Warning! This essay contains some spoilers for the book! If you haven’t read Elantris, I’d suggest reading the introduction to the book instead.
The map for Elantris has come a long way. I recently managed to track down some very old versions of the map, and thought it would be fun to show the map in all of its various stages. For a lot of these maps, you’ll need to click on them to see the larger version to make out a lot of the detail.
Some of these are rather embarrassing. It’s a good thing I turned out to be a much better writer than I did an artist. Realize, however, that I never intended these to be seen by anyone other than myself.
Whew. That’s rough. This is the first image I ever did for Elantris—I do all of my maps on the computer, rather than drawing them by hand. And, at this stage in my life, I only had MS Paint. I made very liberal use of that spraycan tool, eh?
This was only intended as reference for me, giving me an idea of what the continents looked like. Arelon is to the West, with mountains in the middle. Fjorden to the East. Note that in this preliminary sketch, Teod was up in the Northeast, and Arelon was kind of bulged. This changed very quickly as I began writing.
This one is hard to read unless you click on it for the larger version. That’s a screenshot of my second version of the map. At this point, I didn’t even bother with the advanced power of MS Paint; I just “drew” the map in Microsoft Word, using their drawing functions.
At this point, I began to figure out some specific political geography. I named the countries, placed them where they needed to be, and moved Teod over to the West. The mountains are just a squiggle, and it’s very confusing as to what line is pointing to what. However, this was all I needed. Note, also, the map at the top right. Though that may seem like another continent, it’s actually a close up on Arelon, depicting the division of land in the kingdom between the various lords. This, obviously, was far too simplistic and didn’t include enough of the nobility. But, then, I only needed to know where the important noblemen were in relation to each other.
Another one you’ll have to click on to see. Here’s the third version of the map, and the last one I drew myself. At this point, I’d moved back to MS paint, and had grown so technologically adept that I actually learned to change fonts in an image. (Ooooo.) I drew this one as I was about halfway through the novel, but I still hadn’t figured out exactly how I wanted things to look.
The kingdoms are all shaped right now, and things are generally where they should be. However, the design of the slope of the mountains and shape of Elantris itself (in the detail of Elantris and Kae below) was off. I wouldn’t decide upon these issues until I finished the novel. Unfortunately—and here’s where I went wrong with these maps—I didn’t draw a fourth map when it came time to do the official illustration. Instead, I just sent this map to Jeff as a guide, with some text instructions of what needed to be different. Those instructions weren’t very specific, I’m afraid.
Jeff’s first interpretation of my map. Finally, an image that isn’t an eyesore! It sure does make a difference when someone with actual talent takes a stab at the drawing. Jeff was my roommate at one point, though by the time ELANTRIS got published, I think he was living as my brother’s roommate a little down the road. I think he’s a fantastic artist, and I love the shading and coloring of this map.
However, my bad original map—mixed with some unclear instructions—left this map with a lot of problems.
If you click and look at the detailed version, you can read my instructions back to Jeff on this map. Mostly, I was worried about the fact that the map shapes around Elantris didn’t conform to what the book said they were—and, since this was integral to the magic system and climax of the book, that was a big problem.
Describing all of this to Jeff proved more difficult than I’d anticipated. I managed to get most of the ideas across, and through several conversations, we decided that we really needed to shrink the map down and not show Fjorden. I didn’t like how much this map seemed to focus on a country we never visit in the book, and I didn’t like the lack of detail over across the mountains. The important place was Arelon, so we decided to focus in on it.
Jeff’s second stab at a map for this book. It’s starting to look like the one that ended up in the book. There are still problems—the shape of mountains with the lake isn’t quite right. I tried to explain this, but I never quite got the information across right. In the end, my poor visual design in the beginning left this one slightly flawed. However, deadlines were looming, and I decided that it was close enough to work. So, I focused on other requests from here out.
First off, I love the little drawings of the cities. I thought the feel of this map was just right, as it evoked the right ‘early modern’ era I wanted for this book. However, it still had a lot of empty space, particularly out in the ocean.
We tried an inset with a little stylized compass on it and an inset zoom on Elantris. This got rid of the blank space, but my editor and I just thought it was too busy and confusing. Why show an inset of something, but only zoom a little way?
So, instead, we decided to just cut Teod and focus on the lower parts of the map. This ended up working very well, though we still needed more detail.
Here’s the final version of the map as it appears in the book. The focus here works much better. However, by zooming in, we heightened the problem with the mountains and the chasm not quite matching the shape they needed to in order to be spot on with the climax of the story. This still makes me a little regretful.
The truth is, however, that we got a fantastic map with an excellent feel, and I’m very pleased with the job Jeff did for this. I like it particularly in color, which we weren’t able to print for the novel version. I learned my lesson with this map, and for my second one allowed the artist to draw from what he imagined by reading the book, rather than providing a guide. That didn’t leave him hindered by my poor artistic design, and allowed him to interpret from his imagination. I can describe things better in text than I can draw them.