Sense of place

Nat Case hedberg at
Thu Sep 2 15:37:26 EDT 1999

>From: Philip.Belben at

>Is this not the case,
>though, with any map reconstructed from narrative (unless the narrative says
>things like "Person X lived in a smallholding about 5 miles down the lane that
>went south from the village towards the Great East Road").  Wherever the
>narrative is descriptive rather than prescriptive (are these the right terms?),
>you won't get an accurate map, but a distorted one of this sort.

Not really. The difference is that in Tolkien, and in many of his imitators,
the characters are Travelers who have a complex, interwoven descriptive
memory of the whole land... all the more so in Tolkien as you have multiple
viewpoints and memories, and multiple well-traveled travelers. 

In Dalemark, and this may simply be because we are not given a map, I have
much more of a sense of traveling through unknown terrain. There's a
painting I'm very fond of, by a painter I knew from school (old art majors
never die, but they fade away if you put them in the sun too long) on a long
plank of wood. in the center is a highway traveling through a wonderful
little scenic glen. On either side, 3 feet of narrow board, beyond the thin
corridor of green, stretches a bare and denuded landscape. That's how I
think of Terra Incognita, of the experience of traveling before survey maps.
You only know what you see, and can be surprised that the new road you're on
comes out THERE. 

It's very hard to imagine living in a world where you haven't seen a map. Or
where you don't think of the  land in terms of your understanding it on a
map. It's very confusing and a little scary.

Nat Case
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