25 January 2022
It has been a day for maps, and for wondering – my favourite kind of day, full of dreaming and musing and flicking through books. Also a day for birds, for the bird feeder is full and the garden birds have been vocal in their appreciation, at least whilst I’m sitting down to write this week’s Tolkien Tuesday. And though the day has been cold and grey, it has been far from miserable as I look back over the pages of Lord of the Rings I have read since the last update…
The Reading, and Ensuing Thoughts
This week, I started Chapter 2, The Shadow of the Past. I’m about halfway through it, and it took a great deal of determination not to continue on to the end of the chapter, but seeing as though I have allocated two weeks per chapter, I will endeavour to do so, for as long as I can hold out.
Some standouts from this past week’s reading have to be Samwise Gamgee discussing the truth to be found in old stories, and Gandalf’s return after nine years since his last visit to Bag End.
My favourite part though, has to be of the strange wayfarers passing along the old East-West Road, bringing with them news from beyond the Shire’s borders…As reader, I want to meet these people, to hear their conversations, and as a writer, I want to write their stories, to know where they are going and what they left behind.
Middle Earth Musings and Meditations
“He looked at maps, and wondered what lay beyond their edges…”
(From Chapter 2, The Shadow of the Past, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien)
I woke up this morning thinking of maps. I love maps. Looking at maps. Drawing maps. Wondering what can be found in those mysterious regions past the edge of the known world…
The quote above, written about Frodo, speaks to me, unsurprisingly. It speaks to me as a person: mankind has been fascinated by what they don’t yet know since the beginning of time. It speaks to me as a reader: what adventures are to be found in these unknown reaches of a real or imagined world, and what characters are going to be doing the exploring? It speaks to me as writer, and offers up so many questions: what do I think lies beyond this boundary of the known world? Are there monsters? Magic? Gods? Ghosts? Is the unknown any different to the known? Who will be brave enough to go there and find out? What will they encounter? What friendships will they forge? What enemy will be waiting for them? Will they return to tell their tales to those they left behind? How would such a journey change them? These are just a handful of the questions that whirl around my head when I look at a map.
I also find myself wondering at the empty spaces within a drawn map. After all, not everything can and needs to be included. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything or anyone there. They are just not pertinent to the story and what is going on in the world at that time (at least not to the storyteller, and those involved with the story). Yet my mind wanders and wonders…
The drawing of a map, is a very good place to begin a new story. Once you can envisage a landscape, you can imagine people in it. And then you can wonder why they are there and what they are doing.
I thought I would finish off this section listing a few of my favourite maps from some of my other favourite books:
- The maps of Kyralia and beyond, in Trudi Canavan’s wonderful The Black Magician Trilogy and The Traitor Spy Trilogy
- The map from The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone quartet by Greg Keyes
- The wonderfully detailed maps of George R. R. Martin’s Westeros and beyond
- The map of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (I love the map much more than the books, the reviews for which you can read over on my book review site, if you’re interested)
- And I can’t possibly talk about maps without mentioning Crispina Kemp’s map of Lake of Skulls from her five book series, The Spinner’s Game
Inspired by all things maps, I spent a good deal of time this week, pouring over not only maps of Middle Earth, but also others from the list above. It was a wonderful reminder of why I love fantasy fiction so much.
The Lord of the Rings Question of the Week:
Following on from the discussion on maps, where, in the less frequently explored regions of Middle Earth (think: not journeyed to in either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings), would you like to visit / know more about / read stories set in?
There are a few places (all right, many, many places) I could pick, but my eye has recently been repeatedly drawn to Minhiriath, and covers the area of land between the Brandywine and Greyflood rivers. This area has such an interesting history, and it’s name is one of those that sounds melodic and roles off the tongue. Simply beautiful, yet with a darker past…