Tolkien Collector's Guide
The Compass Rose on Amazon Prime's Map

The Compass Rose on Amazon Prime's Map

Feb 17 (edited)

Amazon just started a teaser promotional push for the upcoming Prime Video series they are working on. See LOTR On Prime Facebook Page and LOTR on Prime Twitter Account. One of the first teasers that they gave was a map of Middle-earth, which has started a lot of discussion online. I want to focus this post on one small portion of that map: the compass rose:

amazon lotr map compass.jpg


Just looking at that compass, it doesn't seem right. The Cirth runes they are using make no sense, unless we track them back to Karen Wynn Fonstad, author of The Atlas of Middle-earth.

Fonstad-Atlas-1st-ed.jpg


If you look at Fonstad's design for the first edition hardcover, you will see the same runes but in a different orientation. Fonstad was using Appendix E from The Lord of the Rings, which states the following (up until 2005)

The names of the letters most widely known and used were 17 n, 33 hy, 25 r, 9 f: númen, hyarmen, rómen, formen=west, south, east, north (cf. Sindarin dûn or annûn, harad, rhûn or amrûn, forod). These letters commonly indicated the points W, S, E, N even in languages that used quite different terms.


The quote above is in the section discussing the tengwar writing system, where each character is given a numeric position in the chart.


tengwar.jpg

The next section of Appendix E then goes on to discuss the Cirth writing system with the runes also laid out in a table with numeric entries, and Fonstad mistakenly used Tolkien's numbers above to pick the runes for her compass. Also, Fonstad put "West" at the top of the compass on this first edition cover.


angerthas.jpg
angerthas-values.jpg

Side note: In 2005, Appendix E was updated to "17 n, 33 hy, 25 r, 10 f: númen, hyarmen, rómen, formen" (note that 9 was changed to 10) - thus aligning this paragraph with the Tengwar - this mistake in Appendix E somehow persisting for 51 years before finally being fixed.

Since she had no idea of the mistake in that side note, Fonstad took the tengwar numbers given by Tolkien, and used those to put the runes on her book cover, with the following note on the copyright page.

fonstad-1st-runes.jpg


Fonstad here says:
* numen = west = 33 (Tolkien says 17 above)
* romen = east = 9 (Tolkien = 25)
* hyarmen = south = 25 (Tolkien = 33)
* formen = north = 17 (Tolkien = 9)

Thankfully (partially) the alignment of names and numbers was fixed in the revised edition of Fonstad's Atlas on the cover and copyright page (but not on the title page!)

Fonstad-atlas-2nd-ed.jpg
fonstad-title-page-2nd.jpg
fonstad-runes-2nd.JPG


Fonstad's revised edition says (in agreement with the numbers Tolkien gave now)
* numen = west = 17
* romen = east = 25
* hyarmen = south = 33
* formen = north = 9

It seems that no-one noticed that she was using the tengwar indices to look up cirth runes, however.

The sounds for the cirth runes she has selected (based on these mistaken indices) equates to:

* numen = west = 17 = "nj"
* romen = east = 25 = "khw"
* hyarmen = south = 33 = "ng"
* formen = north = 9 = "d"

As you can see, nonsense.

These mistaken cirth runes persist into John Howe's map of Numenor if you look carefully at the four corners of the diamond (it is easier to see on his own website image, here).

howe-numenor.jpg

And then to the Amazon Prime map, shown here again:

amazon lotr map compass.jpg


Maybe after all these years, Fonstad's mistake can be corrected by someone at Amazon!

With much thanks to Shaun Gunner and Marcel Aubron-Bülles for their discussion and help on Twitter for this post.
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Feb 19
Further clarifications... at this point I think the above needs a complete rewrite to pull all the arguments and background together more coherently rather than stream-of-conciousness.

I think Tolkien meant to use tengwar given the following quote in appendix E (referring to tengwar letters):

The names of the letters most widely known and used were 17 n, 33 hy, 25 r, 10 f: númen, hyarmen, rómen, formen=west, south, east, north (cf. Sindarin dûn or annûn, harad, rhûn or amrûn, forod). These letters commonly indicated the points W, S, E, N even in languages that used quite different terms.
(emphasis added)

I read that as saying even other races and languages used tengwar compass rose markings on their maps. But it does qualify that statement with "commonly," so this doesn’t have to be the only solution.

With the fluid nature of cirth rune sound values changing over the years (and what language the map maker spoke needing to be taken into account) it is quite the conundrum trying to choose the right runes. Choosing a particular set of runes not only indicates what time-frame the mapmaker lived in, it probably indicates what race they were as well. Also, there is no reason for the mapmaker to use the runes for Quenya sounds if they spoke the common tongue (for example), so finding the right cirth rune to equate to the Quenya word for the tengwar letter that Tolkien defined doesn't logically follow unless the mapmaker spoke and wrote in Quenya.

One could legitimately go with The Hobbit Anglo Saxon runes as well in Amazon’s case as the rest of the "Lord of the Rings on Prime" map has been translated into English, so using the AS runes (for the English N,E,W,S) would correctly follow another of Tolkien’s published systems if that was desired.

I thing tengwar preserves the feel and "otherworldly" nature of the marketing campaign best, but that’s just personal opinion. I think all of these solutions will involve opinion, as they all have pros and cons. All I know is that Fonstad’s creation was based on a simple and hard-to-spot transcription error, and does not convey anything meaningful once one understands the mistake. It was subtle, no-one that I am aware of spotted it for 38 years!
Feb 20
(edited)
The Tolkienguide and Urulókë got a mention on the Onering.net youtube video, goto 27 minutes 30 seconds

Feb 20
Cliff's a stand-up guy.

In a similar vein, I just got my copy of the Spring 2019 Bodleian Publishing catalogue, and they quote me in a blurb for the Maker of Middle-earth book. Almost famous!
Bodleian Publishing webpage

Direct link to Spring 2019 catalogue download (pdf)
Feb 21
Indeed they did get a mention. And will again on TORn’s home page.

I’m a TORn staffer and I shared this topic with the rest of our staff
Feb 21
Feb 22
(edited)
I made a comment to this effect on the tor.n site's post, but I'll make it here too:


I sure hope that Amazon has properly licensed their use of the late Mrs. Fonstad's work, and that her family/estate has been amply compensated for this prominent roll-out.
Feb 22
I do agree that copyrighted works should be licensed appropriately.

In this particular case, I have no insight whatsoever as to what has been licensed.
Feb 25
Amazon has fixed the compass rose on this update.

1_5c73f81337676.jpeg 1000X709 px
Feb 25
(edited)
If you download the map, they have not fixed it, https://m.media-amazon.com/images/G/01 ... 740a9b7fe8ff2bbdbb4a1.jpg

Very strange
, also many thanks to Jeremy, Shaun Gunner and Marcel Aubron-Bülles for getting this fixed
Feb 25
Good work, Jeremy! Eglerio!
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