Anyone who is a self-described map geek–and we number many here at National Geographic Education–can cite some formative early experiences with maps, both real and imaginary. For me, it was the Candyland map, a delicious marriage of my fledgling passions for sugar and space. I used to love to manipulate my game piece through this colorful fantasyland of gumdrop mountains and lollypop woods.
For Frank Jacobs, it was a map of the mysterious world of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and an incidental connection between the made-up Bree and his family’s ancestral home in the real-world Bree, in Belgium.
In the first installment of a new New York Times series called In Praise of Borders, Jacobs recounts his childhood experiences navigating Bree, in a curious corner of Europe’s German-Belgian-Dutch region shaped by a unique history. It is at once a personal yet relatable narrative.