Document Type

Open Educational Resource


Computer Science

Publication Date



William & Mary


Did Frodo take the best path to destroy the One Ring?

With the right spatial data layers and utilizing the power of a GIS, a least cost path analysis could reveal if there was a better route that Frodo could have taken from the Shire to Mount Doom.

After several years of development, the Center for Geospatial Analysis at William & Mary, has an extensive list of GIS layers of Middle Earth, including a 50 meter elevation model, roads, rivers, realms and many others.

The GIS & Middle Earth course is designed where students work in teams of three or four to develop the cost layer needed to run the least cost path analysis. Each team is required to develop a minimum of three threat layers and three cost-of-travel layers that are combined using a weighted sum analysis into the final cost layer. Example threat layers included proximity to orcs, danger levels within different realms, and the likelihood of being seen by Sauron. Cost-to-travel layers include the slope and ruggedness of the terrain, ease of travel across different land cover types, and width of rivers based on derived stream order.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Vector_Only_Shapefiles.zip (2774 kB)
Middle Earth Vector Only Shapefiles

Vector_Only_Geodatabase.zip (17129 kB)
Middle Earth Vector Only Geodatabase