Non-Fiction Reviews

West of the Mountains and East of the Sea

The Map of Tolkien's Beleriand

(1994/2010) Brian Sibley & John Howe, HarperCollins, 9.99, hrdbk, 79 pp, ISBN 978-0-007-31270-2


This delightful little companion book to The Lord of the Rings is simply a must for all serious fans of The Lord of the Rings. It first came out back in 1994, but now (2010) we have this little hardback gift edition, which at under a tenner, is good value. It itself is not a story (fiction) but a non-fiction resource that accompanies Tolkien's Middle Earth stories.

The map in question relates to the area the 'War of the Jewels' took place. This war itself took place thousands of years before the events in The Lord of the Rings and the conflict is recounted in Tolkien's The Silmarillion.

The book itself consists of text by Brian Sibley that includes: an introduction to the mapping of Middle Earth; a section on the map of Beleriand; and finally a section on the places on the map referred to in Tolkien's books (which is how the map was deduced). Loving pencils of Middle Earth scenes and characters drawn by John Howe illustrate the text. At the heart of the book is a foldout, full colour map by John Howe based on an original map drawn by Christopher Tolkien. It is one of three official Tolkien maps and you have the option of either keeping it in its docket within the book or framing it. (Under glass for protection and hanging somewhere away from direct sunlight to reduce ageing would be my recommendation.)

Brian Sibley himself is an expert on Middle Earth and was responsible for adapting the novel for the 1980 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation. John Howe is the conceptual artist who worked on the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films.

This edition comes as a cloth-bound hardback with a small colour print directly onto the cloth and the title in gold leaf. As said, this is simply a must-have for all serious Tolkien readers.

Jonathan Cowie

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