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?

Middle Earth

I must admit that after seven days London grew on me, especially the parks.  Hyde Park, for example, is so large that even on a beautiful Sunday afternoon you can enjoy a lovely walk along the Serpentine, watch the boaters, listen to the speakers at Speaker’s Corner or feed the ducks without feeling the crush of humanity.

However, it was the Cotswolds I really want to see.  They are a string of medieval villages located in an area northwest of Oxford and the southwest of Birmingham. Once upon a time I read that the Cotswolds were the inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  Having been there, I can believe it.

The real life home of Bilbo Baggins?
View of the countryside from St. James Church, Chipping Campden.

This area flourished in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries primarily because the wool industry.  For this reason many of the churches in the villages are known as “wool” churches (though they really should be called “sheep” churches, don’t you think? Without sheep there would be no wool!)

One of the “wool” churches – St. James in Chipping Campden.

Two things that struck me about the churches and graveyards in the UK were: 1.) Crypts of the illustrious dead (generally wealthy patrons) are located inside the church or under plaques in the floor.  Westminster Abbey must be the final resting place of thousands of illustrious dead.  2.) In the countryside, gravestones for the not so illustrious are spread all around the church – some quite close to the actual building.  This tends to make English graveyards and churches a bit more spooky. This and the fact that they are centuries old.

Holy Trinity, Stratford on Avon, final resting place of William Shakespeare

At any rate, it wasn’t the ghosts who cut our trip to the Cotswolds short (we only stopped in one village) – it was the fear of driving narrow country roads in the rain! Next time I go, I’ll rent a driver to go along with the car!