~ Detail from The End of All Things: Rescue by Gandalf and the Eagles, by John Cockshaw.
This March 25 we present something old, something new. Below the image of Frodo standing at the Cracks of Doom is something old: a poem jan-u-wine wrote years ago, but which I had never read. The Turning of the Road: The Sammath Naur distills events from that last day, letting us see into the heart of Frodo's experience as he is overpowered and nearly destroyed by Sauron, his life, sanity and the fate of Middle-earth preserved only by the madness of Gollum and the love of Samwise.
Below the first poem and an excerpt from Return of the King, is an illustration by John Cockshaw showing the coming of Gandalf and the Eagles, chosen to complement the "something new": jan-u-wine's Cast Up, which follows. The new poem lifts up and makes explicit the hope that is only hinted at in the darker Turning, bearing Frodo, Sam and us readers out of downfall and despair.
I have said this is a new poem, but technically it is not. Jan-u-wine wrote "Birthday" late last fall, too late to post in the 2013 Baggins Birthday entry. I considered posting it during the intervening months, but the poem really is best suited to the day after September 22.
"Birthday" is about Bilbo, but it is just as much about Frodo, from whose point of view it is written. From that vantage point, we can enter into Frodo's thoughts and feelings, marveling as much at the beauty of his soul as that of the beloved hobbit he both mourns and celebrates.
A blessed birthday to you, Bilbo and Frodo, and may we meet beyond the Circles of the World.
I didn't want to miss offering my favourite hobbits salutations on September 22, but the real birthday post will appear tomorrow. This is because jan-u-ine's poem, "Birthday", is set the day after the birthday has passed. Frodo, for the first time, has forgotten Bilbo's birthday. Join us tomorrow to read this beautiful piece.
* Detail from an illustration by Alan Lee appearing in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, 1997.
~ Detail from The Stronghold of Barad-dûr and The Fires of Mount Doom, Variation 2, by John Cockshaw.
I can never let the anniversary of the fall of the Dark Lord go by without commemorating it. This year jan-u-wine has risen to the occasion, going deep inside Frodo's consciousness for telling glimpses of his experiences during that day. Below I have copied out what is, for me, the most compelling description of the place where Frodo must contend, within and without, with the Eye. It's not from Return of the King, though, but from the end of Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo, in grief and fear, has put on the Ring to escape Boromir and ascended Amon Hen. Looking out from the Seat of Seeing, recovering himself, he finds his sense of perspective restored -- that is, until he finds his gaze drawn and held by the Dark Lands and its Lord.
This passage meant all the more to me after reading Jan's poem, where a similar thing happens, or so it seems to me, in reverse. In 'Hope', Frodo emerges from a state of thrall, his perspective narrowed to a point, to find his perspective restored after the Ring is destroyed and the Tower fallen. Not only perspective, but hope.
A brief discussion of the illustrations featured in this post, and their creator, John Cockshaw, follows the poem.
Jan-u-wine's latest Tolkien-based poem was not written for a particular painting or image, but from an inspirational mix. Talking with friends about the work of Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Hobbit and Sherlock, jan-u-wine began to wonder more deeply about the nature of Smaug's existence in the Lonely Mountain, and the relationship, however brief, between Smaug and his diminutive conversation partner (possibly his only conversation partner in centuries). Did the great Smaug live under the mountain in splendid isolation or simply in isolation? Tolkien named the peak that became Smaug's lair "The Lonely Mountain", no doubt because it stood alone, cut off from the nearby mountain chains. But for jan-u-wine, the "lonely" in the name evokes more than geographical isolation. "The Desolation of Smaug" no doubt refers to the ashy wasteland Smaug's attacks wrought, but perhaps "desolation" hints at another sort of desolation, an inner state produced by a solitary existence.
The poem has two parts, the first from Smaug's point of view, the second from that of Bilbo Baggins. Together they make a brilliant piece, evocative and perceptive.
Heavens! I almost missed the Baggins Birthday! I am out of town on a family visit and forgot all about it. Happily, jan-u-wine reminded me in time. This is only a re-post, but raise your glasses with me.
I am sure you all know the images from which the manip is made. Pierre Vinet's FOTR publicity stills are as well-known as they are beautiful.
Old Man Willow (pencil, coloured pencil), like most of the pictures done to illustrate The Lord of the Rings, was made while Tolkien was working on the novel. These pictures, unlike those done for The Hobbit were not done to be published, but "for his own pleasure as well as for reference, as he had done earlier for 'The Silmarillion'. Old Man Willow is a fine example." (Hammond and Scull, p. 156)
"Suite: Meriadoc" is a fine example, too, but of what Tolkien's illustrations can inspire jan-u-wine to create. This piece, written from Meriadoc's point of view, is set in the Fourth Age, Meriadoc remembering a dark time as he watches his small son settle into sleep.