A Map of Mordor and a Map of Central Australia – Where’s the Connection?

“I’m going on an adventure!”

J.R.R. Tolkien

I was standing in the British Library in London looking down into a museum cabinet where beneath a layer of glass, lay an original map of Mordor.
Hand drawn on graph paper by Tolkein’s son Christopher in 1948 it was used by his father as an aid to plotting out the third book of Lord of the Rings that was to be published in 1955.

Tolkein’s Map of Mordor

Mordor Map

Tolkein mapping out Mordor

And, My Map of Central Australia

And just to the right of it, in the very same cabinet, was my (yes you read that right) my hand drawn map of Central Australia that I’d created for Lonely Planet’s 2nd edition of Australia back in the late 70’s.

Hand drawn pictorial maps of Mordor and Australia

Mordor (1948) on the left and my hand drawn map of Central Australia (1979) top right, on display in the British Library, London

 

Maps and the 20th Century Exhibtion

It wasn’t a total surprise to see it there.
But even if you know something is coming – it can still sweep you off your feet when the moment actual happens ~
And certainly the thought and the sight of my creative energies swirling around in the same cabinet space as Tolkein’s – was a little heady!

Tony Wheeler had been in touch with me a few months prior saying he was in London with a portfolio of vintage Lonely Planet maps to share with the British Library curator, Tom Harper for potential selection and inclusion in their upcoming exhibition –
Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line.

Lonely Planet's portfolio at the British Library in London

The Lonely Planet portfolio laid out for the curator Tom Harper to peruse

The overall theme being that come the 20th century, maps no longer were merely navigational for telling us where we were in the world, but rather they were being used to tell us more about who we were   by using maps as a tool to influence our thinking via propaganda and marketing persuasion.

Tom wanted to include some travel maps from guide books, which during the 20th century had flourished in popularity, and so illustrate how maps increasingly had more than a single purpose – In the case of guide book maps, how they “were designed to stimulate the imagination of armchair travellers as much as to guide wayfarers.” 

Hand drawn pictorial map of the Red Centre, Australia by Linda Fairbairn

The Centre of Australia, hand drawn by Linda Fairbairn for the Lonely Planet 1979 edition of Australia

 

Lonely Planet and Lord of the Rings

In November 2016 I got another email from Tony saying:

“I’m briefly in London and have just been to the opening of the British Library’s ‘Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line’ exhibition.
It’s open until 1 March 2017.

They said they have 4 million maps in their collection, there were several thousand they considered using in the exhibition and your ‘The Centre’ map was one of the 200 actually on display.

What is particularly nice is the display case with your map, the Geoff Crowther Central & South America notebook and the 1983 edition of Geoff’s South America on a Shoestring, also includes a map of Middle Earth drawn by Tolkien in 1948 and used by him as he plotted the activity as he wrote Lord of the Rings.

 

Linda fairbairn standing beside her map of Central Australia, alongside Tolkein's Mordor

Standing by the cabinet in the British Library exhibiting my hand drawn pictorial map

So you’re in a display case with Tolkien and the British Library also displays Gutenberg’s Bible of 1455, an original Magna Carta, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Codex Sinaiticus, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, Handel’s Messiah – in the composer’s hand, Beowulf and handwritten lyrics by the Beatles.

Good company!

The exhibition –  was on display from November 2016 through to March 2017, so when in the UK visiting family I naturally made a detour to visit London and see the show.

Linda Fairbairn attending the Maps and the 20th Century exhibition at the British Library

Outside of the British Library

 

Maps on Display at: Drawing the Line

It was an interesting and enchanting, thought provoking and confronting selection of cartographic works –

While some were beautifully artistic and inspiring, others were heartrending as they conveyed the destruction of war; some were political and clandestine, while others took you on a hop skip and a jump back to childhood with board-games with maps as their central theme, and pages from the UK Automobile Association’s personalised map itineraries (which for me brought back many happy memories of map reading in the back of the car as a real live Sat Nav directing my father to turn left and right as we headed off on summer family holidays to the hills of Snowdonia in Wales or the North Western Isles of Scotland); as well as the simply gorgeous end papers from Winnie the Pooh, with the map of 100 Aker Wood.

[If you can’t see the video above – click here]

 

Central Australia -The Middle Earth of Australia!

Central Australia is situated, as its name implies – in the very middle of this island continent – miles from the sea in any direction.
It is a world of wonderfully unique vegetation, animal species and landscapes – not to mention, amazing people!

So as I gazed through the glass into the cabinet looking across from one map to the other – I couldn’t help but find myself getting drawn into the notion that in each of their own ways, both were ‘Middle Earths’ of a kind.

The two maps both represented ancient lands, steeped in complex stories from long, long ago.
Hand drawn pictorial map of the Red Centre of Australia

My current map of Central Australia available in my on-line shop (Click the image to access)

But it was fun reconnecting and seeing close up a map I had last seen nearly 40 years earlier when I’d popped this original pen and ink drawing on draughting film into a tube and posted it off to Tony in Melbourne where the artwork would be laid out ready for the press.

The Red Centre hand drawn map for Lonely Planet's 1979 edition of Australia

Central Australia Map Cover for summarizing your trip

Cover of my current Central Australia Map Journal

 

 

And it’s also fun knowing how I’ve carried on being a part of peoples travels and more importantly the preservation of their memories with my signature product – the Map Journal – and particularly relevant to this story – the Central Australia Map Journal ~

 

 

 

Detail from the pictorial Central Australia Map Journal featuring Alice Springs

A detail of the landscape from Journey Jottings Central Australia Map Journal

 

But in the end, it’s all about…
Going on an adventure

So while this tale started with two hand drawn maps being connected due to their close proximity in a museum glass cabinet (which in turn was due to the commonality of their history – having both been created for a 20th century publication)…

And flowed through whimsical notions as I drew parallels as to how one was indeed a map ‘of’ Middle Earth itself – while the other had attributes that inferred it was ‘a’ Middle Earth of sorts…

In the end, it’s not merely metaphorical connections that bring these maps of Mordor and Central Australia so close together –
It’s more that the two maps have travel at their core.

Both exude the mystery and excitement and fear of stepping out into the unknown, venturing into unfamiliar landscapes where discoveries are to be made and where…

Adventures are to be had 😀

“It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” 

“Home is behind, the world ahead.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

 

Standing outside the British Library having just seen my map there on exhibition

My Map Journals are designed to highlight your adventures by simply dotting your route on the map and jotting your travelling tales in the surrounding illustrated boxes – a visual keepsake that will keep that holiday smile on your face… forever!

Central Australia Pictorial Map

Have you read the Lord of the Rings and/or seen the films?
Or better still… visited The Red Centre –
Australia’s Middle Earth!
A real life landscape where stories older than time await discovery.

Do share one of your traveling adventures
in the comments below

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33 thoughts on “A Map of Mordor and a Map of Central Australia – Where’s the Connection?

  1. This is so utterly wonderful. Congratulations on finding your work deserving of such august company. We visited the British Museum a few years ago; alas, when the map exhibit was still yet a gleam in a curator’s eye.

    • It was a very warming feeling indeed!
      Particularly seeing one of the earliest pictorial maps I’d drawn and knowing how I’d since gone on to further develop the use of maps to be used as a memory aid (not just navigational!) 😉

  2. Oh, I feel so honored that you commented on my humble little post, you who have been honored so much for a treasured hand-drawn map displayed at the British Library together with Tolkien’s! Cartography is such an art!

    • LOL – you are funny!
      I loved that last post of yours about visiting Melbourne – Don’t forget the street art in the alleys and a day trip out to the Dandenongs 🙂

    • Going to the British Library ‘just’ to do some research sounds pretty heavenly to me!
      The exhibition closed early March so you didn’t miss me 😉

    • It was made all the better because it was not expected –
      And I was very spoilt by being given a personal tour by Tom Harper the curator – Now that was a treat 🙂

  3. What a fantastic life you have led and to see your work in the British Museum in such a prominent place…WOW!! Thank you for sharing your accomplishments along with your journey!!

    • It is amazing to be on display in such an incredible institution, alongside such eminent company!
      The more we wander – the more we find ourselves 🙂

    • Its a little unreal isn’t it the thought that something you drew should be museum worthy!
      But then look at all those ‘everyday’ clothes at the Winnipeg Clothes Museum – that puts what Museums are all about a little more in perspective 😉

    • Thanks Nat 🙂
      As a lover of maps per se it’s a great feeling to have one of mine included in such an exhibition – in such an awe inspiring institution – *Bow*!

  4. Wow, you are famous! I’m so happy that such an accolade was bestowed on you, and how lovely that you could get to see the exhibition. Your beautiful maps should be artworks in themselves, to hang on walls – they can be gazed at for ages, and I for one just enjoy imagining the places you depict in your lovely whimsical style. I had seen this news already and commented on Facebook, but have only just found the time for some blog reading. I loved the story you wove around your success, bringing it all together – I especially liked your comparison that both Tolkien’s map and your map , “represented ancient lands, steeped in complex stories from long, long ago.” So true. Well done again!

    • Like you Jo I dwell in possibility (quote Emily Dickinson) and we both know where that can carry us!
      Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

    • Thanks so much Patti 🙂
      I’m loving following your European adventures – That tile Museum was quite superb ~
      Amusingly my very first job when I left home and moved to London was working at Casa Pupo in Pimlico in their Tile Shop selling Spanish and Portuguese tiles to architects and stars wanting something beautiful in their bathrooms and kitchens!
      The Portuguese blue and white tiles were always my favourite!

    • What a totally amazing piece of information!
      Thanks so much for sharing Mark –
      I’ve taken a look at a few maps and it appears, even more amazingly, that Mordor is within the bounds of my little map!
      According to Andrew Bain in this piece (about half way down) that when at Trephina Gorge he took the “Panorama Walk out of the gorge, climbing to a low peak overlooking Mordor Pound and dome-like Mount Benstead, probably the most striking peak in the East MacDonnells.”
      That really brings the story full circle 😀

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