J.R.R. Tolkien’s Estate Just Released A Treasure Trove Of Drawings, Maps, And More

Published March 22, 2022
Updated March 23, 2022

The Tolkien estate's website includes drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien of the worlds he created for "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings."

Misty Mountains

Courtesy of the Tolkien EstateAn undated depiction of the “Misty Mountains,” a location that’s featured prominently in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In his life, J.R.R. Tolkien created the elaborate world of “Middle-earth,” where he set The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Now, his estate has released a number of drawings and maps that the author made as he plotted out his books.

The images, housed on the Tolkien estate’s updated website, include intricately drawn scenes from Tolkien’s work. Viewers can see how the mines of Moria, the forest of Lothlórien, and the elven city of Rivendell appeared in Tolkien’s mind.

In a nod to The Lord of the Rings fans, the website went live on Feb. 26 — the date, according to a statement emailed to Smithsonian magazine, “in the Third Age when the Fellowship of the Ring was broken at Amon Hen and Frodo and Sam set out on their lonely and terrifying journey to Mordor.”

The website also includes maps that Tolkien drew to better understand the movement of his characters; examples of his calligraphy; documents, photos, and audio clips from his life; and a draft manuscript of The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son (1953). Some of these documents have never been seen before.

One Ring Words
Hobbiton Across The Water
Conversations With Smaug
Gates Of Moria
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Estate Just Released A Treasure Trove Of Drawings, Maps, And More
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Born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien on Jan. 3, 1892, in South Africa, J.R.R. Tolkien lived a rich and sometimes tragic life. After moving to England as a young boy, he went on to study at King Edward's School in Birmingham and Exeter College in Oxford before serving in the British Army during World War I.

He saw action during the bloody Battle of the Somme, in which more than 125,000 young British soldiers lost their lives. Two of them — Robert Gilson and Ralph Payton — were Tolkien's friends.

"Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute," Tolkien wrote of his experience.

But he long resisted the idea that his books, especially the battle-heavy scenes of The Lord of the Rings, had anything pointed to say about World War I or World War II. In the foreword for the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote, "As for any inner meaning or 'message,' it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical."

Death Of Smaug

Courtesy of the Tolkien EstateJ.R.R. Tolkien did not intend this rough sketch from 1936, entitled "Death of Smaug," to be published, but it was later used for a paperback edition of The Hobbit in 1966.

Indeed, Tolkien seemed to draw from a wealth of sources beyond his own experience. As a professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford after the war, he translated texts like Beowolf to great acclaim. And he came up with stories like The Hobbit simply to entertain his four children.

Regardless of his motivations, however, Tolkien succeeded in writing books that have enchanted the world for decades. More than 150 million copies of the Lord of The Rings trilogy have been sold, and the books were also adapted into a successful film franchise in 2001.


After looking through these J.R.R. Tolkien drawings, look through these incredible history maps that explain the world better than any textbook. Or look at these fantastic real-life Hobbit homes.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a double degree in American History and French.