My Heart is a Map

The other day I ran into an interesting post regarding whether or not to include maps in works of fantasy and science fiction.  Apparently some readers hate them.  Not me! In fact, I’ve even considered adding them to my books, Flipka in particular. 


Who didn’t love tracing Bilbo and Sam’s route as they tried to save Middle Earth?

The first edition I owned of the Lord of the Rings trilogy contained several maps which had the effect of further loosening my grip on reality.  Thirteen years old and I still believed in elves and fairies.  And there were maps so Middle Earth had to be a real place, right?

 I wasn’t alone. There were thousands of us running around demanding to be called Arwen, dressed in medieval garb and smoking pipes filled with something other than tobacco. Of course, Tolkien was mortified by our behavior however it’s the price of success. Unless you’re a total narcissist, fame is a beast you can’t control.  th-1

I was surprised to read that many of Tolkien’s descendants considered Peter Jackson’s movie version of LOTR a complete desecration of his work. I’m of two minds. I’m a big fan of Viggo Mortensen but he was not my Aragorn.  My Aragorn was a bit more – dare I say it – effeminate.  (You have to remember – I was just exiting the Justin Bieber years.)  My Aragorn did not have facial hair and looked a bit like Cary Grant, my then favorite movie star. Can you image Cary Grant as Aragorn?

The fact that we all have our own Aragorns and Arwens made it fool-hardy to try to interpret those books in film (with real humans!) and so for the most part I cut Jackson some slack.  Gandalf was perfect, the Nazgul terrifying and who didn’t root on the Ents?  Go get ’em trees!

Sometimes you need a map just to keep track of all the places and names in a book or television show.  For example, the Game of Thrones:


Be honest, did you have trouble keeping track of the seven kingdoms? Course I probably should have read the book before getting hooked on the television series…

My real passion however is antique maps, particularly if the place in question has special meaning for me.Monson

This is a map of Monson Massachusetts circa 1879 which is around the time my great grandparents decided to make it their home. The drawings on the bottom are of the town’s finest establishments: Greens Hotel, the Reynolds Woolen Mill and Merrick, Fay & Co. Straw Works.  All sadly no longer in operation.  Old Monson hangs on the wall of my bedroom and greets me each morning with a kiss from those idyllic days of ice-cream floats and evenings spent watching Lawrence Welk with my grandparents.  I never thought I would ever miss all those cheesy performers or the bubbles (talk about fantasy land!) but sometimes I wish I could jump into the map and return.


Heidelberg Germany circa who knows!  The inscriptions (upper right) are in Latin and difficult to read.

I bought the above map of Heidelberg Germany on a magic night long ago.  We don’t get that many magic nights. Each and every one should have its own map.

If you had the chance to purchase an antique map of a special place, where would it be and why?

35 thoughts on “My Heart is a Map

  1. I love maps of all kinds, and really enjoyed this tribute to them, Jan. I find them very helpful in story reading, traveling, and everything in between. The Maritime Museum in SF has numerous antique sailing maps, all of them now defunct, but I spent hours studying them. I agree with you, maps have so much to tell us.

  2. I would love a well done book that was just composed of maps of fantasy worlds like LOTR. When I was a kid, I always looked forward to when the National Geographic would arrive in the mail, but it major plus when it was an issue that included a map.

    Cary Grant as Aragorn? I can see it. A little North by Northwest in Middle Earth. But during my days when I was read it, I imagined him more as Robert Redford, from his mountain man movie “Jeremiah Johnson” (hence there would be facial hair).

    1. I know what you mean about the National Geographic maps – I used to save them. Unfortunately I don’t think Tolkien gave Aragorn the gift of repartee which might have frustrated Grant!

  3. I LOVE maps. An antique map? Someplace I know and love…probably of California, the SF Bay area, or Costa Rica, Colombia. New Zealand would be interesting as an island… or ( I guess I could go on!)

    1. They all sound interesting! When I see the map of Monson, which is such a tiny town of little or no historical significance, I’m so grateful someone back then took the time to create it.

  4. I think maps as in LOTR are essential to keep track and feel how the story is developing. I also think they are genius in their own right. As for ancient maps I’ve always loved ‘here be dragons’

    1. That does go back a bit, doesn’t it? I’m really not sure who created the maps in LOTR – there seems to be some controversy. Unfortunately I no longer have that edition.

      1. I didn’t know. I think they’re great. I’m pretty sure the versions dad bought in the 60s and we all read had the maps. But maybe not.

  5. I love looking at old maps just as much as looking at old photographs of places I know. My mind usually starts to wander as I try to picture myself in the place at the time of the map or photo. I have a fascination with the past and would certainly go back rather than forward if I only had one allowed trip on a time machine.

    Am I the only one who has never watched Game Of Thrones?

    1. I’m sure you’re not the only Game of Thrones addict! I wish I’d passed but then who doesn’t love dragons? I would go back in time as well. The future is frightening.

      1. Golly Hugh – I meant to say I’m sure you’re not the only person who is “not” an addict of the Game of Thrones…..sheesh, did I ever tell you I live in TypoLand?

  6. Maps rock! Was also a big Lord of the Rings fan. The maps definitely make it seem like a real place. In fact, I’m sure it is a real place….

  7. Oh wow! I don’t have any maps like those. I would need much longer time to think about where…around here, I’m certain.
    That’s so interesting!

    I like maps in books. Especially Lord of the Rings and Winnie the Pooh.

  8. If the book is great ( like Treasure Island ), I want to know as much as possible, and maps are welcome! Any supplementary information, actually! 🙂 I also love to know what happened with the main characters after. 🙂

    1. I think the best books lead the future of the main characters to a reader’s imagination. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  9. Late to the party, Jan, but I’d love to see a map in your next Flipka book. I loved the first one so much, and it would be cool to see everything laid out in the sequel. Maps are one of my very favorite things. Probably the most memorable year of my life was spent finding my way around Western Europe and parts of Great Britain using paper maps. As for antique ones, my in-laws have one that shows the house I live in now on it–it was built in 1805.

    1. That would be a special map. I still like to find my way around using paper maps. We’ve gotten really lost using GPS systems.

  10. When I book comes with a map I will always look at it and get something out of it, though I don’t read many books that come with maps as it seems most popular for fantasy. I love how the opening sequence of the Game of Thrones TV show is a map.

    1. I have an edition of Moby Dick (1945) that has maps on the inside covers – very cool. It’s one of my favorite books. But you’re right – nowadays they come mostly in the sci-fi and fantasy books.

  11. The german map is stunning… I agree with you concerning the importance of maps…
    I believe that genealogical trees are equally important, when it comes to unravel the family skein in books… Very nice post, dear Jan. Thanks for sharing… All my best wishes. Aquileana ⭐

  12. Thank you Aquileana! When you think of the time and talent is must have taken to create maps in the medieval times, yes it is quite amazing. I like genealogical trees in books as well particularly if they involve the history of the British monarchy which is quite a mess.

  13. Recently attended a talk about maps and how they reflect culture. Along the coast of British Columbia, for instance, many big bodies of water have British names, smaller inland seas Spanish — because Spanish ships were smaller and could go up the rivers and into bays. And even though there were all these Spanish and British names on the maps, land ‘claimed,’ there were no Spaniards or British living there. OK, enough nerd. I like the maps in fantasy novels, which maybe should make you run the other way and never put a map in a book. Not on the leading edge of any book trends! Nice post. Cheers.

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