Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Middle Earth Cartography, part 4

Part IV Cartographic sources of errors

If we take the notion of ‘Europe is Middle Earth’ as a fact, and if we try to seek the smallest changes required to transform one to another, the best source of transformation would likely be that there wouldn’t have been any actual physical transformation. We know that the current maps of Europe are pretty accurate within limits, but could it be the maps of Middle Earth are not? Looking at the maps of Middle Earth, there are pretty vast areas that look much uncharted. Some maps do have topographic lines or equivalent, but if we take out all the text in the maps, we see that there is not much detailed info on many areas. Where is Rhosgobel? How many rivers and streams go unmarked in the maps? Are there regular settlements in southern Eriador or Enedwaith? Where are the villages of Dunland? [map: blank map of Middle Earth]

This is only natural. Frodo Baggins, who is assumed to be the drawer of the original map, would have naturally concentrated to the areas he himself had seen. No doubt there were better maps of elvish make extant even in those days, but as we do not know the extent of library of Bag End, we cannot know if Frodo had these at his disposal. It could be that the elves would have kept the details of these secret, to keep their meeting places out of common knowledge. It could also be they didn’t have any more detailed maps but would have remembered the details by oral tradition.

In any case, it is possible that the map is entirely a work of Frodo the Hobbit. It could be even the coastlines of Middle Earth have been drawn from memory of some Gondorian or Rivendellian map. There’s little doubt he knew the Ea(rth) was made round (Ea r(ounde)th) when Aman was taken to another planet, the friendship between him and Aragorn and Elrond would have pretty much guaranteed this. This presents some problems in drawing maps as most educated people today know.

It looks like that notable cartographic distortion can be found on the maps of Middle Earth. These entirely normal errors in making maps are generated when transposing the surface of a ball to the 2-dimensional flat surface. This cannot be done so the finished map would retain areas and shapes and directions accurately. On the maps of the Middle Earth, the patterns of distortions are not entirely clear to me, and I gladly leave this task to some skilled geographer with good knowledge of maps and their projections. What I can say, is that the distortion is evident at least in the east and north of the map. Partly, the distortions might be a result of uncertain information, we really do not know much of these areas. Only Aragorn and Curunir have been known to travel far outside the areas we know.

In the normal 2-d maps of earth, the areas near the borders of the maps change shape, they might twist and get seemingly longer or shorter, fatter or thinner. Also the distances between locations here get altered, so many many maps abandon the distance scale all together. Nowadays though, we can express an area the size of Europe pretty accurately in distances and directions and shapes by using fe. the trimetric Chamberlin projection or equidistant conic projection, but the calculations involved are quite fiendish to do by hand (they’re not easy even with computers). Of the persons in third age there are but few scholars during the Age of Kings in Gondor, in addition to Curunir, who might have managed to draw and solve these. Acquisition of accurate distance measurements from all over Endor would still have been difficult.

We may thus assume J.R.R. Tolkien, or the drawer of the original map of Middle Earth, has used a projection that has been more simple to produce. These are plenty, and it might never get solved, which the projection exactly was. We though may note, that the rivers of Celduin and Carnen far-east in Middle Earth conjoin pretty much like Volga and Kama rivers in Russia. Their alignment on maps resembles the route taken by Vikings to the Constantinople, so the connection to medieval Europe can be found. Has there been Northmen in the Kingly guard of Gondor? The answer might be found in the remaining archives of Gondor.

Assuming the north parts of the maps are similarly condensed, we can show that the Misty Mountains reached further north and the Lake of Rhun located further east and south. Also, the Iron Hills may be located very much to the east of the conventional thought. This east-north-south distortion conveniently locates Erebor much more north than we usually think. Its location now though would be in Karelia, near the areas where the Finnish folklore of ancient times was collected. Missing a good alternative, I’ll propose that Lake Yanis in Karelia, is falsely interpreted as an impact structure, and is the location. Aule (with the help of Iluvatar) must have snatched Erebor, along with her inhabitants away from this Earth. Checking the areas of massive changes to the Middle Earth thus far described, leaves us a relatively stable area of Brown Lands, so the mixed people that was generated here, the Kurgans, were strengthened and are now, by some, interpreted as a birthplace of much of European cultures.

After these huge changes, the real one and the ones produced by the difficulties in map making, our map of the Middle Earth looks like the following. Without the knowledge of the projection used in the map of the Middle Earth, it is impossible to know how distorted the areas on edges of the map are, I have thus limited the correction of the distortion somewhat, partly also due technical reasons. The discovery of more exact correspondences between maps of Middle Earth and Europe is left to later and better cartographers. On the map, I have left the southern part of Misty Mountains to their original location, so the readers can more easily equate the modern and third age locations. It can be though quite easily shown (oh yeah) that their size corresponds quite exactly the size of the mountains still missing in the modern European map.

On the next part, that is maybe the second to last one, we’ll wonder how on Earth we can fit the British Isles to the location we have been told, and we’ll ask if this is necessary, on these times after the 1950s.

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