The talk I gave in Madrid, mentioned in my previous post, was related to the previous one in that it dealt with how Tolkien created and expanded the geography and history of Middle-earth. In "The Middle-earth that never came to be" my main aim was to speculate and give an example of a Middle-earth that Tolkien could have devised if he had nailed its geography down before starting The Lord of the Rings. During the preparation of the talk I came once and again to the topic of the evolving shaping of Middle-earth in Tolkien's mind as he developed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I got a broader scope on that evolution.
So for a time I have thought to directly expand the first "epilogue" in "The Middle-earth that never came to be" (from "HOWEVER" on, and I'll refer to it as "epilogue" from now on). But for the sake of distinction between two texts typed down within an interval of three years, I give that possible expansion separately in the present post.
The point in that "epilogue" was the correspondences between the first map of Wilderland in The Hobbit and the first maps of Beleriand, that Tolkien was specifying in that 30's decade. To put them briefly:
- Misty Mountains = Ered Wethrin.
- Great River = Sirion.
- Woodmen = tribe of Haleth
- Mirkwood = Dorthonion, Nan Dungortheb, both full of spiders and evils after its fall to Morgoth's minions.
- Elvenking's Halls = Menegroth.
- Forest River = Esgalduin.
- River Running (Celduin) = Celon.
- Mountains of Mirkwood = Andram.
- Grey Mountains = Iron Mountains.
- Withered Heath = Dor-na-Fauglith.
- Erebor = Himring.
- Wilderland = Beleriand after the War of Wrath.
- Iron Hills = foothills of the Blue Mountains.
In many of the former examples, the left terms (Hobbit or Third Age parts of the equations) would be remainders of the right ones. Also, the hobbit country and even Rivendell would have been placed inside Hithlum.
So, if we still held the premise of what Tolkien finally established, that the land of the hobbits had to be England, but at the same time that NW Middle-earth, where the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place is a past legendary Europe, we come to an expanded Beleriand which, instead of having been almost totally drowned by successive cataclysms —just leaving Ireland—, was mainly destroyed in its northern, Morgoth-stained regions. I stretched the map of Beleriand in the "epilogue" to match the map of Wilderland; now we can take a map of Europe (taken from here), take it back into legendary times diachronically overlaying the maps of Beleriand and of NW Middle-earth, and put the labels for new correspondences:
Some convenient matches we find when we do that are:
- Region of the Grey Havens = new shores of the First Age Falas.
- Orodruin = Mount Etna (you could also choose Stromboli).
- Belfalas = new Beleriandic shores created by the opening of the Great Gulf in the War of Wrath.
- Western Mediterranean has been pointed to by some pseudo-historical hypotheses on Atlantis as regions receiving Atlantean (= Númenórean) colonisation. This is also a reason to place Dol Amroth in the island of Gadir (why not?).
- Dorwinion shows more than ever the association to the regions where historically wine was first produced in Europe.
The label "Beleriand" is unnecessary, as all of Europe is Beleriand. An idea arising from this is that the war between the Elves and Morgoth in the First Age becomes grand in its continental —more than regional— size. As a Tolkien fan, as well as a convinced European citizen, imagining the Noldorin and Sindarin realms and fortresses scattered and spanning all of Norther Europe is thrilling.
Another idea we get is, the earlier we put the point of divergence of our speculations from what Tolkien specified —i.e. the point where Tolkien could have nailed down the geography of Middle-earth—, the larger can Beleriand become, to be equated with the whole of Europe. This shows Tolkien's idea at those stages in the development of his legendary geography, when the scope changed from just the "English" Lonely Isle to an "European" Beleriand.
A very illustrating element of this possibility is how the relation between the Blue and the Misty Mountains moves.
- In Tolkien's final scheme of NW Middle-earth, they are different parallel ranges, the Blue being to the West, and the Misty to the East, producing an Enedwaith ("Middle Region") in between.
- In my first speculative proposal in "The Middle-earth that never came to be", they were just the same range.
- In my second speculation —the "epilogue" one—, the Misty (Ered Wethrin) are actually the western one.
Needless to say, the chronology to which the map corresponds is more or less the one in "The Middle-earth that never came to be", the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings taking place some centuries after the War of Wrath.