Mr Tolkien has a lot to answer for when it comes to books and fantasy in general. He was very much a trope machine. Be it cementing already pre-existing notions fashioned by Fritz Leiber and Robot E Howard in the dark and grimy pulp novellas of the 30s, or birthing entirely new tropes, leaving them blinking in the cold light of an unforgiving world; forever sitting on the landscape of literature like either a fine statue or a festering turd (depending of course of your own personal outlook on the entire genre). Together these three men ultimately shaped and moulded the whole genre, it resisting with all the structural integrity of a particularly soggy sponge cake, such was the force of their words.
But words are not the really subject of my musings today; One of the primary tropes inflicted on us all for better or worse by Tolkien was that of the map. Whether it was something he alone started with the Hobbit in the crazy days of 1937 or not is somewhat moot, he certainly played a major part in its rise to its modern-day prevalence. These days it’s a rarity to open a fantasy book and not find a map on opening pages. I don’t have a problem with this for the most part, but maps are a serious business and there are some truly awful maps out there. Continue reading