26 February 2017


A noteworthy recent article from The Onion: “Grown Man Refers To Map At Beginning Of Novel To Find Out Where Ruined Castle Of Arnoth Is Located.” (Um… what’s so funny about that?)

On a more serious note, I very much doubt that I would have become as enthralled with fantasy fiction and role-playing games were it not for maps. I love them!

Professor Tolkien’s maps of Middle-earth inflamed my imagination as a young lad reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings almost as much as the stories themselves. When I listed my top five favourite fantasy artists of all time in this blog, number four was Pete Fenlon, simply because of his wonderful maps for ICE’s Middle-earth line during the 1980s. Here is one sample:

This map of the ‘Young Kingdoms’ made the world of Elric feel alive and exciting to me when I read Michael Moorcock’s novels as a teenager:

Here is the (somewhat superior) version of that map included in the Stormbringer RPG:

One of my favourite contemporary fantasy writers is Joe Abercrombie. His ‘First Law’ novels are superb. But something that vexed me greatly about the original trilogy was the lack of any maps. I vaguely recall that Abercrombie gave some half-baked rationalization for not including maps, but thankfully he subsequently has relented on this matter. The short story collection Sharp Ends provides readers—finally!—with an ‘official’ map of the ‘First Law’ world.

Maps: they exist for a reason people!


  1. I still remember reading The Hobbit; I didn't realize that it was 'a different world's; I kept trying to figure out where it fit over Earth's Atlas. The middle East seemed about right, but never really fit, but middle-Earth / middle East,?!
    This continued into LotR; I didn't know anyone else reading it, so I guess I thought it was 'alternate history fantasy'.
    It was David Eddings books that I moved onto next, mixed with my new-to-me Rules Cyclopaedia' that finally clicked it all into place. To this day world creation is a passion.
    Might I suggest David Eddings 'The Rivan Codex' as a world building guide rarely sighted, by a true master of the excercise!
    Cheers from NS!

  2. "'I've been trying to get through this damn book again.' Ardee slapped at a heavy volume lying open, face down, on a chair.

    'The Fall of the Master Maker,' muttered Glotka. 'That rubbish? All magic and valour, no? I couldn't get through the first one.'

    'I sympathise. I'm onto the third and it doesn't get any easier. Too many damn wizards. I get them mixed up with one another. It's all battles and endless bloody journeys, here to there and back again. If I so much as glimpse another map I swear I'll kill myself.'"

    From Last Argument of Kings, Book 3 of The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie.

    1. Ha ha! I wonder if I noticed that snarky comment regarding maps when I read that novel.


Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).