Erik MH:

blog entry

About the “Mordor” project

original date2017-09-28 22:32 utc
republished2024-06-06 00:51 utc
topicsDimitra Fimi; Thomas Honegger; Tolkien work; orig. on PostHope
noteThis post was ori­gin­ally pub­lished at Pos­tHope, where it’s still avail­able, along with sev­er­al pub­lic comments.

I men­tioned in my first post 1 The ref­er­ence to “my first post,” of course, means the first post on my can­­cer-focussed Pos­tHope blog. The link here on this site is to that same post, but migrated to this offi­cial blog at that I named this site Walk­ing into Mordor only par­tially for the obvi­ous reas­on — that in fact I’m also spend­ing this time on a non-meta­phor­ic­al Mordor-related project.

If all goes well, I will (finally!) be pub­lished, if only in the form of one chapter. The book, entitled Tolki­en and Lit­er­ary World­build­ing, is being edited for Walk­ing Tree Pub­lish­ers by Dr. Thomas Honeg­ger and Dr. Dimitra Fimi.

And my chapter will be “Map­ping Mordor: Examin­ing Tolkien’s World­build­ing Meth­od of ‘Con­struc­tion by Revision.’”


Even a curs­ory read­ing of any of the volumes of The His­tory of Middle-earth shows that J.R.R. Tolki­en con­struc­ted his lit­er­ary works through a pro­cess of massive iter­at­ive revi­sion. It is not sur­pris­ing, there­fore, that we can see Tolki­en using the same meth­od with his topo­graphy (the shape of the land itself), top­onymy (the names he ascribes to places), and car­to­graphy (the maps which show his topo­graphy and top­onymy). Primar­ily using Chris­toph­er Tolkien’s descrip­tions and re-draw­ings of sev­er­al of his father’s “sketch-maps” in The Treas­on of Isen­gard and The War of the Ring, as well as the repro­duc­tions of these maps and oth­ers in Wayne Ham­mond and Christina Scull’s The Art of “The Lord of the Rings”, but draw­ing too from Tolkien’s lin­guist­ic notes and essays and oth­er sources, this art­icle jour­neys through the var­ied geo­graphy of sec­ond­ary-world Mordor and through the chro­no­logy of Tolkien’s shift­ing thoughts in primary-world Oxford as he con­structs the Middle-earth we are famil­i­ar with from The Lord of the Rings. It will show an ever-chan­ging land, where famil­i­ar place-names refer to famil­i­ar — but dif­fer­ent — places, where whole moun­tain ranges are moved, where famil­i­ar place-names are put togeth­er back­wards, and where, in fact, it would be pos­sible to simply walk into Mordor.

First phase

There are a lot of pieces to this pro­ject. The first steps actu­ally involve find­ing every top­onym (place name) Tolki­en used for each loc­a­tion (moun­tain, range, river, tower, &c.) in Mordor and tra­cing his own chan­ging con­cep­tions of

  • where it is
  • what it is
  • what it’s called

Some­times all three changed over the course of his writ­ing, which can really be a chal­lenge to one’s brain — espe­cially when com­bined with the pos­sib­il­ity that some oth­er loc­a­tion might pick up the use of a name that was discarded.

And that’s just step #1. More, anon.