Dan Bell is a biologist with a knack for map-making.
Bell doesn’t draw just any old map, though. He likes to draw national park maps, and he pulls inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien. Anyone who’s read The Lord of the Rings series or The Hobbit is familiar with Tolkien’s elaborate maps that help guide readers through his imaginary worlds. Imagine that but in the United Kingdom.
“I love how imaginative his stories are,” Bell told Earther via email.
The first map Bell drew was of the national park he grew up near: the Lake District National Park in northwest England. It’s the largest national park in England and is home to towering mountains, freshwater lakes, and heavy woodlands.
Bell likes to have fun with his maps. They’re based on actual places, so he does draw in trees and mountains and water bodies that fit their location, but he also adds some fictional details—like hobbit holes and castles.
“I usually do these at personal request,” he explained. “I sell prints of my maps [online], and the customer essentially tells me where they live and/or specify a place of personal interest and I draw it in, in the form of a hobbit hole.”
Bell began reading The Lord of Rings trilogy when he was around 10. He drew Tolkien’s map of Middle Earth in September just for thrills, and he was pleased with the social media response after he shared the image, so he didn’t stop there. He mostly focuses on the U.K. because that’s where he’s based, but he has drawn maps of other places like Yellowstone National Park. He’s hoping to complete all 15 of the U.K.’s national parks: His next project, drawing Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales, will be his 11th.
The maps don’t usually include any roads, so Bell presents a sort of “stripped down version of the land,” as he put it, saying “they also allow you to re-imagine an environment.”
Tolkien’s novels and maps allow us to wonder what a different world could look like. That, in part, is what Bell aims to do with his work.
[h/t The Verge]