© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
NPR Arts & Life

For Middle-Earth, One Family Tree To Rule Them All

Later this year, director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will reintroduce moviegoers to Middle-Earth, the fictional setting for J.R.R. Tolkien's epic tales.

The high adventure and climactic battles of Tolkien's world were last seen on the big screen in 2003, in The Return of the King. The final scene featured a climactic battle between the men of the West — as well as elves, dwarves and hobbits — against the forces of evil.

Here's a question: Just how many men were there in the West? And were they friends, cousins or perhaps even brothers?

Even if those questions weren't troubling you as you left the theater, they were on the mind of Emil Johansson, a university student in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Johansson has spent the past several years creating a comprehensive census and family tree of all the characters — over 900 of them — created by Tolkien for his fantasy world. He tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin that his cataloging of the characters actually started when he began reading the books as a child.

"Middle-Earth is such a vast world," Johannson says, "so just to keep my head straight, I started doodling on a piece of paper the various relationships."

A few months later his doodle had spread to two larger pieces of paper with a complete genealogy of the characters, Johannson says.

Johannson's project grew beyond just a standard family tree, and now even includes longevity charts and gender demographics.

"My statistics say that there are only 19 percent female characters," he says.

Despite this seemingly obsessive hobby, Johannson assures us he does, in fact, have a girlfriend.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.