The LotR Project


Title: The Lord of the Rings Project
Author: Emil Johansson
Publication Date: January 2012
Official Website:

When I was first approached to contribute to this Webtext Madness, I knew I wanted to do something Alt.Ac., and I knew right away what I wanted to show off:

I admit it. I’m a huge nerd above and beyond many people I know, and I grew up reading Tolkien. In fact, I’m pretty sure The Hobbit was the first “real” book I read on my own as a kid. I’ve always been a huge fan — I’ve read The Silmarillion, The Book of Lost Tales, Children of Hurin — you name it! Tolkien fans have been a presence on the web since its inception, as far as I can tell, with fan sites, wikis, and all the rest.

So when my friend first sent me the link for The LotR Project, I admit my expectations weren’t super high. But wow.

I think the reason Johansson’s webtext impresses me is not just because of the presentation of the information but also because of its breadth and depth. Don’t get me wrong – having a full wiki-integrated genealogy of Tolkien’s Legendarium is super impressive! But I really love the way Johansson has derived data out of Tolkien’s work and given us a new way to think about the texts.

I certainly don’t think of myself as a statistics or “big data” guy by any stretch, but I think there’s something really compelling about converting literature to data then back into interpretations. Let’s be honest: It really says something that only 18% of the 900+ characters Tolkien describes are female, and only ONE of them is a dwarf!

Outside of that, Johansson’s data mash-ups, the geospatial timeline in particular, are fun and cool and give us a fresh way to imagine the events across both time and space. And if so much can be done with a fictional world, imagine what students could do with the real world!

Related Resources:
Brian Croxall’s “The American Century” geospatial timeline
Emil Johansson speaking at TEDxGotenborg
 A dissenting voice from Stephen Marche, “Literature is not data”


  • Karl Mohn

    Karl is a Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia. His focus areas are digital humanities, rhetoric and composition, and comics studies. He gets to read and write comics and play video games and call it research. Jealous?

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