J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are iconic fantasy adventures, and readers return to them time and again because of the rich detail that defines the world. Tolkien’s prose is aided by his beautiful maps of Middle-earth, which comes with simplified, beautiful forests, mountains, and typography that has set the standard for fictional cartography ever since. That influence extends beyond just fantasy novels: an English artist is using Tolkien’s style to reimagine the UK’s national parks for his own beautiful maps.
Dan Bell says that he began reading Tolkien’s books when he was 11 or 12 years old, and fell in love with them. “The most appealing thing about them is that they allow your imagination to run wild,” he told The Verge. In particular, he was struck by Tolkien’s maps.
“I love the detail, and the thought processes behind them.” Bell explains, and says that he began drawing his own copies of the maps. After receiving positive feedback from friends, he thought about adapting the art style to some real world locations, such as the UK’s national parks.
To start his maps, Bell says that he works from an open source Ordnance Survey map, and begins drawing by hand. “I try to emulate his typeface as closely as possible, but have modified his mountains in an effort to develop a little bit of my own style.” He adds in additional details, such as forests, Hobbit holes, towers, and castles.
Presently, Bell has adapted a handful of the UK’s national parks, as well as places like Oxford, London, Yellowstone National Park, and George R.R. Martin’s Westeros, and has begun offering them for sale on his site. Once he’s done with the UK parks, he says that he’ll move on to converting the national parks of Wales, Scotland, and eventually, more of the US’s parks.
Bell isn’t the first artist to be inspired by Tolkien’s artwork: others have taken the style and adapted the real world to it, like Stentor Danielson, who drew up his own version of US cities a couple of years ago. Bell chalks up the appeal of the style to a broad, cultural familiarity as generations of readers picked up the books or had them read to them as children. “The style and story are so unique and recognizable,” he says.