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General Map of Middle-earth

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This article describes a concept which is mentioned in J.R.R. Tolkien's works, but was never given a definite name.
General Map of Middle-earth

The General Map of Middle-earth is the original, unnamed[note 1] map of the Westlands that Christopher Tolkien made in late 1953 for the first edition of The Lord of the Rings.[1][2] The map was drawn in haste by Christopher Tolkien based on sketches made by J.R.R. Tolkien. J.R.R. Tolkien consulted this map during his writing.[3]


[edit] Mistakes

Christopher Tolkien admitted that there were both "minor" and "major defects" and oddities, and while his father used the map as the basis of his writing, he often noted its inadequacies. In the long term, Christopher regretted that his father did not proceed to make a better map of his own.[3]

Some of the errors include:

  • The main name of Harondor appears as "South Gondor" which is the translation of the actual name.[4]
  • The Misty Mountains were written as "Hithaiglin" in the original map, which was corrected to "Hithaeglir" in more recent maps.[4]
  • Nan Curunir is spelt as "Nan Gurunir", representing an earlier version of the writing.[4]
  • The small mountainous range north of Hollin shouldn't be actually mountains but rather "an ever wider land of bleak hills, and deep valleys filled with turbulent water".[5][4]
  • Of former Arnor only the region of Rhudaur is named, oddly omitting Arthedain and Cardolan.[3]
  • The map suggests that the Icebay of Forochel is the small gulf north of Eriador. C. Tolkien realised that the name rather refers to the immense region of sea surrounded by the Cape of Forochel.[3][4]
  • Forodwaith is labelled as being a part of the wider Northern Waste, if not a separate region. C. Tolkien later became sure that the two are synonymous.[3]
  • The portion of the East Road between the Weathertop to the Ford of Bruinen was supposed to have two big curves, which were not depicted in the final map, creating a discrepancy with the text of the First Edition. The text was altered in the later editions in order to be more faithful to the map.[6]

[edit] Successor

While authoring Unfinished Tales, Christopher Tolkien considered including the map and inserting additional place-names mentioned in the book. He instead chose to redraw the map entirely, maintaining the same "style and detail" while adding new information and correcting the map's "minor defects".[3] This new map is called "The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age", and it has been included in the HarperCollins editions of The Lord of the Rings since 2005.[1]

[edit] Annotated copy

A copy of the map with annotations by J.R.R. Tolkien and Pauline Baynes has been published online with permission of Blackwell’s Rare Books. This annotated copy, found in Baynes' copy of The Lord of the Rings, was used by Baynes in preparing "A Map of Middle-earth".[7][8] Blackwell's Rare Books also released online a copy of the map with the annotations digitally transcribed for clarity.[9]


  1. The name "General Map of Middle-earth" appears to be coined by Hammond and Scull.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, "The Maps of The Lord of the Rings", pp. lv-lxvii
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 187, (undated, written April 1956), p. 247
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Introduction", "The Map of Middle-earth"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. lxiii
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The Story Continued: XXIV. The Ring Goes South, Note on the Geography and the contemporary Map", p. 441
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Return of the Shadow, "The First Phase: XI. From Weathertop to the Ford, Note on the course of the Road between Weathertop and Rivendell"
  7. Alison Flood, "Tolkien's annotated map of Middle-earth discovered inside copy of Lord of the Rings" dated 23 October 2015, The Guardian (accessed 24 March 2018)
  8. Daniel Helen, "Map annotated by Tolkien found in Pauline Baynes’s copy of The Lord of the Rings" dated 24 October 2015, The Tolkien Society (accessed 24 March 2018)
  9. Daniel Helen, "Tolkien’s annotated map of Middle-earth transcribed" dated 10 November 2015, The Tolkien Society (accessed 24 March 2018)
Maps of Arda made by or for J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit:  Thrór's Map · Map of Wilderland
 TLOTR:  A Part of the Shire · General Map of Middle-earth · Map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor · The West of Middle-earth at the End of the Third Age
Other:  Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North · Númenórë‎
Baynes:  A Map of Middle-earth · There and Back Again
Early maps:  The earliest map‎ · I Vene Kemen · The First 'Silmarillion' Map · Ambarkanta maps · The Second 'Silmarillion' Map · The First Map of 'The Lord of the Rings' · The 1943 Map of 'The Lord of the Rings' · The Second Map of 'The Lord of the Rings' · The Third Map of 'The Lord of the Rings'