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The Furthest Reaches

This is an exercise that requires you, dear reader, to take a very small leap in imagination. I say ‘small’ because many of you have already made this leap, effortlessly and without conscious thought.

Let us assume Middle-earth is real. A real physical realm that exists somewhere within reach of our own. At some point we all feel this way (to varying degrees) while reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I find it really the most natural of musings.

As we are taken along on the Hero’s Journey, the milieu is so richly colored that it certainly seems real enough. Tolkien appeals to all our senses as he guides us through vast mountain ranges, antediluvian forests, and the quiet nestled farmlands of rural folk. Arguably, one of his greatest strengths is the remarkable transportation he affects upon the reader by acutely training their perception to the natural world. Forgive the frightful cliché but I must say it: You don’t just read The Lord of the Rings, you experience it as if you were there.

Let us get back to the hypothetical proposed above. Suppose that Middle-earth is a real place; a destination for your next vacation, if you will. You have the chance to pass through a magic doorway and walk the same soil as Frodo, Gandalf, and the Elves. If you could go anywhere on the map, where would you like to visit?

Now class, if you dare raise your hand and say "Bree" I’ll put you in a corner with a dunce cap! Let us shed the boundaries of the familiar! After all, we’ve been to Bree a thousand times… I’m talking about the far-and-wide spaces of Tolkien’s world that we never hear about, where no characters regularly tread. I want to visit the furthest reaches of this incredible land.

Here are my top choices for those hidden-away corners of Middle-earth that are enticingly real yet never fully described in the texts:

  1. Annúminas: "Tower of the West," ancient seat of the Kings of Arnor beside Lake Nenuial.
  2. AnnúminasWhat a splendid place this must have been! A great walled city bordering a huge lake in the Hills of Evendim. I wonder if the architects of the "Sunset Tower" used a design that was similar to the masonry of Minas Tirith? Perhaps Elendil had recreational boats that he and his sons used for sailing across the Lake where fish were plentiful. On a clear day, one could climb to the top of the Great Tower and see far down the River Brandywine, perhaps able to see the settlements of the Periannath on the northern reaches of their Shire.

    For only a brief time did this place shine as a home of Men; but in the Fourth Age I can imagine the glory to which King Elessar returned it.

  3. Rhûn: Mysterious land to the East.
  4. RhûnThis represents a tremendous region with the largest inland sea in all of Middle-earth. How odd that through the centuries Gondor should have so much grief assail it from a land we know nothing about. There must be great settlements and even cities that the Easterlings call home. The low mountains along the southwestern shore of the Sea of Rhûn beg to be explored. Beyond them, where the River Running pours into that great Sea, I would gladly visit the Land of Wines, Dorwinion. I wonder if it’s anything like the rolling vineyards of my native California…

  5. Dol Amroth: Stronghold on a promontory of Belfalas, named after Amroth King of Lórien.
  6. Dol AmrothHere is a place that must have had fascinating color. Overlooking the beautiful Cobas Haven where the sea-birds fly you would find the castle of the Prince. With wide parapets and high slender towers, here one could stand high above and watch the surf pounding the sheer rock-wall below. At the gate you could bid farewell to the many ship-men who were leaving to board their vessels at Edhellond. They no doubt served the freshest seafood and told exceptional fireside yarns at their Inns.

  7. Mount Gundabad: Imposing peak at the terminus of the Misty Mountains, where the Orcs of the north had their capital.
  8. Mount GundabadI would not limit myself to visiting only shiny, happy places. We must give the evil Orcs their due. I’m intensely curious about the infrastructure of their sovereign realm. There are vast interconnecting tunnels below the ancient mountain, impossible to navigate safely unless you were Orcish. Perhaps a wanderer might find his way in by searching for a secret entrance… or maybe they had a huge Front Gate? Once inside, you would discover a variety of necessities they would need to maintain an underground capital, such as secret forges, store rooms, and warrens. Fascinating!

  9. Nurn: "Sad Land," the lowland regions of Mordor.
  10. NurnHere is an oxymoron for you: fields of growing things within the confines of Mordor. But this is indeed where they existed, for Sauron could not feed his armies with only dust. He had need of the "great slave-worked fields" to produce food. In Lithlad (ash plain) you would find the Dark Lord had implemented a system of dry-land farming. How fertile was the soil and what exactly did they grow? I would stand at the shore of the sad Sea of Núrnen and quietly taste the salty water.

  11. Thorin’s Halls: in the Blue Mountains of Forlindon.
  12. Our dear Thorin Oakenshield spent 138 years living here, eking out what the Dwarves would consider a modest living. Tolkien describes them as "fair halls" but they did not compare with the lost wealth of Lonely Mountain. Still, I would be content to walk along the great corridors, watching the Dwarves hard at work. The noise and bustle would fall away behind me as I entered the stately throne-room that Thráin II built for himself. I feel a twinge of awe as I look up toward the carved ceiling that disappears where the torchlight cannot reach. I could stay here for weeks.

  13. Eryn Vorn: "The Black Woods," deeply forested cape of Minhiriath

    This seems to be one of the few remnants of the great primeval stand that once blanketed Eriador. Centuries of deforestation at the hands of the Númenóreans greatly reduced these forests. But here still survives some of the oldest trees in Middle-earth. Could it be here that the Entwives migrated? Do you think Treebeard would remember walking in this very place, once upon a time? Oh, the memories these trees hold close… the battles, the Great Plague, the ships passing within sight of the coast. Here can be found many secrets, if you can earn the trust of the forest.

* * * * * * * *

Now I turn this over to you, my readership. If you can easily visualize yourself in Middle-earth (and I know you can) tell me in writing where you would most like to go. Submit a paragraph or two describing the place and what you’d find there. Of course, there really are no limits… You can choose a place regardless of chronological time within Arda or any notion of physical accessibility, just as long as it truly comes from the existing published works of Tolkien.

The choicest, most creative responses will be posted next month in Out on a Limb (please send your item no later than 15 July 2000 to quickbeam@theonering.net).

By joining in this little project, you shall help form a travelogue of our collective dreams of Middle-earth.

Much too hasty,


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Past Limbs
An Open Letter to the Screen Actors Guild
Review: The Return of the King
Kingly Proof
For the Love of Arwen
The Atlantis Connection
Noble Is As Noble Does
Send in the Penguins
War! What is it Good For?
In Defense of Philippa Boyens
Movie Review - The Two Towers
The Final Word
Very, Very, Very Impatient
Book Review: The Annotated Hobbit
Finding a Hobbit’s Voice
Conversation with a Newbie
Inside Information
The Silver Lining
Movie Review - Fellowship of the Ring
Where the Stars are Strange: Part V
Where the Stars are Strange: Part IV
Where the Stars are Strange: Part III
Where the Stars are Strange: Part II
Where the Stars are Strange: Part I
The Spectacular Cannes Footage
Comic-Con International 2001
An Open Letter to Jeffrey Wells
The Shadow of Racism
All About Sam
The Game’s the Thing!
Who’s Spiking Who?
The 2000 Vote: Gandalf or Saruman?
Tolkien’s Greatest Hits
Return to The Furthest Reaches
The Furthest Reaches
True Fans, Truly Obsessed
"Yes, Elanor, there really is a Gandalf"
…And In the Closet Bind Them
Welcome to Merchandising Hell
In Defense of Escapism
Out on a Limb Home


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