I was thrilled and intrigued to read about this new discovery of Tolkien “ephemera” as Blackwells calls it. The map reveals many of the reasons I love Tolkien. First of all, it shows how much his imagination was visual as well as textual and linguistic. He was a happy man with a sketch pad and a set of ink pens; his artwork helped feed his writing and vice versa.
Consider the careful details that went into just the imaginary postage stamps on his Father Christmas letters. Just the lettering itself on the stamps is beautiful. Tolkien understood that text could be art and art could be text.
The discovery also reveals his love of maps, which Bilbo Baggins shared with him. “He loved maps, and in his hall there hung a large one of the country round with all his favorite walks marked on it in red ink.” Maps were integral to Tolkien’s fantasy worlds, to his plots, to his writing process. As writers we could all learn from him to do more mapping.
And most importantly of all, the detailed annotations reveal his scholarly, curmudgeonly insistence on perfection. They reveal his desire to control how his work was printed and transmitted down to the smallest minutiae.
Hooray for Tolkien! What a great find!
Caroline is an avid reader, children's writer, and teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and dog. Check out her bio for more!