JRR Tolkien’s Estate publishes a treasure trove of drawings and maps

The Tolkien Estate website includes JRR Tolkien’s drawings of the worlds he created for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”.

Courtesy of Tolkien’s EstateAn undated depiction of the “Misty Mountains”, a location that features prominently in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

During his lifetime, JRR Tolkien created the elaborate world of “Middle-earth”, where he set The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Today his estate has published a number of drawings and maps which the author made as he plotted his books.

The images, hosted on the The updated Tolkien Estate website, include finely drawn scenes from Tolkien’s work. Viewers can see how the mines of Moria, the forest of Lothlórien, and the elven city of Rivendell appeared in Tolkien’s mind.

At a glance The Lord of the Rings fans, the website went live on February 26 – the date, according to a statement emailed to Smithsonian magazine, “in the Third Age, when the Fellowship of the Ring was shattered at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their lonely and terrifying journey to Mordor”.

The website also includes maps that Tolkien drew to better understand the movement of his characters; examples of his calligraphy; documents, photos and audio extracts of his life; and a draft manuscript of The Return of Beorhtnoth’s Son Beorhthelm (1953). Some of these documents have never been seen before.

Gates of Moria

JRR Tolkien’s Estate just released a treasure trove of drawings, maps and more

Born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien on January 3, 1892 in South Africa, JRR Tolkien lived a rich and sometimes tragic life. After moving to England as a young boy, he went on to study at King Edward’s School in Birmingham and Exeter College in Oxford before serving in the British Army during the First World War.

He saw action during the bloody Battle of the Somme, in which over 125,000 young British soldiers lost their lives. Two of them – Robert Gilson and Ralph Payton – were friends of Tolkien.

“Junior officers were being killed, a dozen a minute”, Tolkien wrote of his experience.

But he has long resisted the idea that his books, especially the intense fight scenes of The Lord of the Rings, had something to say about World War I or World War II. In the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the RingsTolkien wrote, “As to any inner meaning or ‘message,’ it has none intended by the author. It is neither allegorical nor topical.”

Death of Smaug

Courtesy of Tolkien’s EstateJRR Tolkien had no intention of publishing this 1936 sketch, titled “Death of Smaug”, but it was later used for a paperback edition of The Hobbit in 1966.

Indeed, Tolkien seemed to draw from a multitude of sources beyond his own experience. As a professor of English language and literature at Oxford after the war, he translated texts such as beowolf to great success. And he made up stories like The Hobbit simply to entertain his four children.

Regardless of his motivations, however, Tolkien managed to write books that enchanted the world for decades. Over 150 million copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy were sold and the books were also adapted into a successful film franchise in 2001.


After looking through these JRR Tolkien drawings, browse through these incredible historical maps that explain the world better than any textbook. Or look at these fantastic real Hobbit houses.