Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth

Remember when I said that the map of Middle-earth had 99 problems and mountains were 98 of them? Well, it’s time to talk about that one remaining problem: rivers. I’ll mostly be talking about the Anduin here, since it’s the most major river on the map.

But first: why do I keep coming back to Tolkien? There are a few reasons. Just as Tolkien’s novels have had a massive influence on epic fantasy as a genre, his map is the bad fantasy map that launched a thousand bad fantasy maps—many of which lack even his mythological fig leaf to explain the really eyebrow-raising geography. The things that make me cringe about the geography of Middle-earth are still echoing in the ways we imagine and construct fantasy worlds today.

But also, perhaps more importantly, Tolkien is no longer with us. He’s far beyond caring that I don’t like his invented geography ...