Fantasy maps are awesome

Victoria Johnson revisits the maps we "wandered into" as kids:

If I ruled the world, or at least a publishing company, all books would contain as much supplementary information as possible. Nonfiction, fiction—doesn't matter. Every work would have an appendix filled with diagrams, background information, digressions and anecdata. And of course, maps.

I did not accept that I was a map nerd until the day I caught myself scoffing at geological implausibilities in a map in a pulp fantasy novel. An excellent coffee-table compendium is J.B. Post's Atlas of Fantasy, but the itch may be scratched immediately with Google and TVTropes' entry on Fantasy World Maps. Artist Jon Roberts specializes in making them. Mapblogger Jonathan Crowe has an overview of resources for following suit.

Pictured above is fantasy epic Elfquest's world of Abode, a personal fave, and refreshingly geologically plausible until you start thinking about biomes.

Previously: Wondrous, detailed map of the history of science fiction and Maps.


  1. I was going to make a vector based drawing of Middle Earth, based on the maps in the books.  It was for my wife. But when looking for reference material, I found out a guy had done it already. VERY nice work, and I have a 4ft x 3ft print of it. 

    I’ll go see if I can find it again and post it here.

    ETA – here:

    1. You really should analyze the text if you decide to make one. The maps in the books need quite a bit of tweaking.

      1. I liked the black and white and red look. But really- view the map they made – it is really great.

    1. My favorite book as a kid, with my favorite fantasy map as its
      .  One has to love a map wherein the edges show glimpses of another continent helpfully labeled “More Land,” a bordering ocean known as “More Sea,” and where the main highway exits the map we see tantalizing arrows pointing “To Elsewhere” to the south, and “To Other Places” to the north.  And absolutely everything else on the map shows up in the story, though the City of Wisdom only appears in historical tales related by a couple of characters.  Which is probably no accident, come to think of it.

      By the way, Nocti, did you happen to get the annotated edition, or the 50th anniversary edition?  I picked up both a couple months ago, and they’re both totally worth the price.  My paperback edition is nowhere near worn-out yet, but I lost my treasured 1st edition years ago, and I wanted a nice edition to eventually present to my son Milo.

  2. I absolutely love this stuff…  count me among those who, finding a map before the text begins, will study it assiduously for several minutes, and constantly revisit as I read.  And not finding a map before the text, I’ll flip to the end and look for it there…

    Since we’re talking about this anyway, allow me to say that one mustn’t forget the outstanding Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Guadalupi & Manguel which is just a trove of such maps, along with all the textual reference.

  3. Thanks for the mention! I’m flattered to get called out in the article. I’d like to also throw a mention in for the Cartographers’ Guild – which is a treasure trove of maps of real and imaginary locations, including maps by remarkable professional illustrators and hobbyists.

    And I couldn’t agree more – maps are wonderful pieces of art that bring a location to life.

    Jon Roberts

  4. Cartoonist Kevin Cannon has done some gorgeous cartography work in recent years (including the book endpapers to his wonderful graphic novel Far Arden), some of which can be seen online here: 

    While they are based on actual real-world places, his interpretations often include fantasy elements… his interpretations of real places are downright whimsical.

  5. One of the best maps ever in a fantasy book series is Stephen R. Donaldsons “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant”. In fact, it was so detailed, that he published a 200 page book detailing the map.

  6.  I’ve drawn up dozens, maybe hundreds of fantasy-land and SF-land maps for RPG games.

    I’m actually working on one now. Ash Valley on the extra-dimensional world Smolder, where superhero RPG characters have to go to rescue some kidnapped people.

    It started as a staff-meeting doodle in a notebook.

  7. One of the few downsides to reading Game of Thrones for the first time on a 2nd generation Kindle was that it was inconvenient to flip to the map every now and then to reorient myself when the action moved to a new city or battlefield.  Like books with lots of footnotes, I think I’ll do most of my map-heavy fantasy book reading on dead trees.

  8. If you like fantasy maps and in particular Tolkien. Then you should really give The Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle Earth by KarrenWynn Fonstad a read. It’s an incredibly detailed mapping of Middle earth including population distribution, vegetation, landforms, plotting of battles. Plus detailed written sections to elaborate on the maps. An amazing book brimming with information.

  9.  I’ve been collecting maps for as long as I remember, both real and fantasy – though mostly real because many of them are things I’ve acquired as a geologist. I’ve decided that both my home and office will be decorated with obscure maps (once I have such places that are worth decorating).

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