Saturday, April 9, 2016

Middle Earth Cartography, part 5

Part V Relative Sizes of British Isles and Catholicism

The significant problem with the map described above is, that J.R.R. Tolkien, the Translator, has on several occasions stated that Shire is located approximately along the latitudes of his European home. On the map pictured above, England and it’s various –shires are though situated way too much to the south of the true location. The Shire we’re seeking for would seem to be in the deep hug of the North Sea. I’m somewhat hesitant to propose the following, knowing the attention to distances traveled given by the translator of the Thain’s Book. What’s more, huge areas of Eriador are also sunk in the map. This likely cannot have happened without an extensive intervention by the Powers. We might think they’ve relocated most parts of it elsewhere in the Middle Earth, but then it cannot be explained how “hobbits may still be found on areas they’ve always lived.” By this reasoning I’m speculating that J.R.R. Tolkien used at least two different scales when he was translating the map of the Middle Earth. Might it be, he has used ‘the mile of the hobbits’ while drawing Eriador?

We can decipher the length of ‘the hobbit mile’ rather easily (;-)). The current British Mile (1609m) has been created from the natural lengths of humans. The length of a thousand paces is relatively easy to count even by hand. Thus, in earlier times, the true length of a mile has been dependent of the terrain. The more difficult terrain is, the shorter miles we have. Still, the experienced orienteers can estimate their travelling distances notably accurately in the number of paces between the controls. That is to say, they know their pace-lengths in various terrains. And they make a difference between walking-paces and running-paces. In the times of Middle Earth, this skill would have been well developed in all persons travelling long distances.

The height of an average hobbit (3½ feet) and human (5 ¾ feet) gives us an approximation of their pace lengths. Thus we get the ratio between ‘the hobbit mile’ and a regular mile to be approximately the same as in the previous calculation between kilometers and miles, namely 0,61. Thus we could imagine the British Isles to be projected c. 2,6 times larger than Europe (1/(0,62*061)).

Tolkien was an Englishman, but a catholic. Thus it was natural for him to use miles instead of kilometers describing distances. That he was a member of religious minority in his native country, the Anglican superpower of Great Britain, might have influenced to the fact that the areas assigned to England seem to be way larger than the rest of the Europe, on the maps of Middle Earth. Whatever the reasons, it appears that the measurements in Eriador seem to be about 4,1 times bigger (~1,6^3) than in the rest of the map.

There is still an additional problem with projecting the British Isles to the map of the Middle Earth. That is of course, there’s nothing in the Middle Earth resembling the English Channel, or North Sea, for that matter. I cannot offer any better solution to this problem, but that the Professor has decided to omit this for literary purposes and the demands of the storyline. The travel along the North Sea would have undoubtedly have been exciting, but how could the black riders travel along the seas controlled by Ulmo?

Thus it is reasonable, if not entirely prudent, to seek a way to connect an enlarged map of British Isles to the map of Europe so the sea in between is the smallest possible. This may be achieved by rotating the enlarged map of British Isles some tens of degrees clockwise. And here we finish our projection of Middle Earth to Europe. The differences between the shapes of Cornwall and Wales and the respective parts of Middle Earth may be explained by the distortions in the projection, but proving this is beyond me.

This projection changes the distances travelled by Frodo and companions quite a lot, especially the trek between Sarn Gebir and Mordor, and the chase of Orcs across Rohan by three companions seem unnaturally fast, but might it be the Translator of the Book of Westmarch has left out the uninteresting parts of the journey?

I do not know why J.R.R. Tolkien would have thought Scotland as the Northern Waste, but for Ireland, that’s out of the projection, I might have an explanation. Numenor was the pinnacle of civilization in the Middle Earth of Men, but this was lost. It was located way more to the south of where Ireland is now, possibly somewhere on the latitudes of Iberia, where the ancient peoples of continental Celts and Basques lived. Looking at the world map today, on this latitude we find the Azores Islands. Ireland might have been part of these, and be resurfaced and relocated by the continental drift described in the previous chapters. I have not drawn this to the map as this interpretation isn’t supported by any previous attempts in the projections of Middle Earth to Europe. It could be Ireland is just a new island like Numenor was.

In the last part of the series, I’m intending to seek and locate more or less exact correspondences between locations of Europe and project them on Middle Earth map. I’ve only just begun to make these maps, so I’m asking for patience. (It appears Laichalaf (the nick on, who’s done this interpretation) has not continued the series, so this might be the end of the series.)

The images used in making this interpretation and images: the shape of the Umbar coastline from here:

Laichalaf says he’s also done some drawing and claims artistic license.