‘The Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth’

Having ruffled fannish feathers with a post critiquing Middle-earth’s mountains and another admitting that they don’t like fantasy maps, Alex Acks returns with a Tor.com post about the problems with Middle-earth’s river systems. Specifically, the Anduin, which breaks all kinds of hydrological rules: it cuts across mountain ranges (and parallels the Misty Mountains), it lacks tributaries along one side and it doesn’t seem to have much of a drainage basin. “Even if you grant the mountains as things created by the Valar doing their Valar-thing—which means my mental excuse for the Anduin cutting through mountain ranges is void—it still looks weird from a geological perspective.”

Another point Acks makes, about Tolkien’s influence on fantasy maps in general, that I should file for later:

Just as Tolkien’s novels have had a massive influence on epic fantasy as a genre, his map is the bad fantasy map that launched a thousand bad fantasy maps—many of which lack even his mythological fig leaf to explain the really eyebrow-raising geography. The things that make me cringe about the geography of Middle-earth are still echoing in the ways we imagine and construct fantasy worlds today.

Previously: ‘The Messed Up Mountains of Middle-earth’Two Views on Fantasy MapsThe Territory Is Not the Map.

Author: Jonathan Crowe

I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis.