The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-earth: Special Edition Hardcover – 15 Sep 2003
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About the Author
BRIAN SIBLEY is a writer and broadcaster with a life-long interest in fantasy books and cinema. His fascination with J. R. R. Tolkien and the myths and history of Middle-earth led to his critically-acclaimed BBC radio dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings in which the role of Frodo was played by Ian Holm, who now portrays Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Brian’s subsequent radio dramas included several of Tolkien’s short novels collected under the title Tales from the Perilous Realm, C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, two series of Tales of the Bizarre by Ray Bradbury and Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan and Gormenghast which won him the prestigious Sony Radio Award. His books include Three Cheers for Pooh, Chicken Run: Hatching the Movie, Cracking Animation, The Disney Studio Story, The Land of Narnia and Shadowlands, as well as the text accompanying three maps by John Howe based on Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Brian is currently writing an in-depth account of the making of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for future publication.
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Map I shows an oblique view of The Hobbit's Wilderland. (Like its companions, it reproduces Tolkien's own cartography scrupulously, omitting nothing and adding nothing.) Framing Wilderland, a golden, serpentine Smaug coils sinuously; beneath it, Thorin's dwarves make music in Bilbo's parlour, while Gandalf puffs at his pipe. Bordering vignettes depict Beorn, an eagle, the cobwebbed gloom of Mirkwood and the Running River cascading from the Lonely Mountain.
Map II derives from the rendition of the West of Middle-earth prepared by Christopher Tolkien for his father's Unfinished Tales. John's marginal illustrations include Meduseld; Rivendell; Gandalf; Gollum; Legolas, Gimli and soldiers of Gondor and Rohan confronting a group of orcs; aerial Nazgul wheeling around the horror of Barad-dur; and Gandalf and Shadowfax hastening to Minas Tirith.
Map III shows The Silmarillion's Beleriand. The framing paintings give us Morgoth's fastness of Angband; the red-topped Amon Rudh; Turin beneath the monstrous Glaurung; Telerin swan ships; and the heraldic devices of Earendil, Fingolfin, Finwe, Gil-galad and Luthien.
Map IV, again taken from The Silmarillion, shows the island of Numenor. Illustrated here are two grave Numenorean guardsmen, a rocky shore, Ar-Pharazon's doomed armada and the ruin of Sauron's temple of Morgoth amidst the catastrophe of the Akallabeth.
In my edition - which dates from 2003 - each map is roughly twenty-eight inches square, printed on heavy paper and folded with just five creases. The maps are presented in a folder looking like the cover of a hardback book, itself illustrated with colour paintings of the sea and the hidden city of Gondolin.
Accompanying the maps in a luxurious slipcase is a hardback book by Brian Sibley, celebrated among Tolkien fans for his radio dramatisations of Tolkien's books and his companions to Peter Jackson's Tolkien movies. For each map, Brian provides an essay exploring how Tolkien's geographies were developed, and four comprehensive gazetteers telling us much about the nature of the places on the maps and their significance in Tolkien's narratives. The book also includes many pencil drawings by John, as well as cover paintings of Rivendell and, delectably, the view of the Shire from the entrance hall of Bag End. John also contributes four brief notes about how he undertook his work.
John's art is vividly expressive of character, atmosphere and drama. Brian's writing is as conversationally genial as it is expert and insightful. Together, the two men have produced a collection that deserves a place on any Tolkien lover's shelves.
(I should maybe add that the first three maps have lately been reissued in a different format, each pocketed in its own little hardback book containing an expanded version of the relevant text and additional pencil sketches: see There and Back Again: The Map of Tolkien's Hobbit,The Road Goes Ever On and On: The Map of Tolkien's Middle-earth and West of the Mountains, East of the Sea: The Map of Tolkien's Beleriand and the Lands to the North.)
Howe presents four fold-out maps of Middle-Earth: Wilderland, the areas traversed by Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit," a general map of Middle-Earth, a map of Beleriand and other lands of the north, and the land of Numenor. The latter two haven't been released in this country, which makes them especially interesting.
Admittedly, the maps aren't too detailed or intricate; they seem rather basic. But Howe hasn't just drawn colorful maps -- he surrounds the maps with his exquisite illustrations of trees and hills, castles, Bilbo and the Dwarves at Bag End, Gandalf on Shadowfax, the seashore and mountains. With Howe's intricate, Celtic-looking borders separating the illustrations from the maps, each poster takes on almost the look of a medieval tapestry.
The foldout poster-maps are exceptional on their own. But Brian Sibley's accompanying guide is almost as good -- he has a separate section for each map that details the various cities, mountains, and other important points. What's more, Sibley details the history of each map in Tolkien's life, and the importance of that part of Middle-Earth in his ongoing story. Sibley's essays are well-written and interesting, and his descriptions of the locations in Middle-Earth is quite well done.
Don't expect something too earth-shattering -- "Maps of Tolkien's Middle-Earth" is precisely what the title implies. It's map posters, accompanied by an insightful guide book. Both are well-done and masterfully illustrated, especially Howe's accompanying illustrations in Sibley's book (both rougher black-and-white pictures, and polished color paintings). And Sibley's talent for writing breezy, pleasant prose serves him well when describing various story events in "Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit" and "The Silmarillion."
Sibley and Howe's collaboration is a beautiful and intriguing item for fans of "Lord of the Rings," adding a bit of extra color to Tolkien's fictional universe.
This package is beautifuly presented containing howes 4 Middle Earth maps in a hardback folder (the maps are Middle Earth, Beleriand, Numenor and the Hobbit map) with an informative hardback book by Brian Sibley explaining the role of maps in Tolkien's creations and containing a gazetter of place names for each map. The whole lot is bundled into an attractive slipcase.
Howes maps are not over detailed, and are bordered with representations of scenes from the books painted by Howe. However, the maps contain as much detail as the maps drawn by JRR and Christopher Tolkien. Howes purpose was not to create detailed cartography surpassing the original maps in detail and annotation, but to create artistic interpretations of the maps.
In other words, view the maps as art rather than detailed guides to Middle Earth and then you will not be dissapointed.
Would suggest prospective buyers to look elsewhere for maps and geographical info on Middle Earth.
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