A “very” sketchy analysis of the Lord of the Rings Amazon series interactive map

Amazon LOTR Map banner

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.

Hildórien

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’).

Compass

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.

  d

nj-z     -|-       th

     ng-nd

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.

Star of Feanor

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 …

13 thoughts on “A “very” sketchy analysis of the Lord of the Rings Amazon series interactive map

  1. “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. ”

    Overwhelming. It’s amazing what you can do on a laptop these days.
    Whatever will they think of next!

    Must admit I can understand why Amazon are getting into Tolkien, Bezos having been deeply influenced by Morgoth’s treatise on working practices and tax avoidance.

    • Hahaha! At the prospect of an “interactive” map I thought we’d be getting a bit more info rather than just hover over a map, but I’m guessing that’s part of the marketing campaign – to generate interest and discussion.

  2. I was so excited to explore and download this map! I didn’t have time to research the runes yet (thank you for sharing what you’ve found!), but this is pretty much what I was thinking too.

    Not sure if it’s me, but I noticed that Dol Guldur looks a bit whiter and sharper than other points of interest in the map. When I opened it on the website, I thought it was a clickable spot for a moment.

    Overall, I like the vintage look of the map. I would only add a shade of light blue to inner waters (lakes, rivers, etc.) just to match the sea.

    • The compass is from Fonstad’s “Atlas of Middle-earth” – only rotated by 240 degrees. In the Atlas of Middle-earth, it is explained as followed: “The runes shown were those used on all maps of Middle-earth, regardless of language. […]”
      The Cirth or Angerthas Daeron (which were invented by Daeron, a Sinda – not by the Noldor, who merely “most probably” invented two additional sets of letters!) rune for nj-z is glossed in the Atlas as númen, West; the rune for d is glossed as formen, North; the rune for th is glossed as rómen, East; and the rune for ng-nd is glossed as hyarmen, South. This seems to be a misinterpretation of a line in Appendix E, where Tolkien explains which Tengwar are used for the compass – 17, 33, 25 and 9. In the Tengwar table, these actually correspond to N, HY, R and F, so it makes sense. Since this line is directly above the section about the Cirth, Fonstad seems to have misapplied it to the Cirth — and Amazon must have copied her mistake!

      • Aaaand mystery solved :), though truth be told it doesn’t bode well, lack of attention to detail already :), alright jokes aside, still it’s as Captain Jack Sparrow would say “maddeningly unhelpful” hehe, what? I see Umbar down south, and I’m hoping the most to see (if the series will be based on Aragorn adventures) Aragorn commanding a ship in naval battles with Corsairs while serving Ecthelion, and his famous raid, surprise attack on port city of Umbar commanding a small fleet (I mean seriosuly who wouldn’t want to see Aragorn/Thorongil as ship captain hehe, sailing on the Bay of Belfalas, leading men). Nothing is really given for die hard fans, a blank map, well at least it’s not a dwarven made map 😉 otherwise it would have east in the upper end hehe:

        “On the Map the compass points are marked in runes, with East at the top, as usual in dwarf-maps” Heheh.

      • But in all fairness, they have probably copied the compass from the Atlas of Middle-earth assuming that it would be correct – which is a fair assumption for a classic that’s been in print since the 70s and was last revised in 1991. The compass isn’t even on the list of known errata, so this goof-up may genuinely have been unnoticed until now!

        I definitely hope we’re going to see more Umbar (with or without Aragorn in a naval battle, although I agree that Captain Thorongil would be awesome!) It would be brilliant to encounter the Blue Wizards, too. That’s the great potential of this series, isn’t it – they can explore places and events that are glossed over in LotR! Will they use that potential? Who knows! But one can hope…

  3. It’s nice – expect that there are major omissions, such as:
    Hobbiton
    Isengard
    Barad-dur

    For getting the lie of the land, it’s nice. And should make decent wallpaper.

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