I love certain map styles. Hand drawn. Old style look, tears in the corners and faded in places. Of course, X marks the spot. And it has to have a compass. All good maps have the traditional compass. Remember the movie Hook? It was a Steve Spielberg production. Now, there is someone with talent. Most projects he scatters fairy dust upon leave their mark. After Peter remembers how to fly, he soars into the heavens above Neverland over Captain Hook’s ship. If you look close, there is a compass just under the water. It’s a nice touch.

I love the end of the scene when Peter learns to crow all over again.

“Do you know what it’s like to crow? Sure you do, give it a shout. Arrr! Arrrrrr! Arrrrrrrrr!”

It’s beautiful. And there are other great lines in the movie about cherishing the time you have with your children. “We only have a few short years, and then it’s gone.” Cherish each and every one.

And I suppose that is what my fairy tale project is about. I wanted to do something with my son. And like all good tales it needed a map for the journey.

When I was a kid, Chips Ahoy published a map to find the Golden Cookie. I’ve scoured the internet for an image of this marketing genius, but I’ve yet to find one. Thinking back, I remember a mummy laying on a golden bed deep inside its crypt. To find the cookie, you deciphered a set of hieroglyphics. Think the Ovaltine commercial in the Christmas Story. Yes, it was a “crummy commercial” but I loved it.

If you’ve never seen the ad or don’t remember, the cookie was inside the mummy’s hands. Yes, you could use the map once, spend ten minutes with it, and find the solution. I think you could also use a ruler, drawn an X from the arrows in each corner as a guiding force, and discover the treasure too.

For me, it was more than that. The chapter didn’t end there. Later on, I wrote a few short stories about the mummy coming to life/chasing would be explorers and used the map again and again. Using the chips ahoy code as a guide, I buried a pencil box in the backyard. I expanded on the hieroglyphics in the map to lead to the treasure. I remember burying the box/coming back to find it a week later. Somehow, my expanded map didn’t quite work. I looked for hours and dug about nine holes in the yard. I doubt my father was too happy about this. Sadly, I never found that box. And it had some cool stuff it. Pencils weren’t the only things inside. Glass ornaments. Some of my mother’s prized salt and pepper shakers, and a little cash. I’m sure someone will discover the mother lode some day. They just won’t have the journey to go with the box. Someone will think, “Who’d bury this junk in the yard?” Well, I’ll tell you. It was a swashbuckling adventurer. Gun holstered. Leather jacket. St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap. And it took weeks to fight his way to find the box. Yet, for some reason, he didn’t quite get there.

For the map of Silver Throne, my son painted the background on a canvas. Shades of brown. A spackle of red. Even a little blue in places. It was probably one of the best backgrounds he painted for the Dark Harp. And then we did a little research.

Until the movies were released, few knew the epic landscape of the Hobbit universe. Tolkien could draw a map. He was a master at it. For the anniversary of the Hobbit, the publisher re-released the original sketches. They are beautiful works of art. All hand drawn. For Silver Throne, I sketched the map and did my best to convey location. When you’re building a fairy tale, having a map can be handy. I can tell you that each and every place on the map is in the story, or at least discussed. Location plays an important role in the story. Yes, there is a Butter Creek. Castle Silver Throne. Insa. Outlands. The Ocean blue. And of course, the little village of Hope. We were determined to be accurate (at least somewhat). Story first. Map second.

After the sketch was completed, we started to paint on the background. This was hard. But we put in a few trees, a couple of houses, and did a fairly good job of painting the river of sorrow. But this was a little harder than we thought it would be. Also, painting town names proved challenging. So, we used the same layering technique for the cover using Pixelmator (an alternative to Adobe Photoshop). The file size bloated. Multiple layers (30 plus). Too many towns. We did get it to work. And when it was all said and done, we framed up our map. If you’re curious, we clipped the frame from the painting of Dorian Gray. It’s an ugly painting. If you want to see for yourself, the original is inside the Chicago Art Museum. It’s one of the best art galleries on earth.

All in all, I love Silver Throne’s map. Tolkien used a true cartographer’s touch. We kept with our painting them. The map does its job, showing Silver Throne is an epic place. Getting close to the finish. The Dark Harp is almost here. More coming soon.

Map of Silver Throne:

We gave it a go. Here is our map of Silver Throne. Pretty cool painting. It’s a bit easier to draw.

Other Notes:

Those who maintain this site have outdone themselves. The ultimate map of Middle Earth. Lord of the Rings may have the best maps in book history.

Interesting look at the art of Cartography.

Another cool map site. Awesome maps.

We did a different post on painting the harp. But thought we’d give another shout out to Pixelmator.

And yes, it was a crummy commercial. But loved Ralph and his Ovaltine. Thought I’d provide the link in case you’re thirsty.

Love the movie Hook.