Whether you're reading a fantasy novel or playing a game, it's crucial to understand where your characters are on their journeys. That's why the fantasy map has become a genre of its own. Here are some of the most outstanding and classic maps of imaginary worlds.
This map of the Land of Oz first appeared in Tik Tok of Oz, and was one of the first maps to be included with a fantasy novel. Note the directions east and west have been switched. Because — Oz!
This is the land that our hero Milo visits in The Phantom Tollbooth after building a strange tollbooth that comes in the mail, driving through it in a toy car, and finding himself in a bizarre land of puns, games, and incredible drawings (including this map) by Jules Pfeiffer.
This map came with the World of Greyhawk Dungeons & Dragons module, and was poster-sized so that all the young D&D fans like myself could pin it to our walls next to posters of our favorite bands.
Here is the classic view of Myst island from the first game, which came out in the 1990s on CD-ROM. This game is still famous for its gorgeous design and maps.
Often you needed to understand these kinds of maps before solving the puzzles and brain teasers that highlighted the gameplay.
These are just a few of the many, many beautiful maps that came out of the Myst universe.
The Game of Thrones TV series showed its dedication to the fantasy genre by turning the all-important map at the front of the novels into the series' opening credits. The credits change over each season, bringing new regions into play. This is an extended version of the credits from seasons 1 and 2, showing all the castles.
And here are the latest credits, with new castles!
Above is an incredible map by Redditors serMountainGoat and PrivateMajor of all the journeys taken in the novels.
Though Vernor Vinge's novel A Fire Upon the Deep (followed by prequel A Deepness in the Sky and sequel Children of the Sky) is science fiction, there is a somewhat fantastical element to the series. Vinge suggests that different regions of the galaxy have different physical laws which he dubs the "zones of thought": in the Beyond, we have faster-than-light travel, as well as hyperintelligent computers; in the Slow Zone, ship speeds are limited and AI sucks; and nobody knows what's going on in the Unthinking Depths, but we're guessing it's probably not good. All advanced civilizations live at the edges of the galaxy's volume in the Beyond.
Like the Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings was a turning point in the history of fantasy map-making. J.R.R. Tolkien was a master world-builder, creating several conlangs (constructed languages) for his races as well as a world so detailed that many, many people have created their own maps of it over the decades. This map, which shows regions important to the action in Lord of the Rings, was created by NLopezArt and is available on Etsy.
And here's a more complete map of Middle Earth and Undying Lands via Gamereplays
In Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel series, our heroes wander across a region that is an alternate history version of Europe and the Middle East. This is a typical way to fashion fantasy maps, but is particularly well-realized in this series of nine novels. As one fan helpfully notes on the Terre D'Ange proboards, there is a simple one-to-one correspondence between these places and the actual regions:
- The Flatlands- The Benelux, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium.
- Skaldia -Germany, Russia and Scandinavia
- Terre D'Ange - France
- Alba - Great Britain
- Eire - Ireland
- Aragonia - Spain
- Caerdicca Unitas - Italy
- Kriti - Crete
- Hellas - Greece
- Carthage - Northen Africa
- Nubia -Sudan
- The Umaiyyat - Saudi Arabia
- Menekhet - Egypt
- Bhodistani- India
- The Chowat- Romania, Ukraine...etc.
- Ephesus - Hungary
- Saba - Possibly Zaire.
- Drujan - Syria, Iran and Iraq
Cities and places
- La Serenissima - In the Renaissance period, Venice(Italy) was called 'La Serenissima'
- Marsilikos - Possibly Marseille
- Tiberium -The Tiber is a river running to Rome. But Tiberium was a Roman Emperor
- Milazza - Milano/Milan
- Epidauro - Constanople
- Nineveh - Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire
- Meroe - The kingdom of Meroe existed in 1,200 years, only to continue in the shape of the kingdom of Nubia
- Iskandria - Iskander was the old name for Alexander the Great.
- Tyre - An old island city, with also settlement on the mainland. Phoenician Tyre was queen of the seas, an island city of unprecedented splendor.
Here's the map that appears in A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in the Earthsea series. It's about a world made up of a series of islands, where magic is a fact of life, the land of the dead is a real place, and young women are sometimes dragons. The series began as a set of young adult novels, but the later books are more like adult fantasy novels.
This slightly more detailed map is from Ursula K. LeGuin's website.
There are a lot of beautiful (and not-so-beautiful) maps of Azeroth out there, but few give you a sense of the world as a planet, the way Brazilian fan artist Joâo Marques' globe does.
Here it is in more detail.
This gorgeous map was created for a role-playing game by artist Paolo Manzini. Any time a GM is willing to make something this lovely and detailed, you know the game is going to rule.