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Thread: Hard time with all the geographic detail in Tolkien's work?

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After you read LotR a few times the world also starts to gel; however, there are some of us who are map people and have dog eared or book marked the map pages upon our initial reading. Then to follow the different groups on their journeys, we go so far as to buy The Atlas of Middle-earth (Revised Edition) by Karen Wynn Fonstad, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1991, 8" x 11" paperback, 210 pages, about $24 U.S., ISBN 0-618-12699-6

It contains detailed maps and explanatory text covering The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and a tad bit from History of Middle-earth.
I just got The Atlas Of Middle Earth and find it very helpful. Big Smile Smilie However, I still have one question: Where is (was) Beleriand in relation to the map in LOTR?
The first time I read the books, I definitely did get bored with all the scenic descriptions..."So, another tree. Great. Let's move on."...Reading it over again, I really got into all the detail, though. I don't feel like it adds all that much to the story, but it's priceless in terms of the world Tolkien created. Smile Smilie

I should probably get the Altas of Middle Earth...I don't know where anything is ever... Tongue Smilie
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I just got The Atlas Of Middle Earth and find it very helpful. Big Smile Smilie However, I still have one question: Where is (was) Beleriand in relation to the map in LOTR?


Under the sea, to the west of the grey havens.
In fact Lindon and the Grey Havens are the only surviving part of what was Beleriand. Extending to the west of the Blue Mountains, Lindon is in the area of Beleriand that was then known as Ossiriand.
Thanks, I get it now. Big Smile Smilie
The first time I read The Hobbit and LOTR, all the details that Professor Tolkien gave really confused me. I was a newbie to the world of Tolkien and did not have any maps. I kept wanting to find out where the dwarves and Bilbo were and the same went for the Fellowship. I kept getting places mixed up. So, my 2nd time through I started do searches on the web, and that really helped me a lot. I now have maps all over my house, and I never get confused anymore, because I can just look it up and know right where everyone and everything is. That is part of the way I found PT. I was looking for answers to quizzes (from another website) and more and more maps. I have become a true map person and have just ordered the Atlas of Middle Earth that Grondy mentioned. I can't wait till it arrives.





[Edited on 2/6/2003 by MelliotSandybanks]
I still love my Middle Earth Roleplaying maps as they are in colour and all the mountains and trees look real. Having small pieces of blue tac representing the characters slowly making their way from one place to another really helped bring the whole place alive for me.
Yeah, well, I like the maps and everything. It's not everyone's locations, in fact, I think they add to the story and I kind of dig em, you have to kind of know where the good guys and bad guys are in the story, so you know if the people are in any certain dangers. What gets difficult for me to sit through is stuff like...well, everytime someone in the story stops and looks around Tolkien goes on about the scenery down to the last blade of grass. Not just rolling hills but a whole paragraph about how they roll and where and what color they are...etc etc. It bogs down the story to me, I don't have much concern for detail like that, if they are in the mountains and its snowing...I fill my head with mountains and snow and try to GET ON WITH THE PLOT.

Actually the maps and geography of everything are relativel easy for me to understand and well worth the time to find out where things are.



[Edited on 8/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
Most of the books come with pretty good maps, don't they? I mean, the Atlas of Middle Earth is excellent, but to follow the story, it's fairly easy with the maps in the books.

I understand what you are saying, mim, and sometimes I skim a bit (usually without realizing it). It's something in Tolkien's style that people debate about--some people think he writes boring prose, and some people love it. Personally, I love his style, especially in the Hobbit when he's being a little less serious. Think of the passages where he describes the terrain as those movie shots where they pan across the people walking (like the FotR shots of the fellowship)--they show that time still passes pretty slowly when you are walking across a country. I mean, it would have been pretty boring if he'd just said "they left Bree and walked for days, finally arriving at Weathertop" or something like that... Wink Smilie
I absolutely love Tolkien's rich , desciptive prose! All the little details are what makes the story and the whole of Middle Earth come alive for me! Read Smilie Elf Smilie Genius Smilie
His writing paints such a beautifully vivid picture in my mind - it really sets JRRT apart from many lesser fantasy postAuthorIDs.
This effect is apparently shared by Tokien-inspired artists such as John Howe, Alan Lee and Ted Nasmith; and I also believe it is the reason why LotR translates so well into a movie, because Tolkien gave them so much to work with.
Sorry if i've come across as being overly dogmatic, but I'm really adamant about this... I love everything that JRRT wrote about LotR, etc. (even the histories which seemed tedious at first, but really add to the magnificence of Tolkien's world) Smoke Smilie
OH yes, I'm sure that for many readers, all the scenic description is a big part of the story. I think it's highly commendable if a person can hang with it long enough to actually get an image in their head. And you are right, Dain_II, it would definitely be lesser quality literature if Tolkien had not been so descriptive.

I suppose one of the qualities of great art (any form of art) is that we are free to absorb what we want of it and leave the rest, making it an individual experience for everyone! There is also enough in Tolkien's stories for readers to come back again and again, finding something new. Maybe someday when I have the plot under my belt, and haven't seen the movies in a while, I will be able to grab onto the scenery with more patience and understanding than I do now.

Not to mention that Tolkien created this whole place, he had EVERY RIGHT to talk about it as much as he wanted. So I can't hold that against him.

I think for me, and other "cheaters" who saw the movie first, our minds already have the scenery "preinstalled" (for better or worse). So it is a bother to re-imagine or worse, challenge, what is in our minds. One thing is for sure, if the filmmakers needed something to base their scenery ON, Tolkien sure gave them enough to do it, and I'm grateful that they took the time to do it, from what I understand (don't know since I'm obviously NOT an expert on each blade of grass in ME) they did a pretty good job, and I guess what I am trying to say is, I'm content with what the filmmakers installed in my head. PURISTS PLEASE FORGIVE ME!

This is all personal, I have a bit of a short attention span, so believe me, it's NOTHING against Tolkien or his style, I just have a little impatience with it.

[Edited on 9/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]

[Edited on 9/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
The great thing about JRR is that he really should have been a director, the only thing missing from LOTR is the words "Pan" "Fade in" "Fade out" and focussing instructions, he directed the whole book like a movie (go on, read it again, you'll see what I mean) which is why many people are upset that they didn't follow his instructions to the letter with the movie. (Mostly coz it would be a HELL of a long movie, with too many dull bits in for the commercial market)
ok....case in point just so you know how hard this is proving to be...and IM NOT AN IDIOT...

I'm currently reading TTT where A-G-L meet up with Gandalf the White and head off to Rohan. It took me 45 minutes to waaaaaaaaaaaade through two pages of the next chapter "The King of the Golden Hall" and all Tolkien was trying to say was...well, they are going to see the king of Rohan now. Here's the mountains, and here's the creek/river...and look! There is Edoras. That's where we need to go. Man. I was exhausted trying to put all that together in my head, but I did want to try, just to see if it was a magical experience for me. (sigh) It was torturous. hahaha! Well, at least I know. I guess part of me keeps thinking I will miss something important.

[Edited on 9/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]

[Edited on 9/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
The descriptions may be tortuous at times, but having waded through them, the memories you will have left afterwards will be of a fabulous story, full of adventure etc, and not of his thousands of adjectives etc.
Right, I no longer see the individual words in my head, I see the scenes he was describing. I don't know, maybe it is a guy thing, and I have after all, probably read it more than fifteen times in the last thirty some years. I probably skipped over a lot of description the first times too.

I know when reading the multi-paged inner-feelings of Natty Bumpo in the works of James Fennimore Cooper, I skipped over them. For the same reason, I never have been able, in three times trying, to get more than a third of the way through the 'Tale of a Tall Whale's Tail' by Herman Melville. You know the book I'm talking about; here on Planet-Tolkien.com, because of our aggressive smut filter, it must be called Moby Richard. Elf With a Big Grin Smilie
The descriptions are great for readers, and it's a wonderfully enriching experience when the reader takes time to envision the locations that Tolkien painstakingly describes.

I don't think it really is so great to movie-makers however... By adding so much details, Tolkien forces the movie-maker to follow his descriptions to stay as true to the book as possible, which can otherwise be "cheated" if he had cut down on the details making the job easier. Honestly I think Tolkien's descriptions of the locations are really a nightmare for a filmmaker. Which is why I respect PJ since he took the effort to stay as true to Tolkien's descriptions as possible (even though he did alter the plotlines).
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I don't think it really is so great to movie-makers however... By adding so much details, Tolkien forces the movie-maker to follow his descriptions to stay as true to the book as possible, which can otherwise be "cheated" if he had cut down on the details making the job easier. Honestly I think Tolkien's descriptions of the locations are really a nightmare for a filmmaker. Which is why I respect PJ since he took the effort to stay as true to Tolkien's descriptions as possible (even though he did alter the plotlines).




Erk, I think you have just managed to justify the exact opposite side of that argument for people who HATE the movies because of PJ's artistic liberties. I think that Tolkien lovers who found themselves at the movies would have been MUCH more forgiving of PJ settling for less than accurate scenery if he had left the plot and characters alone. In fact, we may challenge two points about PJ's genius in that regard. One: why, if he managed to pay so much attention to accuracy with the scenery, did he not give the same effort to the rest of the project? And two: how much talent does it really take to recognize your own homeland? PJ is from NZ after all and he probably imagined these scenes right out of his own backyard when he read the book. He did happen to be right in this case. NZ, all the facets and seasons of it, do suit the novel well...but talent to see such a thing? I don't know if I would call it that. Based on PJ's handling of the other facets of the movies, I would just as soon call it laziness.

PlasticSquirrel's comment:

Quote:
The great thing about JRR is that he really should have been a director, the only thing missing from LOTR is the words "Pan" "Fade in" "Fade out" and focussing instructions...


is a very good way of putting it that PJ had everything he needed to make a fantastic film and he STILL felt the need to mess with the content.

The way I see it...when making these movies:

The actors and casting crews could have done whatever they wanted with the characters, and scriptwriters could have done whatever they wanted with the story, and it would have been just as easy for them to create more accurate recreations, leaving the holllywood stuff OUT and sticking to the original text of the novel, even if it did need to be condensed for the sake of time (but why? Why not 6 movies, one for each section of the LOTR, if they told the story more accurately? They could have cut all the crap that they pulled out of nowhere, and written a Tom Bombadil scene instead, for one thing? Certainly not a money issue, and it would have been worth it in time to make six shorter but more accurate movies, not to mention DOUBLE the movie ticket sales and DOUBLE the hoopla when each film came out and DOUBLE the sales and rentals of DVDs and videotapes. Working harder to respect the story, they would have ensured that all 6 movies were huge successes.) But I digress...

On the other hand, the way Tolkien describes a certain landscape, you may search the world over and not find a place that looks the way Tolkien said it should look. So. What do you do? You either fill a studio with plastic trees (maybe even a PlasticSquirrel here and there! hahah) and fake snow and cardboard mountains...BAD IDEA..., or you reconfigure real places with landscaping that follows the text, or you go out looking for the "spirit of the terrain" that Tolkien was trying to describe. I think that in choosing his scenery PJ has done very well by using the last two methods, as I have gleaned from other readers and reviews of the movie and my own limited knowledge. (I have conceded already that I am content to trust him and I am NOT an expert...thus this thread...on interpreting the way Tolkien's places are supposed to look.)

But what PJ DID do to lose the respect of and disappoint a lot of Tolkien readers...was monkey with a story, its characters and their relationships...as told by a person who is commonly referred to as one of the great minds of the 20th century...and a work of literature that will stand forever in history as a time honored epic novel. Creating ME from scratch? Not easy, and if any improvisation was going to be used in the moviemaking, that may have been a better place to do it, even so staying as true to the text as possible. Staying true to a story that had everything it needed without being trumped up by a moviemaker? Shoulda been a no brainer and I think it was pretty presumptuous (cheeky for you Brits) of PJ to think he could respectfully tamper with it.

I have mentioned in other posts that I do enjoy the movies and that's true but only as they stand alone or as a springboard for the books, knowing that you will be watching a watered down version of the book, I'm only realizing as I read the book for the first time exactly how watered down it is...and maybe with consideration that the movies and the books are for a separate audience. If I'm going to cut PJ any slack about the movies, I would have to say that ANY filmmaker involved in a book to movie script would be hard pressed to please most of the fans of LOTR or any book like this no matter what they did.

Purists? Am I right? Please don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong here.

BTW, I know this is probably out of context with this thread, feel free to move it as you see fit, but I wanted this to be seen in response to the last comment.



[Edited on 11/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
ANYHOO....thanks for the encouragement, I do feel good after I have finally put a scene together in my head. I swear, I love to read and I am incredibly smart but I think I have an ADHD type thing where I get antsy with books like this. And the plot is so captivating that I just want him to get on with it. On the other hand, maybe in that regard, I just don't care what middle earth looks like, and I'm just plain lazy about finding out. Probably a bit of both. Well, thanks again for being patient with me...Grondy, Val, everyone!

[Edited on 11/2/2003 by musicimprovedme]
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And the plot is so captivating that I just want him to get on with it. On the other hand, maybe in that regard, I just don't care what middle earth looks like, and I'm just plain lazy about finding out. Probably a bit of both


The first time I read LOTR, I ended up skimming the descriptive scenery parts because I was so enthralled with the plot, that was where my focus was. Thankfully, I enjoyed the books so much, I went back again and again to re-live the experience. These times, I drank in every little detail! This was important to me because Middle Earth was not a world created from my imagination, but from Tolkien's and I needed his detail to visualize the true image of ME in my mind.
Musicimprovedme, when you have finished reading LOTR, I suspect that you will go back to read it again (...and again and again...) and that will be the next leg in your journey through Middle Earth. And this time you will not feel like you are wading through pages of meaningless text which could be condensed to three short sentences. You will truely see the magic of Middle Earth. Then, when you take a walk in the woods, tell me what you see. Wink Smilie
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Musicimprovedme, when you have finished reading LOTR, I suspect that you will go back to read it again (...and again and again...) and that will be the next leg in your journey through Middle Earth. And this time you will not feel like you are wading through pages of meaningless text which could be condensed to three short sentences. You will truely see the magic of Middle Earth. Then, when you take a walk in the woods, tell me what you see.


I don't feel so bad since a lot of people have been saying that they had a hard time too...and then went back to reread the story and started to develop a sense of the landscapes.

And as for letting you know what I see next time...and as you suspect there WILL BE A NEXT TIME, I AM SURE OF IT? I certainly will do that, Rednell. Thanks for the encouragement. Read Smilie Wiggle Smilie
Well. I finished the book, and if you are reading other posts that I have written since day one of my After-Completion Reckoning (a major shift in looking at my accomplishments because I think that good books indeed leave you different than you ever were before...) you will know that I am bragging about it all over this website.

When I first put down the book after reading the Grey Havens (I will read the appendices but just not today...) I opened it back up again minutes later and started reading Tolkien's prologue..."Concerning Hobbits".

Now. I have had this book for about 10 months or so but when I started the first time, just getting through the prologue was intimidating to me...I thought it was tedious info that I would find out as needed in the rest of the story, all the offshoots of hobbits and all about the dope they smoked, and about their stature, etc. And I thought...my God, if the rest of this book is this long winded I don't stand a chance of getting through it. And I did put it down for some months until after seeing the first movie.

Well, now I've seen the big picture of LOTR a total of ONCE. I feel a great sense of accomplishment for being able to say so. It was well worth it. So as I started to say...I finished the book only to pick it RIGHT back up again and start over with the Prologue. I wanted to see if you guys were right, that the subsequent readings of the story would be easier...lo and behold they WERE! I sailed through things that I had to back up and re-read before, almost skimming them and yet comprehending as much as or more than my laborious reading before. I am hoping that I will continue to understand the rest of the story, mostly the scenic detail, a little more easily than this first time around has been for me.

I don't want to get bleeped, but in many ways, I compare this to the first time I did some other things that I have done...ahem. The intimidation, the dancing around the real thing, and then finally doing it, and seeing a whole new world open up to you...it's amazing.

So, I'm done bragging, and I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who has encouraged me in this first read, and for all your support and insight as I tried to make sense of it the first time around. You have helped me make a lifelong friend of this book and it's something I will never forget. I hope that by continuing to visit this website, I can help other people learn their way around Middle Earth like you all have helped me!
*sniff sniff* Very Sad Smilie Musicimprovedme, what you just said was truely beautiful.
I'm glad you are finding it easier second time around and I know that you will love it forever: every time you read it you will discover some new and interesting detail that you had forgotten from prior readings.
Read Smilie Serching Smilie Wiggle Smilie Elf With a Big Grin Smilie Pary Smilie
Quote:
After you read LotR a few times the world also starts to gel; however, there are some of us who are map people and have dog eared or book marked the map pages upon our initial reading. Then to follow the different groups on their journeys, we go so far as to buy The Atlas of Middle-earth (Revised Edition) by Karen Wynn Fonstad, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1991, 8" x 11" paperback, 210 pages, about $24 U.S., ISBN 0-618-12699-6

It contains detailed maps and explanatory text covering The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and a tad bit from History of Middle-earth.
I just received in today's mail the Easton Press leather bound volume of this atlas whose cover matches those of the five volumes of the Tolkien set. The price for this one was about $70 US which is a little steep, but the book will outlast my paperback version which even now is showing a bit of wear and tear.
I just wanted to thank everyone in this thread that mentioned Karen Wynn Fonstad's The Atlas of Middle Earth. I finally got the book about a month and a half ago for my birthday, and it's been an incredibly helpful reference tool for me. It was from this thread that I first found out about that book several months back when I first came to PT, so thanks again!
Orc With Thumbs Up Smilie
I believe I learned about Fonstadt's great atlas from Rincewind and Plastic Squirrel a couple years ago and have merely been passing on the info to the new people to pass on in their turn. Happy Elf Smilie
Mae govannen!

I know it has been a while since the last post here, but I couldn't help myself; the posts of musicimprovedme were just too GOOD and MOVING!!!
So, I just want to add something regarding the Author. On the Romanian LotR edition's cover, there is a quote which, IMHO, syntethises the entire greatness of Tolkien's work, while remaining the deepest homage that a writer could receive. Here it is:

Quote:
The readers split in two great categories: those that have read 'The Lord of the Rings' and those that are about to.
(Sunday Times)

I'm sorry if I didn't quite get the quote right, but I translated it into English; I don't know the original version, but I'm sure you'll the point! It is, indeed, a masterpiece, a work of a genius, no doubt! We should all be grateful to the Professor and hope that he can see us, from wherever he is now, somewhere beyond the Circles of his beautiful Arda! *sigh*

Namarie!

P.S.: I also read somewhere (d*mn my memory, I'll have to remember where) how wonderful it would to greet each other someday with these superb words: "Elen sila lummenn' omentielvo!"

[Edited on 10/10/2003 by bugyfeanor]
I didn't read all the posts in this thread, but I want to give my opinion. When I was reading the LOTR trilogy, I had to reference the maps many times. It was confusing to me sometimes because I would imagine the company on the west bank of a river, only to later discover they were actuall on the right side. and the mountains confused me at first too. But after a while I realized I just had to look at the maps and I could find out exactley where they were. Sometimes it took me a while (where is Edoras, for Gods' sake, where is Edoras! is one of my own rantings) but I eventually found out where I was supposed to look at. And the Sil., now that was a job with the logistics. From ME to the Undying Lands and back, I had to really focus. BUt all in all the maps, descriptions, and traveling info all work together to really create the world Of Middle-Earth. (I know I just summed up what everyone said, but I like giving my spin on the subject).

Cáno
Thanks Cáno, welcome back. Happy Elf Smilie

The places I could never find on the first maps were Erech and Dunharrow. I just had to guess at their locations in the White Mountains. The newer maps now have them pin-pointed.