Mapping The Wheel of Time

The fantasy maps that get the most popular and critical attention are those of Middle-earth and Westeros. That’s almost entirely due to their respective series’ popularity (and in the case of Middle-earth, the foundational nature of that map and its influence on later works). Maps of Robert Jordan’s hugely popular Wheel of Time series don’t get quite the same attention—a situation that Adam Whitehead, writing on his Atlas of Ice and Fire blog, tries to rectify. Reading his post, I suspect that the afterthought-ish nature of said maps might have something to do with it.

Apparently Robert Jordan did not originally plan to include maps in the books, and did so only at the urging of his publisher Tom Doherty because people expected maps in a fantasy novel. This may be why the earliest maps for the books were pretty bare-bones, only featuring the names of the major countries, the two big mountain ranges and not much else. It may also explain the curiously straight mountain range edges to the map border which later came in for much ribbing from reviewers.

[Paul Weimer]

Here again is a link to a 2009 Tor.com post by Jason Denzel on the maps of Jordan’s so-called Randland.

(Sidebar: In the talk on fantasy maps I gave at Readercon in July 2014 I noted the difference in map quality between the paperback editions of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt; the second map is of considerably lower quality, but has the virtue of being more legible at mass-market paperback size.)

Mapping the Dreamlands

vellitt-boe-cover villitt-boe-map-full

Once again, Tor.com is marking the publication of an upcoming fantasy novella, this time The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson, with an essay on how the book’s map, executed by artist Serena Malyon, came into being. Malyon takes us from the author’s own map through several iterations of what ended up as the final map. The end result is a unique take on the fantasy map style, marked by the use of watercolours and perspective, backgrounded by a constellation-filled sky. Amazon (Kindle) / iBooks

Previously: Mapping The Drowning Eyes.

Two More Posts on Fantasy Maps

Two more posts about imaginary maps on the Library of Congress’s map blog: a look at maps made after the books were published (such as posters, movie adaptations and online maps), focusing on Middle-earth and Westeros; and a look at maps in children’s stories that talks about whether what appears on maps is in fact true.

(In my previous entry about this series I misattributed the authorship of these posts. That entry has since been corrected. Sorry about that.)

Previously: Fantasy Maps: Middle-earth vs. WesterosThe Library of Congress Looks at Fantasy Maps.

A Fantasy Map of North America

aoraki-fantasy-north-america

The latest map of the real world done in the style of fantasy maps (remember: fantasy maps have a distinct style), at least that I’ve encountered, is this map of North America offered by Etsy seller Aoraki Maps. (They also have one of the southeastern U.S.) The style is very fantasy map, with cursive labels rather than the (older) Didone-style lettering. [Boing Boing]

Previously: Fantasy Maps of U.S. CitiesA Fantasy Map of IrelandA Fantasy Map of Great BritainA Fantasy Map of AustraliaA Fantasy Map of the U.S.

Fantasy Maps: Middle-earth vs. Westeros

In the latest instalment of Hannah Stahl’s series of posts on fantasy maps at the Library of Congress’s map blog (see previous entry), she takes as a starting point my argument that Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth is the progenitor map from which the modern fantasy map design is descended, and compares that map to maps of Westeros from George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.

Previously: The Library of Congress Looks at Fantasy Maps; Review: The Lands of Ice and Fire.

The Library of Congress Looks at Fantasy Maps

The Library of Congress’s map blog, Worlds Revealed, has begun a series of posts about imaginary maps. “We’ll be exploring all of these types of maps and imaginary worlds this summer. Come revisit the Hundred Acre Wood and the other worlds of your favorite children’s stories, spend some time in medieval Europe, and run from White Walkers in Game of Thrones.” So far we have an introduction and a look at maps from the European Middle Ages and Renaissance, with Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth next on the schedule. [WMS]

Tolkien’s Annotated Map On Display for One Day Only

Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth, recently purchased by Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, is being put on display—but only for one day. Mark your calendars: Thursday, 23 June 2016, from 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, Weston Library. [Tony Campbell]

(The only other instance of a single-day map exhibition I can think of was when the Austrian National Library put the infinitely more delicate and valuable Tabula Peutingeriana on display for a single day in 2007.)

Previously: Bodleian Library Acquires Annotated Tolkien MapMap of Middle-earth, Annotated by Tolkien Himself, Discovered.

Fantasy Maps Exhibit at St. Louis Central Library

Fantasy Maps: Imagined Worlds, a new exhibition at St. Louis’s Central Library, features enlarged prints of fantasy maps and a 75×25-foot illustrated map of St. Louis on the floor of the library’s great hall. Opens today and runs until 15 October according to this page. There’s nothing on the library’s website, but see the writeup in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. [WMS]

Bodleian Library Acquires Annotated Tolkien Map

A map of Middle-earth annotated by J. R. R. Tolkien himself that was discovered among the papers of illustrator Pauline Baynes last year and subsequently put up for auction has been purchased by Oxford’s Bodleian Library for its Tolkien archive. News coverage: BBC NewsGuardian.

Previously: Map of Middle-earth, Annotated by Tolkien Himself, Discovered.

The RPG Maps of Dyson’s Dodecahedron

crypts-and-sewers
Dyson Logos, “Crypts and Sewers,” 2016. CC licence.

Dyson’s Dodecahedron started out as a blog about role-playing games that over time transformed itself into a source of dungeon maps; the impetus was a dungeon he’d written up for a one-page dungeon contest:

I wasn’t happy with the map I drew for that dungeon, and started looking at the maps drawn by other members of my various RPG groups. I started to develop a new style for my maps. Not an “original” style overall—it is strongly based in the cartography I enjoyed from old Palladium and Chaosisum products, but significantly less like the style of the traditional D&D map which is very grid-oriented.

Then I started to post maps drawn in this style. As I practiced the style, I challenged myself to draw a geomorph every other day until I had at least 100 geomorphs. The blog got pretty boring during this stretch, but I learned a lot about mapping and dungeon design, and the blog got a reputation as a mapping blog.

Dyson’s archive of maps is now quite extensive; the maps are generally free for personal use and available under various licences. He’s also got a Patreon page. [Boing Boing]

A Q&A with Fantasy Cartographer Jonathan Roberts

Quartz’s Corinne Purtill has a Q&A with fantasy cartographer Jonathan Roberts, who drew the maps in The Lands of Ice and Fire (see my review). Roberts has a lot of interesting things to say about his work, the differences between the Game of Thrones TV show and the books, and fantasy map design in general. (I spoke to Purtill a few days ago while she was preparing this piece, and did my best to offer some background on fantasy maps in general.)

The Medieval Origins of Thrór’s Map

thror-cotton

In my 2013 article on fantasy maps for The New York Review of Science Fiction, I noted that J. R. R. Tolkien’s two maps from The Hobbit were much more like real-world medieval maps than typical fantasy maps usually are. Medieval scholar Thijs Porck explores how Thrór’s map, in particular, is quite similar to the 11th-century Cotton World Map.

This Anglo-Saxon map of the world, made in Canterbury around 1025-1050, shows a number of similarities to Tolkien’s map of Thror. First and foremost, the two maps share the same orientation: East is on the top, North is on the left and the West is on the bottom (you can clearly see this by looking at Britain in the bottom left corner!)—a standard feature of medieval maps (before the introduction of the compass, the East (where the sun rises) was the easiest direction to locate). Moreover, the Cotton World Map, like Tolkien’s, features several drawings, such as two little men fighting in the south of Britain, little drawings of cities like Rome and Jerusalem, and mountains (including Mount Ararat in Armenia with a little Ark of Noah!). Finally, the Anglo-Saxon map accompanies some of these drawings with descriptions; e.g., the drawing of a lion in China, where it says “hic abundant leones” [here are many lions]—not unlike Tolkien’s drawing of a spider, near the text ‘There are spiders’.

[via]

Brian Staveley on Fantasy Maps

stewart-annuran
Isaac Stewart, map from The Last Mortal Bond. 2016.

To mark the publication of The Last Mortal Bond (Amazon, iBooks), the final volume in his Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy, Brian Staveley has penned this essay on the value of maps in fantasy fiction. Excerpts:

A map is more than a two-dimensional catalogue of locations. First, and most importantly, it is a promise. By mapping a world, or a continent, or even a city, a writer assures his/her readers that their imagination has ranged well beyond the boundaries of their particular story, that they have imagined, not just the room in which the scene takes place, but the street beyond that room, the political structure responsible for building those streets and maintaining them, the agricultural system on which that political structure rests, the natural resources that undergird that system, and all the rest. […]

last-mortal-bondFinally, maps provide a lens through which to view the events of the story. Every map, after all, contains the biases of the mapmaker, and while cartography might like to lay a claim to objectivity, there can be no objectivity in an artifact that excludes a thousand-fold the amount of information that it contains. Does a map contain political boundaries or landforms? What demographic information does it convey? Religion? Age? Ethnicity? What does it elide? What landforms are depicted? Which are excluded? Do those confident dotted lines obscure ongoing conflicts? No map can escape these deliberations, and even the most thoughtful cartography can’t offer the absolute truth, only a perspective on that truth. One reason I spend so much time studying a map before I read the book that follows is that I’m curious about that perspective. I get a glimpse before I even begin, into what the writer thinks is important about their own story.

How to Draw Fantasy Art and RPG Maps

blando-how-to-draw Jared Lando’s How to Draw Fantasy Art and RPG Maps (Impact, August 2015) is a step-by-step guide to fantasy cartography. That it professes to teach how to draw “authentic fantasy maps” is as clear evidence as any that fantasy maps have a clearly defined style that is difficult to deviate from. This is a book I need to track down, stat. Amazon, iBooks.