204 - One Ring To Rule Them All, Mate
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
“The koality of muh-cy is not strined”: I forget who once pondered the impossibility of believing Shakespeare spoken in an Australian accent. Maybe it’s the implied anachronism, for in Shakespeare’s time there wasn’t an Australian accent, owing mainly to Australia not having been discovered yet.
At first glance this map, transposing Tolkien’s fantasy world on Australia, seems equally out of place. The imagined continent of Middle-Earth has always been taken to represent or at least prefigure Europe. The Hobbits, for example, are, says Tolkien, “just rustic English people, made small in size because it reflects the generally small reach of their imagination.” A map, discussed earlier on this blog (#121 – Where On Earth Was Middle-Earth?) takes the parallel between Tolkien’s world and the outline of modern Europe to its extreme – Mordor is in Hungary, for example.
And yet, putting the eurocentric view of fantasy cartography to one side, it’s worth recalling that the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy wasn’t filmed in Hungary, England or anywhere else in Europe, but in New Zealand – Australia’s neighbour. Ironically, about as far away in the world from Tolkien’s rustic English countryfolk as you can get without getting your feet wet.
So if New Zealand can be the (rather spectacular) backdrop to Tolkien’s stories, why not Australia? Disbelief duly suspended, let’s examine the places mentioned in this map:
Many places take an existing Aussie name and tolkienify them, such as Western Australia (‘Westron Australia’), Perth (‘Middle-Perth’), Broome (‘Brun’), Alice Springs (‘Alfalas Springs’), Lake Eyre (‘Lake Corseyre’), Hobart (‘Hobartton’ – a nice reference to Hobbiton), Sydney (‘Sidnarin’), Quenyasland (‘Queensland’), Adelaide (‘Adeleade’), Brisbane (‘Brohan’) and Melbourne (‘Morborn’).
The thinly settled Northern Territory is rebaptised the ‘Northern Waste’, the Great Dividing Range becomes ‘Great Dividing Rangers’. I don’t know how the map-maker feels about the Australian federal government, but the legend covering the federal capital Canberra might give a hint: “Here was of old the witch-realm of Canbrar.”
This map was made and sent in by James Hutchings, not coincidentally an Australian. “A great place for a holiday”, he says about his tolkienified Australia, “but watch out for the kangarorcs.”
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