The published maps of Middle-earth by Christopher Tolkien drew on extensive drafts made by his father during the process of his writing. These drafts enable tracing the possible influence of the elder Tolkien’s training in map-reading during his time in the British Army during the First World War. The early maps drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien exhibit features, such as the use of hachures and contour lines to indicate elevation, and a focus on the accurate calculation of distances and movements, that were characteristic of military cartography. The maps then evolved into a more pictorial style, characteristic of contemporary literary maps, as they were prepared by Christopher for publication.
“Making or Creating Orcs” is a close reading of an Alternate University fan fiction, The Free Orcs AU, by Thorinsmut, which is based on the premise that Erebor was not attacked by Smaug and that some Orcs have fought and freed themselves from Sauron and have established a homeland in Gundabad. Working in the context of the scholarship on racist stereotypes relating to Tolkien’s Orcs, I argue that Thorinsmut is able to “write back” to colonial narratives (Baker) through the AU premise and the associated deletions and transformations of Tolkien’s characterizations, plot, setting, and themes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The narrative focus on trade and political alliances between Dwarves and Orcs (and the removal of Elves and Men) transforms Tolkien’s plot from a quest to destroy Sauron’s Ring to a story about Dwarf and Orc relationships, personal and cultural, and the experiences of Orcs who were enslaved by Sauron and fought for their freedom.
Tolkien deliberately left most of his Middle-earth cultures without any form of organized religion. However, the Dúnedain culture, which descends from Númenorean and Edain culture, is exceptional in this regard, characterized as monotheists with a religion dedicated to Eru Ilúvatar and marked, through both cultural and narrative similarities, as sharing a special relationship with him that echoes the covenantal relationship of Biblical Israel with God. These parallels are particularly visible in shared motifs of the Akallabêth and Exodus, the invocation of Ilúvatar in oaths, the Númenorean pilgrimage festivals, and the designation of the Meneltarma and Halifirien as sacred mountains in the order of Sinai and Zion.
Invited talk delivered to the Hobbit Society at the Honors College of the University of New Mexico on February 10, 2016, expanded from a keynote address delivered at Tolkien in Vermont on April 15, 2014.
In his legendarium, Tolkien presents four variants of what would be considered “classicism” in the Primary World: but the presence of all-but-immortal elves creates situations in which a classicizing devotion to ancient exemplars might not arise.