So Amazon just released an interactive map in what appears to be the beginning of a long and tantalising marketing campaign leading to the release of the secretively-termed “Lord of the Rings series”.
The interactivity of this map lies in the user’s ability to zoom in or out of the familiar layout of Middle-earth and scroll across the landscape features. Suffice to say, the map is quite bare – lacking any sort of geographical names or other details.
So what clues can we gather from this rather uncommunicative map. I decided to undertake a quick exercise to analyse the map, and avoid the hundreds of other fan theories most likely spawning out there on the internet.
What follows is my own, unbiased (most probably totally erroneous, but fun-making) analysis of what this map could mean …
The East of Middle-earth
(Hildórien, Blue Wizards, The Watchful Peace)
Gazing at the map, it soon becomes apparent that, besides the different design style, the one thing that distinguishes this Middle-earth map from the one found in The Lord of the Rings book, is the “extension” of the map to the East, far beyond the shores of the Sea of Rhûn.
Not even one of Tolkien’s earliest annotated Middle-earth maps contained anything beyond the wooded area surrounding the northeastern parts of the Sea of Rhûn.
The inclusion of this geographical feature on the Amazon map, therefore, might point to the possibility that the series will in some way explore this region.
Here’s one or two far-fetched theories for you …
In The Silmarillion, Hildórien was said to be the place where Men came from as they ventured to the West, till they eventually arrive into Beleriand during the beginning of the First Age of Arda. Is this new geographical feature indicative of such location or place in time for this TV series?
The so-termed “East” in Middle-earth tales also refers to the wanderings of the two Blue Wizards who, together with the other Istari, had come to the shores of Middle-earth to contest the power of Sauron. These two wizards are said to have travelled to the East and eventually fallen into evil (Unfinished Tales, ‘The Istari’).
The Watchful Peace came about in the year 2063 of the Third Age, when the White Council stormed the fortress of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood and Sauron fled from their power. Yes, he fled … into the East, and a peace reigned in Middle-earth for 400 years. Are we to expect a Sauron-centric series of him in hiding?
The Compass Runes
The other interesting feature of Amazon’s interactive map are the runes around the compass. An (admittedly) quick search into the appendices of my copy of The Lord of the Rings, took me to the section on the Writing Systems. The Angerthas Daeron was a set of runes said to be “inventions of the Noldor in Eregion” (The Lord of the Rings, Appendix E, ‘The Cirth’).
The fact that these runes came from Eregion, may be indicative of the time setting of the TV series. Amazon’s Twitter post about the map came with the famous verse “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,”.
All this seems to point towards the Second Age, the forging of the Rings of Power, and the struggle between Sauron and the Elves.
Comparing the runes from the map to the table system in the Appendix, and their equivalent letters in the English alphabet, the letters reveal a surprising conundrum which seems to lead nowhere.
nj-z -|- th
Suffice to say, the runes’ equivalent to the English alphabet varies from an introductory explanation in The Hobbit. The rune for what is supposed to be the North in this map, is not “d” but the letter “a” according to The Hobbit.
Another interesting fact is that the design of the compass itself is reminiscent of the Star of Fëanor found on the West Gate of Moria – again, another reference to Eregion as both Elves (from Eregion itself) and Dwarves (from Moria) forged a fruitful relationship between the two, before the creation of the Rings and the conquest of Sauron which destroyed almost everything in its path.
The Second Age starts to sound more like a possibility, and the oft-termed phrase that this will be a “prequel” to The Lord of the Rings, seems to point to that period in Middle-earth when the Rings of Power themselves were created.
That’s how far I’ve got to at this point. Not much I know, and probably most inaccurate, but my hunt for clues from this map continues …