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 geographic information system, a least cost path analysis could reveal whether there was a better route that Frodo could have taken from the Shire to Mount Doom to destroy the ring of power.

After several years of development, the Center for Geospatial Analysis at William & Mary, has developed an extensive list of GIS layers of Middle Earth, including a 50 meter elevation model, roads, rivers, realms and many others. These data formed the basis for an advanced GIS course where students expanded their GIS skills through a creative mapping and analysis set in Middle Earth. This GIS & Middle Earth course is designed to allow teams of students to integrate their GIS skill with their interest in Tolkien’s Middle Earth to develop the cost layers needed to run a least cost path analysis from the Shire to Mount Doom. Each team sets out 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. The final cost layer is then used in a least cost path analysis to map a better route for Frodo. Students then develop a story map to share their work at the end of the semester.

The data shared below include the complete set of vector layers in wither shapefile or Esri geodatabase format and the 50 meter DEM of middle earth as four quadrants (geo tiff format). All downloads are compressed into *.zip files to reduce the download size. In addition, you can download, through the download button, a short presentation developed about the project and course.

In addition, you can read more about this class and see some of the final story maps here: https://bit.ly/3aYLc0x

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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

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

DEM_50m_Quad1.zip (1615072 kB)
Middle Earth Demo Geodatabase 1

DEM_50m_Quad2.zip (1349652 kB)
Middle Earth Demo Geodatabase 2

DEM_50m_Quad3.zip (585025 kB)
Middle Earth Demo Geodatabase 3

DEM_50m_Quad4.zip (1774495 kB)
Middle Earth Demo Geodatabase 4