwarves and the hobbit as they journey over the Edge of the Wild (indicated by a double-ruled line on the left).

Tolkien drew this map as he wrote The Lord of the Rings between 1937 and 1949. It grew physically larger as the story developed, necessitating the addition of extra sheets which were stuck on with brown parcel tape.

Earliest map of the Shire, drawn for The Lord of the Rings, c.1937. There was no map of the Shire in The Hobbit but it was one of the first things that Tolkien drew when he started writing the sequel.

Map of the north-west of Middle-earth, drawn for The Lord of the Rings, c.1948. This is the northern half of a pair of maps which cover the whole theatre of action.

Map of Rohan, Gondor and Mordor drawn so that Tolkien could accurately plot the action as he wrote Book 5 of The Lord of the Rings, c.1948. It was re-drawn for publication in The Return of the King by his son Christopher.

Bird’s eye view of Mordor and Mount Doom, 1940s. This was an early conception of the geography of Mordor. Tolkien altered the relative positions of Barad-dûr and Mount Doom as the story progressed.

An aerial view of Helm’s Deep, c.1942, sketched underneath a written description of the same, from Book 3, ch. 7 of The Lord of the Rings.