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The Elven map of everything

Discussion in 'World Building' started by WooHooMan, Jan 2, 2014.

  1. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I notice that when people try to draw maps of their made-up settings, they try to make it look like this...

    [​IMG]

    They try to draw every individual mountain and coastline and river and they try to make it as accurate as possible. I feel like some people think that making an accurate, realistic map makes their fantasy world seem more "authentic" or something. Maybe because the greats like Tolkien and Howard did it, people think that that's what all fantasy writers should do. But I don't find that very interesting. Or necessary in most of my stories. I wanted to try to make a more "artsy" map, a map that tells you something about the culture that produced it. Something like this...

    [​IMG]

    So, I worked it out, tried a few things and I think I came-up with something kind of interesting and I figured I'd show it here and maybe get some feedback or suggestions.

    The story this map appears in is about elves. So it's an elven map of basically everything. Check it out...

    [​IMG]

    I think it's pretty simple but I'll try to explain how it works. First off, it's not really a map of "everything". It's a map of cosmology, the world, ethics and theology. Now, I'll go into detail.

    Cosmology

    The top circle is the sun. The circle beneath that is the moon. Pretty simple. The third circle is the world. The outer ring is the ocean and the inner ring is the land. The fourth circle is a catch-all symbol for other planets/moons/etc and the fifth circle is a catch-all for the stars.
    This map shows that the elves are aware that stars are bigger and further away than planets but they don't care enough about astronomy to map out all the planets and stars.

    The World

    There are five landmasses in the world. The top circle is the Land of the Ogres. The second circle is the Land of the Elves, the smallest landmass. The third circle is the largest landmass, the Land of Humans which contains a large sea (the inner circle). The fourth circle is the Land of the Fairies and the fifth circle is the Land of the Dragons.
    Elves very rarely, if ever, leave their island so they don't see any need to show the actual shape of the landmasses or an accurate representation of how far away they are from each other.

    Ethics

    This one's a little complicated but basically elves believe there are five virtues. Wisdom is the big circle at the top because it's the most important virtue. Faith is a little circle near the top because elves see faith as "good but not necessary". Honor is the outer ring of the third circle and justice is the inner ring (they believe that justice comes from honor). Compassion is the fourth circle. And the least necessary virtue: patience is at the bottom.
    The symbol also represents five corresponding sins: ignorance (the most "fixable" sin), hatred, greed and envy (which comes from greed), despair and rage (the worst sin according to elves).
    So, that should give you an idea of what elves believe. Speaking of which...

    Theology

    The top circle is Eru, the god of the universe.
    The small second circle is the spirit called Rainbow. He is seen as a weather deity and destruction spirit (among other things) and he travels along the sky. The middle circle is the universe with the inner ring being the physical plane and the outer ring being the astral/spiritual plane. The fourth circle is the creation spirit Vara who is considered the "foundation" of the universe and life.
    The bottom circle is also Eru. Eru is the top and bottom, the beginning and end, life and death and so on and so forth.

    So, there's my crazy "elf map" thing. What do you think?
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
  2. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    If the human continent lies in the middle, does that mean it lies on the planet's Equator?

    Anyway, that's a very creative approach to mapmaking you have there.
     
  3. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

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    I like the idea, lots.

    A few things though: the circles all have their role in each category of 'belief,' but the correlation between those categories is a bit problematic:
    e.g. The landmass of the Ogres = the sun = wisdo = god of univers.
    Hmmm.... See what I mean?
     
  4. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    what, ogres can't be wise? That's speciest. =P

    I love this idea, it's a simple symbol but contains so many different meanings. I can just imagine it confusing the hell out of the the puny literal minded humans.
     
    Guru Coyote likes this.
  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Interesting question. The answer is "I don't know". I'd be surprised if the elves know what an equator is.

    I think you're making the mistake of thinking this is a map of the world. It's not. It's a map of the world according to the elves. I'd guess the Land of the Dragons is around the planet's equator while the Land of the Ogres is just south of the arctic circle. But that could be wrong. It's just as likely that the world is flat.

    That's a good point and I did think about this.
    The map is either a map of virtues OR a map of the cosmology. Not a map of virtues AND a map of the cosmology.

    Also, it's an Elf map of Elven virtues. I'm sure Ogres have a different set of virtues and a different religion and whatever.
    I know it's confusing and obtuse but I guess that's just elf logic.

    See? Queshire gets it.
     
    Guru Coyote likes this.
  6. The Construct

    The Construct Minstrel

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    I really like this idea, cool symbolism and the way the same image represents 4 different aspects of Elf life and belief. Very well done. :)

    Just one thing, though little to do with the actual "map" itself, is that Eru is the name of the creator god in LOTR mythology, so you may want to change that.
     
    Noma Galway likes this.
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Actually, the LotR god is named "Eru Ilúvatar". Easy mistake. I believe that "eru" is a Norse word meaning "to be".
    But yeah, either way, that's intentional on my part. It's like an homage.
     
    Noma Galway likes this.
  8. The Construct

    The Construct Minstrel

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    I believe the names "Eru Ilúvatar", just "Ilúvatar" and just "Eru" can be used interchangeably. But if it's a homage I guess that's okay, as long as you're aware that some people may still call you up on it.
     
  9. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    I like this idea; the map reminds me of the maps I've seen of the Nine Realms in Norse myth. Stemming from that, you could give your god the name Ek, which is Norse for "I" (kinda similar to the Judeo-Christian God calling Himself "I Am"). "Er", I believe, is the word for "who".
     
  10. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I appreciate the suggestion but I'm just going to call this god Oire. Whatever, it really doesn't matter.
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2014
  11. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    "Eru" and "Iluvatar" are two separate names for the same entity. "Eru" meaning "The One" or "The One Alone" and "Iluvatar" meaning "The All Father". Both are from the Quenya language which is partially based on Finnish. Either one by its self, or both together, is a proper name for the Creator God of Middle-earth.

    I can see how you would intend it to be an homage, but it's far more likely to be viewed as either a lack of originality or just plagiarism. Tolkien's work is too well known and too highly respected to just take one of his words and call it your own, even in homage. I would recommend not doing that.

    Other than that, I really love this approach. It's very creative, very different, and yet very real.

    EDIT: Oops, I see you posted while I was composing this. Good idea.
     
  12. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Troubadour

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    I have done something similar to this. Well, similar in premise, because my "map" looks nothing like yours, except that it's circular in nature. Actually, thinking again, it's not even similar in premise. It's similar only in that it is an atypical way of doing maps, and it is rather abstract to look at.

    On the other hand, I'm guilty of drawing the Tolkien-esque maps as well.

    Interesting work anyhow, keep it up!
     
  13. Valentinator

    Valentinator Minstrel

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    I have a question. Do elves have some universal navigation sense that makes ordinary maps unnecessary? I mean a map is a tool used for traveling. I'm not sure that you can use this map for that. Anyway it's an interesting concept.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  14. Guru Coyote

    Guru Coyote Archmage

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    "The same symbol mean 4 different things." Ok, I can live with that.
    I gues the only thing that counts with this "Elven Logic" is that it is internally consistent. It need not make sense to Me, as long as it makes sense to the Elves... and you, as creator/author. The latter is rather important, actually. If you don't get Elven Logic... that will show. As you made this up, I guess you do get it :)
     
  15. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I would love to see what you've come-up with. I don't suppose you could post it?

    It's kind of complicated but I guess the quick answer is that Elves just don't travel so they see no use for a map. When they do travel, they work better off of a list of directions than reading a map. It's just the way elves' minds are wired.

    Boy, I hope so. Honestly, I still find it a pretty confusing.
     
  16. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I toyed with a map for awhile that showed the distances in time required to travel rather than actual miles. This would have been too complicated to explain in the book, so I went back to a standard-style map.

    I decided that the maps they use in my fantasy world would mostly be representations of things, with highly-detailed landmarks so people would know what everything was more or less near. It's not like they have detailed surveying teams. Big swaths of wilderness are actually left blank. "That's probably just more trees." But that would have been a nightmare to draw so I just mention it.

    If I did a stylized map -- which is a cool idea, I'll give you that -- I'd also have an actual map in the book, drawn to scale, just so the readers would know where the hell everyone was going.
     
  17. Quillstine

    Quillstine Troubadour

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    I love this, I think having as much information about your world as you can really help with writing the story. Visual items like this even more so.

    I don’t know if I would call this a map mind you, a map via definition displays physical land points and is usually used as a form of navigation, what you have made I would consider more in along the symbology line.
     
  18. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

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    The trouble is, as much as it tells you a lot of about elves, it seems of limited help if you're trying to work out where the characters are/have been at any point in time, which is the main point of the map in the front.
     
  19. MVV

    MVV Scribe

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    I think that the main question is what's the purpose of the map. If you want to make a map as a tool for the reader to see where the stuff is happening, it's better to go the Tolkien-esque way. (I'd stress that these realistic maps are quite unrealistic when the story takes place in a culture influenced by European Middle Ages.) If the map is there to illustrate the culture, then I'd say it's better to go for a map that would seem unrealistic to us.

    Anyway, I love your idea.
     
  20. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I have studied Medieval scrolls and maps and I always love to read every word on them, marveling at how unrealistic they could be. I mean... unicorns on the northern coasts of Africa, Jerusalem as the center of the world... it's all rather foreign to us... but when those maps were made, they were probably quite literal ( I guess an antelope looks like a unicorn to Northern Europeans, seeing them for the first time).

    I've actually made those kinds of recreated old maps, so I wonder whether there's a use for one in a book, because seriously, i like the idea of doing something different. Problem is, the map (as other people have said) is not for the characters, or maybe even the author, it's for the readers. So... in that regard, I have made a map that I use, for writing purposes, and it is watercolored and looks realistically like a stylized map of areas... but wen it comes to putting on in the book, I'll make a much smaller, ink version that details the lands important to the particular novel, leaving out the rest of the world.

    The thing is... I'm thinking a reader would (like me) feel an actual map that doesn't tell them pertinent information about where the landmarks from the novel are in relation to each other, might feel a touch useless. I remember reading a book with a map that was like a big scale map... then it had a small section enlarged. The problem was, on the big one, there was little detail, and on the small one, there were vague shapes and labels all over. It was really distracting because it didn't seem to serve a purpose.

    Of course, that's just me musing about maps. I like the symbolism of your map and I think it feels reminiscent of the Norse worlds maps I've seen.
     
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