Anyone who is a self-described map geek–and we number many here at National Geographic Education–can cite some formative early experiences with maps, both real and imaginary. For me, it was the Candyland map, a delicious marriage of my fledgling passions for sugar and space. I used to love to manipulate my game piece through this colorful fantasyland of gumdrop mountains and lollypop woods.
For Frank Jacobs, it was a map of the mysterious world of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and an incidental connection between the made-up Bree and his family’s ancestral home in the real-world Bree, in Belgium.
In the first installment of a new New York Times series called In Praise of Borders, Jacobs recounts his childhood experiences navigating Bree, in a curious corner of Europe’s German-Belgian-Dutch region shaped by a unique history. It is at once a personal yet relatable narrative.
We all have experiences with borders–aside from Candyland, my other
favorite geographic representation growing up was a family globe, a
wedding anniversary gift from the late 70s. By the early 90s when I
became enchanted with it, the “U.S.S.R” region was no longer, and I was
old enough to find the outdated orb amusing to my proto-nerd
Most of us map geeks who parlayed an early interest into
a career in geography, or even just adult hobby, are familiar with the cartographic curiosities explored on Jacobs’ popular blog Strange Maps.
I have long respected Jacobs for his creative, critical, quirky, and
sometimes irreverent approach to map analysis, and his ability to take
maps to the mainstream.
Congratulations to Frank Jacobs for this exciting new project with the
New York Times–we’ll be following along closely with compasses drawn!
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World
Map of Middle Earth copyright Middle Earth Risk