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How The Map of Mordor came to be…

About The Creation of the Map of Mordor

The world of Middle-earth was made so vivid by the writings of Professor Tolkien, but in addition to his written word, he also created beautiful works of art in the form of letters, symbols, maps and illustrations to help the reader get a sense of this very real place. I often remember unfolding the map of Mordor included in the back of The Return of the King, and pouring over it as I traced the path of Frodo and Sam. I always wondered about the other areas within the Land of Shadow and wished I had been able to point my finger… recite a Morgul Spell… and have the hidden secrets of the map revealed to me.  I decided to make my wish a reality!

Starting with a map of Middle-earth created by John Howe, (John Howe’s illustration has been modified from it original form. Go HERE to see the original artwork.) I have zoomed in on the Land of Shadow, adding detail and terrain, layer by layer and exploring parts of Mordor not yet discovered until now. Studying every book in the Tolkien archive, I have pieced together what I hope to be the most detailed Map of Mordor that exists in the world today.

In order to do this map justice, I have enhanced the map with interactive features that allow you to study all the locations in Mordor by moving your staff across the surface of the map. Mountain ranges, vales, plateaus, roads, and rivers have each a name and a history, that you can explore by clicking on the location. In addition to detailing the more well known Plateau of Gorgoroth detailed in the Lord of the Rings, I have also taken great care to name in detail all parts of Mordor. Each location is based on my knowledge of Mordor and if not taken directly from the books, then it was created in the spirit of Tolkien’s work.

I hope you enjoy your journey through Mordor… keep checking back, as I will be adding more detail as time goes on.

Here I would like to share how I built this Map of Mordor and my ideas and the research involved in developing the areas of Mordor that are only hinted at in the books. For me discovering Mordor has always been an adventure and defining it’s borders, which have always remained elusive has been a real joy. I hope that you get half as much fun searching out the hidden vales and dark plains as I had creating them.

TolkienLegend3Our Map of Mordor is based in part on the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien & Christopher Tolkien, from The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, The Histories of Middle Earth, and the Unfinished Tales:The Lost Lore of Middle-earth, but we also include parts of the extended lore found in the films by Peter Jackson, the numerous LOTR games and in large part our own writings and inspiration created here at The Land of Shadow.com. However, we make certain that it’s clear what comes directly from Tolkien and what is created from the imagination of others. All content that comes directly from the words of Professor Tolkien have the symbol of the Tolkien Canon. It has always been important to me to remain as true to Tolkien’s original text as possible. It’s through his spirit that the I found my way through Mordor.

Despite Frodo and Sam’s march across Mordor and the beautiful prose created by Professor Tolkien to describe it, there are vast areas of Mordor left in Shadow. His larger more detailed Map of Mordor found in The Return of the King only hints at the large area that the Dark Lord held dominion over. I researched and reread all the chapters concerning the landscape of Mordor, studied the existing maps, researched the Appendices in the ROTK, and finally read though the other works by Christopher Tolkien, to get as clear a picture of the Land of Shadow as possible.

Our Map of Mordor is a hybrid of the famous map created by John Howe with added textures, colors and details created here at TLOS.com to give this Map of Mordor the detail and darkness it deserves. I have actually spent years refining and detailing the look of our Mordor Map so that those of you who long for more knowledge about the Land of Shadow can find it here. I recently added a few details to give the map a more three dimensional with painted elements by the incredibly talented artist Jerry Vanderstelt.

When the final layout of the map was complete, it was time to fill in all the blank spaces. I began with the detailed map created by Daniel Reeve , who created many of the maps used in the Lord of the Rings films. It filled in areas with names that were not part of the Tolkien Canon, but were definitely created in the spirit of his words. Starting there we began to fill in the blanks and give life to the desolate wastes of Mordor. The Black Speech played an important role in creating the names and places left blank by Tolkien. We wanted to make sure that if translated, the evil names and places made sense. Rivers, vales, mountains, spurs, gaps, plains and especially the roads of Mordor have all been given names with text and visual descriptions. There is more work yet to do… more secret vales to discover.

When the visual layout of the map was complete and the names and places were all defined, it was time to bring them all together in a form that would be easy to navigate. I created a base map in Flash with mouse-over’s as a way to keep the map clear of too much text and yet easy to direct an inquiry about a specific area. Next I created a separate movie file for each of the over 100 locations found in and around Mordor. When you click on a location the movie loads and you get a visual and text description of the area. I hope this interactive map will make it easy and fun to discover Mordor… The Land of Shadow!

In addition to the names and locations, I also wanted to trace the path of Frodo and Sam through Mordor, I felt this would give readers of the book a nice visual to reference when reading the Lord of the Rings.

Finally, I wanted to give a context for this map… where it came from, how it works… so the introduction was created to give you a reason for its existence. The intro and the map have gone through several iterations, but now I believe it has finally come together.

I hope you enjoy your journey through Mordor.

Ring Lord
The Dark Lord of Mordor


Credits and acknowledgments for the interactive Map of Mordor

I believe it’s important to give acknowledgments
to all the wonderful artists and musicians whose work I feature here at Mordor and especially in
this labor of love… the Map of Mordor.

I would like to begin by thanking J.R.R. Tolkien. Without his incredible masterwork of fiction none of this would have been possible. As a child, I read his written words  and I was transported to Middle-earth… a place the will always live in my heart!

The Artists

John Howe – The map of Mordor began it’s evolution based on the original map of Middle Earth by John Howe. As usual we here at Mordor owe him a great deal of gratitude. HERE is the map in it’s original form

Alan Lee – The works of Alan Lee can be found in a hundred details here at Mordor.

Jerry VanderStelt – An incredible fantasy artist. See his other work HERE

The artist at Weta Digital and Weta Workshop. Namely Paul Lasaine, Jeremy Bennett, Christian Rivers, Daniel Falconer, Ben Wootten, Warren Mahy, Shaun Bolton, Guss Hunter, Steve Lynch, Max Dennison, Rodger Kupelian, Yanick Dusseault, Karen deJong, Dylan Cole and Ronn Brown. Go HERE to see their other work.

The Artists at EA Games who worked on the Battle for Middle-earth. Their map helped form some of the texture to the landscapes. Go HERE to see the ordinal.

The Music

The incredible music of Howard Shore brought such a richness and depth to the films and I have used samples in the Map of Mordor to bring a sense of foreboding and darkness.
Go HERE to hear more of his work.

Director, Writers and the Production
of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films

Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Wingnut films, 3 Foot 7, Newline Cinema and Warner Brothers for bringing Tolkien’s vision to life. Without Peter Jackson’s dedication to the creation of these films much of my vision and inspiration for Mordor would not have been possible.

Artwork on this page has been modified from it’s original form to enhance the layout of this site.
Lay your staff on the images to discover more about the artists.


 Posted by at 4:16 pm
  • Kyle

    I would love to see some artwork of what Mordor would look like without the Volcano crap going off. I bet Mordor would have some very interesting desert vistas in the mountain ranges.

    Without the volcano I wonder if Gondor would get so big people will spread into Mordor and it will look like one big urban sprawl with spanish style houses? All it takes is irrigation and add some golf courses then people are hooked.

    One thing would be cool for a modern Mordor Fifth Age (or is it fourth age?) is an Eye of Sauron 5 star resort with an electric eye on the top that turns on at night and shines a giant LED spotlight randomly across the grounds to spook people and a fake volcano on the ground that randomly goes off. 🙂

    Dad told me that in the 1970s Knotts Berry Farm Mine Cart Ride has a fake volcano outside that visitors can view in and also randomly rumble making it look like it will blow in which during the ride you go inside it. Once inside it you see a machine with Satan with his demons running it but with a Lord Of The Ring theme it would be Orcs running it perhaps on a tread mill with the supervisor whipping them into shape?

  • I’m all for a Mordor Theme Park! There is a Volcano roller coaster at Kings Dominion and you go straight up the shoot and out the top! Here is a video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e0ZDVVbV4E

  • Here is a video on the ride… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm7NRZ0BVWE
    I rode this quite a few time and it’s always fun!