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The Atlas of Middle-earth

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The Atlas of Middle-Earth
The Atlas of Middle-earth.jpg
AuthorKaren Wynn Fonstad
PublisherHoughton Mifflin
Released1991 (revised edition)

The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad is an atlas of various lands in Arda. It includes specific maps for The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for which is intended as a reading companion.


The maps are treated as if they are of real landscapes, and are drawn according to the same rules that a real atlas is drawn: for each area the history of the land is taken into account, as well as geography on a larger scale and from there maps are drawn. Discussion includes suggestions as to the geology that could explain various formations, and points that are contradictory between multiple accounts.

City maps and floor plans for important buildings are also included; these are very often useful for making sense of the narratives, especially in The Lord of the Rings. As well, many battles such as those of Beleriand, the Last Alliance and the War of the Ring are illustrated.

The book was published in 1981, but in 1991 a revised and updated version was published, which took information from The History of Middle-earth into account.

Fonstad also made a bold attempt to fill the gaps by using early conceptual work, mainly from The Book of Lost Tales and the Ambarkanta, combining the later known maps with the sketches used by Tolkien to provide "world maps" of Arda in its entirity and show Aman, Beleriand's position relative to Eriador, and the place of Númenor in the Sea.

It was, however, published before the final three volumes of The History of Middle-earth were published, and thus some maps are based on Tolkien's early works, which were revised in later writings.

Errors and criticism

Despite being a thorough and well-respected reference book, the Atlas has been known for several mistakes.

  • Belegost and Nogrod seem to have switched positions: The Silmarillion mentions that Nogrod was the southern one. Also, Tolkien mentions that Galbigathol was "north of the great height of Mount Dolmed" while Fonstad has both of them south.
  • Page 12 and page 53: Dorthonion and Himring are located slightly above parallel J. However much later, Tol Fuin and Himling are seen much northern, above parallel I.
  • Pages 39 and 88: Drúwaith Iaur is shown north of the Ered Nimrais and south of the Angren, and on page 39 extending east below the Adorn. In the Unfinished Tales map Drúwaith Iaur is in the narrow area between the ocean and the southern Ered Nimrais, south of the mouth of the Angren.[1]
  • Pages 53, 76, and 80: On page 53, Rhosgobel is located near the border of Mirkwood well south of the Old Forest Road, due east of Moria. On pages 76 and 80, Rhosgobel is still at the edge of the forest, but north of the Old Forest Road. One or the other location should have been used, not both.
  • Page 99: Bilbo gave the Arkenstone to the Elvenking and Bard on 22 November, then Dáin arrived in the early morning on 23 November. In The Hobbit, Bilbo gave away the Arkenstone and then returned before midnight to wake up Bombur.[4] The next day there was a new parley, it was revealed that the elves and the men had the Arkenstone, and Thorin expelled Bilbo from the Lonely Mountain. On the next morning Dáin arrived.[5] Fonstad had Dáin arriving in one day, the text of The Hobbit had him arriving in two days.
  • Page 106: In The Hobbit, the dwarves saw a fire off in the woods. "The light was ahead of them and to the left of the path".[6] In Fonstad's map the dwarves left the path to the right.
  • Page 113: The leader of the goblins is named "Borg". It should be Bolg,[5] which is twice printed correctly on the preceding page.
  • Page 125: The two maps of Bree, large scale and detailed, have significant differences from Tolkien's plan of Bree published in The Return of the Shadow.[7]
  • Page 135: In the map of Orthanc, the last peak is named "Mathedras" instead of "Methedras".
  • Page 148: Gamling the Old is called "Gambling the Old".
  • Page 189: The language of the Dwarves is labeled "Khazâd" instead of Khuzdul.

The usage of early concepts of the The Book of Lost Tales alongside the established canon, are also arguably controversial. In Aman, Fonstad identified the early name "Hanstovánen" and also she points out the dwellings of the Valar in Valinor. Same happens with Tol Eressëa whose (tentative) maps portray Tavrobel and Kortirion as well as some places in Gondolin.

In the First Age maps, the Sea of Helcar is seen to cover the area of future Mordor, Khand, and Rhûn; the Sea of Rhûn and Sea of Núrnen are shown as its remnants. In The Peoples of Middle-earth there are references to the Sea of Rhûn existing in the First Age, but no indication as to whether it should be equated with the Sea of Helcar or not.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Index, "Map"
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Ring Goes South"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Istari", Note 4
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "A Thief in the Night"
  5. 5.0 5.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "The Clouds Burst"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Flies and Spiders"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Third Phase (2): XX. At the Sign of the Prancing Pony, 'Plan of Bree' [illustration]"