We love that maps make their way into so many aspects of our lives and we especially love when they find their way into our favorite books, TV shows, and movies! A Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter all feature some really amazing new old-looking maps that add to that thrill of becoming immersed in their fantastical worlds.
A Game of Thrones
The two black and white maps from the first A Game of Thrones book have the feel you want from a book like this--old. Monochrome maps without much shading like these, especially older ones, or ones that have that historic look, often have an ambiguity about them that can be unsettling. Which part of the map is the land and which part is the water? In Gestalt psychology there are several principles of perception, one of which is figure-ground. When you look at a picture, can you identify the figure from the ground? There are three possibilities: stable, reversible, or ambiguous. In this case, the map could be described as having some ambiguity with regard to figure-ground in that depending on how you look at it, the land could be water or vice-versa. In cartography, it can be important to get the figure-ground differentiation correct. However, that does not necessarily make these particular maps incorrect since they are purposefully emulating old black and white book map styles, and those imposed some stylistic limitations, including a dearth of shading, perhaps to save on printer ink.
The mountains, textures, neatline flourishes, and water elements all have a historical feel. The legend is a bit of an exception because of the more modern looking typeface and the perfectly rectangular neatline around it. Fantasy maps like these can be difficult to make in terms of the geographic features because you don’t want them to look too perfect, and therefore unrealistic, so starting from an existing geography or using realistic algorithms for coastlines and rivers might be helpful.
A foray into other A Game of Thrones maps ensues. The map that forms the intro to the TV show is very interesting in that it becomes more extensive as the show progresses from season to season, providing a sense of connection and understanding that you re-visit at the intro to each episode. Subtle animated wave textures show how well thought out this TV show intro map is, cartographically speaking, and with a grid that helps you understand the scale and get a sense of how the direction is changing as the perspective changes. The labels also move with the wave movement, letter by letter. In short, this is an intro map you do not want to skip, it is that good! There is also an online map for the series that has a historic feel but, it is noted, without as much of a steam-punk vibe as the TV show intro map. All three Game of Thrones maps thus have a historic feel but differ visually nonetheless.
The Lord of the Rings
This map was made by J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher Tolkien and published in the book The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954 as a fold-out map. Vignetting along the water via “ripples” forms a nice land-water boundary element. The mountains are depicted as oblique (as though viewed from the side more than above) whereas the rest of the map is really a typical top-down, aerial view. These mountains then look a little out of place for this reason but this is not at all unique to this map, so many maps use this mixed convention that perhaps we have gotten used to it. Speaking of the depiction of mountains on maps, some other really old maps have mountains that look like...caterpillars?!
This map does a great job of emulating an old woodblock print. The imperfections added to the border, or neatline--essentially there’s not a single straight-line on the page--are impressively historical-looking, along with imperfect ink (splotches). Frodo’s quest in The Lord of the Rings is driven by the map and the geography of Middle-earth, the setting of the trilogy. Tolkien originally made a map of Middle-earth that informed his story as he wrote it even though eventually it was his son’s map that made it into the finished book. This is really a cartographer’s book: it’s driven by the map! To that point, a lot of stories are actually driven by geography and really could use maps to go with them.
The font in the map is lovely, with characters, or glyphs, that really nestle into the features quite well and the curves of the characters feel like they belong on the map too. This is a bracketed serif font. A bracketed font has serifs (the doohickeys that come off the edges of the letters) that end in points and are not chiseled off the mainstems but rather arched off the mainstems. Old world typefaces were almost always bracketed serif fonts so in this aspect as well as so much of the other aspects of the map, there is a consistent historical feel.
Harry Potter, The Marauder’s Map
This map, which shows where people are within the school via labeled footprints, and also tracks where they are currently walking, can absolutely be characterised as an animated map but for two separate reasons: (1) it’s in a movie and (2) it has movement within it. There’s animation within the animation! Again with this map as with the last, you see a bracketed serif typeface. The person who made the map was a prop designer, but did such a great job emulating the old map style. It is noted that a lot of research and development is happening in cartography with regard to movement data, or trajectories, such as taxi movement maps, so this is of obvious interest. There’s a lot of creative room with these movement maps because the data and the visualizations are so new. But back to the Marauder’s Map: the designer used a footprint (or boot print) as an icon to show where people are going, which is a great little bit of creativity.
The neat thing is that in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, the characters are surely used to seeing animating things (e.g. newspaper photos) so to the characters, movement maps would not feel like a recent invention. The Marauder’s Map is initially blank but if you tap it and say, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” it populates with data and essentially shows live tracking of people in the school. Cool, but also really creepy! Tracking people is in fact an ethical issue that is discussed extensively by cartographers today.
A brief interlude to question accents and hairstyles happens.
The Minard Map of 1812, a famous statistical graphic or geovisualization, is like the Marauder’s Map because it is giving you more than just location information, it’s giving you data with which to make a decision. Completely unrelated to the Minard Map, the idea of surprising map elements comes up. “Easter eggs” are surprising, but good, elements of a map. Coming back to our main topic, it is noted that having to say, “mischief managed” in order to stop using the map (i.e., make it blank) is a great user interface element that should be incorporated into maps of the future.
Special Announcement: Stay tuned because we will be making a book out of the URHere Podcast in the future!