J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a fully realized world complete with its own races, languages, history, and geography. So why not take a census of the whole population?
That’s the idea behind the LOTR Project, a massive new database and site that’s taking an unofficial survey of the fictional world based on the more than 900 different characters mentioned in Tolkien’s books.
Running the numbers on so many characters is a herculean task, which is why it’s amazing that not only is site creator Emil Johansson tearing through it, but he’s managed to present the information in a series of easy-to-grasp charts and interactives. There are family trees of hundreds of different dwarves, hobbits, elves, and men. There’s an interactive timeline of thousands of years of Middle Earth history, synced up with a map of where the events take place. And there’s another map of each of the principle characters’ journeys, complete with a chart demonstrating how Frodo and Sam outpace Thorin and crew from The Hobbit. (For those that need to consult their Middle Earth map on the go, there’s also an app for Android.)
Perhaps most interesting, though, is a chart showing which characters Tolkien depicts according to sex and race. As The Boston Globe’s Brainiac blog notes, Middle Earth, as Tolkien depicts it, doesn’t have very many women. Of course, it’s Tolkien’s biases as an author that skew these numbers: Presumably Middle Earth has roughly as many women as men, for obvious reasons, but while caught up in all the quests and battles, Tolkien, like many fantasy writers, simply wasn’t as interested in them.
He also wasn’t so interested in the elves, and the Maiar are severely underrepresented. But from these charts you can see why Peter Jackson has added female characters to The Hobbit. Until that much-anticipated movie comes out, you can gawp at this stunning display of geekdom at the LOTR Project website.