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Friday, June 24, 2011

Weird Tolkien-ish map of "Flat Earth" comes to light... and it's pretty neat!

About the same time that Operation: Desert Storm was going on but before the ground war started in Iraq back in 1991, I read The Hobbit for the first time. Immediately after that I plunged into The Lord of the Rings. And it wasn't long after that when I thought that since I was on such a hot streak that I'd read The Silmarillion as well.

And my brain immediately got befuddled by the vastness of J.R.R. Tolkien's cosmology that had only been hinted at in The Lord of the Rings.

The thing which I most couldn't wrap my mind around was Middle-earth before the fall of Númenor: Tolkien had the world that would eventually be our own as a "flat Earth", and it stayed that way until the last king of Númenor sailed into the west to try to wrest away an immortality that could never be his. It was an act of defiance that led God Himself to break the world, sink Númenor and forever afterward made the Earth round.

I know, it's all fantasy... but Tolkien infused plenty enough realism that even such wild geography should make sense somehow... right?

That's been the most frustrating quirk of Tolkien's legendarium for me, for the past twenty years. Until last night when I came across this story about a fella named Orlando Ferguson and his clever "Square and Stationary Earth" scheme...

That's a map that "Professor" Ferguson compiled in 1893, combining his understanding of the world's geology as depicted in the Bible along with the scientific knowledge of the day. The result? A flattened Earth that... is kinda a viable model. Gotta love how it keeps all the water from Earth's oceans contained in a Roulette wheel-style bowl, with the North Pole at its center. Ferguson was a real-estate developer in South Dakota and he had ninety-two pages of lecture material prepared to defend his flat-Earth thesis.

Well, even if it's scientifically way off-kilter, at least Tolkien's mythical First Age geology finally makes sense to me :-P