'Lord of the Rings' fan creates a Middle Earth family tree
The visage of Gollum greets you at New Zealand's Weta Cave gift shop.
February 7th, 2012
05:02 PM ET

'Lord of the Rings' fan creates a Middle Earth family tree

If you ever want to know the difference between a casual fan and a full-on geek, here's a great example (and we've chronicled oh, so many here on CNN Geek Out's Squee).

As anyone familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth will tell you, there are a lot of complex relationships involved within this universe. Tolkien dedicated stacks of pages chronicling his characters' lineage.

According to nerd proselytizer Chris Hardwick, one thing nerds love to do is obsessively catalog. A perfect embodiment of this notion is now available online, through Emil Johansson of Gothenburg, Sweden's latest project -  an interactive family tree of "Lord of the Rings" characters.

If you want to know how Feanor relates to Celebrimbor, or just want to know your elves from your hobbits and dwarves, this impressively large document can be a helpful resource. It's probably also a great way to pass the time while waiting for the new "Hobbit" movie and should make collecting the upcoming Lego set easier, as well.

CNN Geek Out spoke to Johansson about the project:

CNN Geek Out: What inspired this interactive?

Johansson: I read the "Lord of the Rings" when I was 11 years old, just before the first (Peter Jackson) movie, and I can honestly say I didn't fully grasp the complexity of the books at that point. I dove into the world of "Silmarillion" about a year later and immersed myself into Tolkien's world completely. I was a child with a thriving imagination and I think the project was a result of wanting to have something to do when imagining stories around the different characters.

CNN Geek Out: How often do you go back to Tolkien's work?

Johansson: After I had read the books at age 11 I wanted to read everything there was to read about Middle Earth and there was a time when you'd probably call me obsessed. Now, 10 years later, I reread the books at least once a year.

CNN Geek Out: How long has this process been going?

Johansson: I started on the family tree probably six years ago and finished a paper version. I always wanted to put it on the Web but never knew how until now. I started on the online version in November last year and since there are no complete open source code for doing these kind of things I had to program much of it myself.

CNN Geek Out: What kind of reaction have you received so far?

Johansson: I've had a lot of positive response to the project and received a huge amount of e-mails. There are naturally people who contact me with corrections and suggestions. If there is something I have learned it is that Middle Earth genealogy is complex. Tolkien changed his mind frequently when writing the books. Christopher Tolkien later published books based on his father's early notes, which has created some debate concerning what can be considered true to Tolkien's original intentions.

CNN Geek Out: What has been the most difficult part of the process?

Johansson: Until now, the programming. I am a student in chemical engineering and know very little of programming, so I've had to learn much of it by "Googling." I think what will require most of my time now is correcting mistakes. I have very gladly accepted the help of Shaun Gunner from the Tolkien Society for proof-reading and advising on future updates to the site.

CNN Geek Out: What is it about Middle Earth that has had such a lasting effect on fans, and inspires them to dive so deeply into its history?

Johansson: I think it is because the world is so beautifully well-crafted. Every single time you read one of the books you find something new. It is a whole world with enough information to make it seem real and vivid but also enough mysteries to allow peoples' imagination to run freely. That perfect balance along with Tolkien's passion and attention to detail is what makes his work a masterpiece.

Geek Out wants to know: What beloved fan franchise would you like to see cataloged in such a way? Let us know in the comments.

Filed under: Fandom • Squee!
soundoff (52 Responses)
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    April 8, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  4. Chris Hamatake

    This really isn't that impressive. The paperback copy of Return of the King that I bought in the 90's has a family tree in it. I don't know if that was Tolkien's inclusion or not, but the guy in this article is about 20 years too late.

    February 17, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  5. CM

    I did my undergrad thesis on the Silmarillion... this would've come in handy for me about 8 years ago!

    February 12, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  6. lothiriel

    This is fanstastic! i'm reading the silmarillion for the first time now and i'm finding it a bit difficult to keep up with who's related to who so this is perfect, great job Emil

    February 11, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  7. ME


    February 9, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
  8. MMallon

    This is an interesting project and should shed some light on inconsistencies that arose over the long career of Tolkien's writing, compounded further by his son's efforts to complete his father's life's work.

    February 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  9. Ben

    There actually is open source code for it. Look up PHPGEDView – it works pretty well.

    February 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
  10. jurby

    this guy clearly has WAY too much time on his hands...

    February 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • M3NTA7

      "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us" – Gandalf.

      February 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
      • KingHippo


        February 9, 2012 at 1:08 am |
    • MrsFizzy

      What, as opposed to those people who spend their free time gaming, tweeting, texting, watching NASCAR and such-like?

      February 9, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  11. Jamist

    I don't see all the dwarves who were Thorin's companions on the quest to the Lonely Mountain. It looks to me like Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur.

    Or does this tree not cover the characters from the Hobbit as well?


    February 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Jamist

      Sorry – I meant to say "tt looks to me like Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur" ARE MISSING.


      February 8, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
      • Pedo mellon a minno

        Well, send the guy an email. The project clearly says "BETA".
        Bifur, Bofur and Bombur are related to each other, but not the dwarves in Hurin's House. Dori, Ori and Nori are of Durin's folk but are unspecified 'distant relatives' of Thorin II.

        February 8, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  12. Wastrel

    Already done, by Tolkein himself.

    February 8, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • Pedo mellon a minno

      But never published in a single integrated form.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  13. Susan

    There is an extensive tree in the Simarillion and my copy of Lord of The Rings. I think its cool a fan took the time to do this, but it isn't that revolutionary.

    February 8, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Pedo mellon a minno

      The LOTR contains geneological tables for the Hobbits and later members of the House of Durin. The Silmarillion contains tables for the Eldar and Edain in the First Age. I can't remember seeing anyone compile tables for the House of Eorl or the Numenorean Realms in Exile (Arnor and Gondor).

      February 8, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  14. re

    I'm confused...Sam is Pippin and Merry's father?

    February 8, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • re

      Nevermind, those are just what he named his kids after.

      February 8, 2012 at 10:03 am |
      • Mamdouh

        Posted on Your are not worthless. You mean the world to smnooee. You just need to find out who. And don't ever try to take your life ever you are loved by more people than you think.

        April 8, 2012 at 1:21 am |
  15. hewwo


    February 8, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  16. hewwo

    WACKKK !

    February 8, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  17. ken

    like him i obsessed with this world at one time when i was young. so much so that i started my own language, calendar and tried to create my own monsters. then i discovered dungeons and dragons. a rip off to be sure but worth considering. i have been playing rpgs ever since. i thank tolkien for his talents and even for his old fashioned sense about women and warfare. still there comes a time when you must grow up and put away childish things. i just find it hilarious that the stuff people used to tease us about and call us nerds for liking is so mainstream today. anyway, the grey havens are calling and time for me to board my ship before melkor is released one last time from his prison and destroys the world.

    February 8, 2012 at 4:36 am |
    • Nancy J Nagler

      I started on my fantasy route by an unusual route. Spock. Well, really Leonard Nimoy. "The two sides of Mr. Spock" a very nice album (vinyl). He had a song called 'Bilbo Baggins', lively and humorous, and somehow I found out where the reference came from. I got the original paperback set and my parents read them as well. This did go on to branch out to D&D as well as the Pern series, though that may have been influenced by my years of reading Andre Norton and the YA books of Heinlein. Doesn't matter. It takes amazing knowledge and creativity to develop an entire world, whether Middle Earth, Pern, or 'Stranger in a Strange Land'.

      February 8, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  18. whoiswho

    Sorry, it's only test message

    February 8, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  19. Pedo mellon a minno

    Having just finished the LOTR, again, I was thinking of compiling a family tree for the house of Eorl. Not now. Compiling a geneological table to this extent is a big job. Well done Emil!

    February 7, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  20. AllThatsLeft

    Gingrich's love child...

    February 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • larlarme


      February 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  21. Elsie

    Hey everybody: quit saying the wizards are Istari and not Maiar. ISTARI ARE MAIAR. They are a group of Maiar who agreed to go on a mission to Middle-earth and live and work under certain conditions (appear in old man's body, limits on powers and so on). They had other names back in Valinor. Gandalf's origiinal Maia name is Olórin.

    Also, it's MAIA = singular and MAIAR = plural.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • RS

      Isn't it amazing how Tolkein created such in-depth histories for the different races/cities of Middle-Earth? Hard to believe he came out with The Hobbit and LOTR over half a century ago.

      February 8, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • MrsFizzy


      February 9, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  22. JP

    Nonsense, everyone knows that Gollum was born of Nancy Pelosi and a can of tuna

    February 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Zach

      Your statement concerning Gollum's origin rings truer than the Liberty Bell did long ago.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Johnny

      And you were found as a newborn abandoned in a toilet.

      February 8, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  23. jd

    Hey, isn't that a pic of my ex-husband?

    February 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • larlarme

      great taste you have. how did you feel waking up to that every morning?

      February 7, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • ﺶCHEﺶ

      Nope! That's your brother-in-law, Jake.

      February 8, 2012 at 12:20 am |
  24. donsavant

    The wizards are of the Istari and not the Maia and there are a few characters missing. Someone did not crack open Unfinished Tales.

    February 7, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • David

      No, they're Maia. They may have been known as the Istari, but they're still Maia. Someone needs to check Wikipedia.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • jackob

      ... Istari ARE Maia.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Aaron

      Ok, here you go. From the index in Unfinished Tales:

      Istari – The Maiar who were sent from Aman to in the Third Age to resist Sauron...Translated "Wizards."

      Nerd know-it-alls. If you are going to nitpick, make sure you've read the source you say you're citing.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  25. jamesnyc

    Gandalf, Saruman and Radagast are of the Istari not the Maia. He needs to go back and read Simirillion

    February 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • phred

      ...and someone needs to pay more attention before correcting other people. Istari are Maia.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Pedo mellon a minno

      Indeed they are. Hence the quote from Gandalf: "Olórin I was in my youth in the West that is forgotten" The ONLY thing we know about all the Istari are their names as Maia.

      February 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  26. denim

    I want to see the Marvel Universe cataloged. Maybe he can use the next 10 years working on that. :->

    February 7, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • HamsterDancer

      Denim, LOL that would be extensive! But to get you started here is a chart of the relationships between characters in the X-men comics. Somebody spent alot of time on this!


      February 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Kristine

      You didn't answer the anitspam question correctly, your comment was not saved. Press "Back" and answer the question better.Just to be sure that your message won't be lost – copy it now to the clipboard. 搞得我很紧张来着.. 特地来留言测试一下下....果然..是啥子插件啊?压根都木有问题出来

      April 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm |