Traditionally, most people research their own family, or one that that they have some connection to - but college student Emil Johansson is different.
Johansson has chosen a more peculiar family tree. He recently received international attention when he published his gigantic tree focusing on most of the characters in “Lord of the Rings”.
In his own words, Johansson is “overly enthusiastic about Tolkien's Lord of the Rings,” leading him to create a project where he has attempted to collect all Middle Earth’s characters and creatures in one giant family tree.
Eighteen months ago, he began studying chemical engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, but it wasn’t an easy choice:
I have a passion for photography and was faced with the choice between engaging in it full time or studying and reading the school subject [in which] I have always been most interested. Together with my girlfriend, I moved to Gothenburg and found myself quickly [involved] in student life.
In the fall of 2011, he and some good friends organized some activities for newly admitted chemistry students. The month long program took up much of his time, so when it was over, Johansson found he had a lot of free time to work on other projects.
Many would probably describe me as a creative person who likes to work on projects and, in November last year, [I began] my new project to complete something I started six years ago.
He read Lord of the Rings for the first time when he was in third or fourth grade, just before the movies were made, and he was immediately hooked:
For someone with such a vivid imagination, [it] was wonderful to come up with stories about the characters in the books. Soon I discovered Silmarillion and all [the] works published after Tolkien's death. These are worlds so well described that it could be quite real. If I'm honest, I do not remember how it was that I started on the family tree. I worked longer than I want to recognize and completed my first version on a large sheet of paper. It contained more than 600 characters.
The project was originally entirely for himself and was never meant to be published:
The idea that it would be fun to show your family tree struck me, of course, but I did not know how to go about it, until last November. Maybe it was the problem-solving spirit of Chalmers who made me realize that it was actually possible to make a web version.
On January 14, he decided to buy a domain name - lotrproject.com - and published the tree there. By then, he had included 646 characters. To share updates on the project, he created a Twitter account. He never thought the page would get much attention, but then it took off. On January 21, he sent news of the family tree to major blogs and news sites.
There remains a great deal of work. Since publication, I have received a stream of feedback with both corrections and suggestions for future features. My guess is that there are about 100 characters left [to include]. The publishing of the tree was probably one of my smartest moves. I received valuable feedback and it has also motivated me to continue the project. Now I hope to be finished within a month, but I said that before about a month ago! Much work has been [spent on] programming to reduce load time and add new functionality.
At the current 700 characters in the database, it provides a fascinating insight into Tolkien's world and shows many interesting details. No dwarf women are mentioned, but the dwarfs – in terms of races mentioned in the books – are least known, so it isn’t surprising, says Johansson.
The gender distribution is about 18% women, 82% men with the highest percentage of women of the Elves. Many responded to the fact that Sam and Rose Cotton had 12 children, each named after significant people from all over Middle Earth.
Many of the books on Middle Earth were published byTolkien's death and consolidated by his son Christopher. In good faith, he attempted to interpret and decipher his father's many notes. Many records were contradictory and show how the world evolved since the books were written. This makes it difficult to compile a family tree that is true, and my plan right now is to develop some sort of reference.
According to Johansson, “Some characters are little known, such as Tom Bombadil. Who he is, where he comes from and why the ring does not affect him remains a mystery.”
Tolkien left many loose ends throughout his books Perhaps this is what makes them so fascinating to many fans. Just use your imagination.
MyHeritage thanks Johansson for telling his fascinating story. We wish him luck on finishing the family tree.
Are you a Middle Earth fan? Do check out his website and share your comments with us below, on Facebook or Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you.