Robin Kirk points out a detail I never noticed in The Lord of the Rings: Epic Fantasy and Breaking the Rules of Infrastructure in the Interest of Speed
Why is there no road to the mighty fortress-city of Minas Tirith in either the books or the movie? Gandalf’s initial approach reveals a broad plain and the menacing flames of Mordor in the distance. Faramir returns—then is dragged back—over browned grass…but not on a road. The same is true of Edoras, seat of the Horse Lords. No road. Some maps show roads but they are mostly absent from the actual text or the films.
Think quickly: what roads do you remember from Lord of the Rings (books or movie)? I came up with those located in The Shire, exiting Rivendell, through the depths of Moria, and the fell ways of Mordor. The Shire is positively thick with roads, a veritable Middle-earthian suburb: the Bywater Road and its inn, the Ivy Bush, Bagshot Row, the road Gandalf travels to reach Hobbiton for Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday. Under Aragon’s leadership, the hobbits purposefully stay off the roads, to avoid Black Riders.
Then—very few roads. At first glance, this makes no sense in terms of worldbuilding. …
Interesting observation, isn’t it? Kirk then goes on to contrast the landscape-heavy infrastructure-light LotR with the important infrastructure in The Game of Thrones, making several points on the way about speed of action and deus ex machina and emotional connections to the characters. It’s worth clicking through to read the whole thing if you have a few minutes.