Welcome back to everyone’s favorite www.isleyunruh.com Monday feature! Middle-earth being the place of enchantment and wonder that it is, each month I will use my love of fictional cartography to transport you to another time and place. So why not take a moment to fill your head full of knowledge that will have no bearing at all on the real world?
This month I’ll be discussing the lands about the twisted bends of the great river Anduin.
As the third day of their voyage wore on the lands changed slowly: the trees thinned and then failed altogether. On the eastern bank to their left they saw long formless slopes stretching up and away toward the sky; brown and withered they looked, as if fire had passed over them, leaving no living blade of green: an unfriendly waste without even a broken tree or a bold stone to relieve the emptiness. They had come to the Brown Lands that lay, vast and desolate, between Southern Mirkwood and the hills of the Emyn Muil. What pestilence or war or evil deed of the Enemy had so blasted all that region even Aragorn could not tell.
Upon the west to their right the land was treeless also, but it was flat, and in many places green with wide plains of grass. On this side of the River they passed forests of great reeds, so tall that they shut out all view to the west, as the little boats went rustling by along their fluttering borders. Their dark withered plumes bent and tossed in the light cold airs, hissing softly and sadly. Here and there through openings Frodo could catch sudden glimpses of rolling meads, and far beyond them hills in the sunset, and away on the edge of sight a dark line, where marched the southernmost ranks of the Misty Mountains.
As the Anduin wends its way towards the Bay of Belfalas it passes through a great eastern bend, surrounding almost 50 square miles of low-hilled land. At the top and bottom of this great bend were long valleys called the “Undeeps,” named for their many shallows and shoals which allowed crossing of the great river via rafts or pontoons without great difficulty. The land that lay between the undeeps (and on each side of the great bend) was a massive upfolded ridge (anticline) of eroded sedimentary layers.
To the west (in the section enclosed by the bend of the Anduin) these low hills seemed almost flat in places but were in reality higher than the surrounding Downs of Rohan. Though treeless, vegetation grew without difficulty, especially great swaths of reeds upon the wider areas of the river close to the Undeeps. Remnants of old Gondorian forts could be found on the west banks of the Undeeps, though at the time of the War of the Ring they had remained abandoned since The Watchful Peace. The Eastern bank of the Anduin, opposite the Wold (but of the same geologic formation), could not have been more different.
One of the most striking sights encountered during the Fellowship’s journey south on the Anduin (aside, of course, from the Argonath) was the blasted hills of The Brown Lands upon the eastern bank of the great river between the Undeeps. Some fell sorcery beyond simple salted earth had so devastated this land that, centuries after whatever conflict had first blasted the landscape, nothing yet grew upon the the desolate slopes. Many say the destruction was wrought in the war of the last alliance of men and elves against Sauron at the end of the Second Age. However, such lore surely would have been known to a scholar as learned as Aragorn, and thus the cause of the blighting may have been an older battle, a conflict so foul that its very memory has been wiped from the broken hills along with the last vestiges of plant life. For Middle Earth is old, and there are many secrets which have been lost to the passing of the years.