Gazetteer of Middle-earth, Chapter 1: Introduction
In the earliest Ages of Middle-earth, many of Durin's Folk built great roads spanning mountains and valleys, forests and cities, and in all the years since, many more have traveled those roads, either for mercantile endeavors, or for reasons less salutatory, related to war or its aftermath. Indeed, so well-constructed and successfully planned were these great roads that even today, three Ages later, they are still used not only by the dwarrow but also by Men, and even Hobbits and Elves. Tales reach Thorin's Hall of bridges built and maintained by Elves to connect Dwarf-built roads, passes warded from enemies by the followers of mighty Beorn, and armies of the great nations of Men in the south counting on those Dwarf-built roads for the defense of their lands, with little or no acknowledgement made to the Dwarven origin of those roads. In many places, these roads are lined by ruins of fortresses and cities built by Elves or Men thousands of years later than the road, yet long since collapsed, while the much older road made by Dwarven hands watches them falling to dust without concern.
Yet for all the success of these roads, to this author's knowledge no one, nay, not even the scholarly and learned Elves with uncountable years to do so, has yet compiled the definitive gazetteer that serves as a guide to all the lands along those roads, their perils and opportunities, their denizens and dangers. This author has sent requests along the roads in the company of Dwarven merchants and adventurers, and has made inquiry directly with learned Elves and Men who visit Thorin's Hall, over the course of many years, in hopes of finding such an atlas. Dwarves of Erebor have written guides to the roads of Wilderland and the Dale-lands, it is true; and there are books written by Elves speaking of the geography and topography of many rivers and mountain ranges; and Men of the ancient nations have made maps of both land and sea. But all such works restrict themselves to the lands near their author, or those in which the author has military or tactical interest. None has sufficient scope even to serve the purposes of a far-ranging mercantile caravan in identifying markets and being suitably prepared for the journey and its challenges, let alone for those who wish to venture beyond the roads.
It is for this reason that this author takes up pen and charcoal to compile this volume, which intends to fill this gap. Being part of a family of Dwarven merchants whose waggons range far and wide across the lands of Middle-earth, this author has both the desire, in the interest of aiding that family in these undertakings, and the opportunity to venture to each land and provide a detailed study of its topography, its climate, its people, its dangers, its mercantile opportunities, and its history. When possible, cartographic illustrations will be provided as an aid to navigation as well as understanding. This author hopes that the following pages will prove of value to travelers of all peoples for years and perhaps Ages to come.