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smile - Golden cart Frodo

Jan-u-wine's "The Road Back", with illustrations (manips, paintings by Webbe and Cuyp).

Posted on 2010.01.15 at 14:04
Tags: , , , , ,

This post features jan-u-wine's new poem, The Road Back. In it, the Shire is lifted up, as perceived through the senses of Frodo. Jan's poem was actually inspired by a 19th century English landscape called "Twilight", painted by William J. Webbe (for more about Webbe, or Webb, go here). I think it's a magical painting, and deeply Shire-ish. As soon as I saw it I thought, "Frodo walked here, Frodo saw this, Frodo laid in this grass and looked at this sky." I sent a copy of it on to Jan, who immediately agreed and soon began to write.

Twilight is an enchanted time for Tolkien, when the two lights mingle, first the light of the Two Trees, then the light of their fruits, the Sun and Moon. In Webbe's painting, the red of the sinking sun can still be seen between the rocks, but a pale crescent moon hangs above it. This magical light, illuminating the lovingly detailed grasses and plants, rocks and small creatures, creates a sense of hushed wonder. Even the rabbits seem to pause, the owl waits, breathing slowly, taking in the fragrant air, even as it cools with coming night. Perhaps the insects are already beginning to chorus.

I actually tried to make this painting into a Frodo manip, using a full or partial figure of Frodo from a screencap, but the resolution of Frodo in mid-distance shots is just too muddy to match the crisp detail of the Webbe image even remotely. It could not be done, or not by me. Still, I want to show you this painting, an image of the Shire as I live and breathe. How I would like to see it in person.

William J. Webbe's "Twilight":

Although I could not make a manip out of the Webbe, I still wanted to post a Frodo illustration for this poem, full as it is of Shire imagery. I have come up with two, one to precede the poem showing Frodo striding into the morning sun in a country setting, and one to come after, showing Frodo looking back as he treads a shaded woodland path. Before the manips and poem, I will show their elements and briefly tell of their making, for those who like that sort of thing.


1. Frodo striding in the morning sun in Aelbert Cuyp's "Landscape With Cattle".

Aelbert Cuyp, the most famous of a family of painters, was a 17th century Dutch landscape artist of considerable renown (for more about Cuyp, go here). I was very sorry I couldn't find a high-resolution file of this painting. Reading about his use of light made me yearn to see the painting up close. As the writer at Wikipedia effuses,
Sunlight in his paintings rakes across the panel, accentuating small bits of detail in the golden light. In large, atmospheric panoramas of the countryside, the highlights on a blade of meadow grass, the mane of a tranquil horse, the horn of a dairy cow reclining by a stream, or the tip of a peasant's hat are all caught in a bath of yellow ocher light. The richly varnished medium refracts the rays of light like a jewel as it dissolves into numerous glazed layers. Cuyp's landscapes were based on reality and on his own invention of what an enchanting landscape should be.

"Enchanting" is what a Shire landscape ought to be. Even though the image I found on line is small, you still can see the golden light the writer is talking about. Look how it "rakes across the panel":

Aelbert Jacobsz Cuyp's "Landscape with Cattle" c. 1639-49:

When it came to making my manip, in order to emphasize the sense that Frodo is walking in the early morning, I reversed the image. In the original painting, the sunlight is pouring in from the left. The habit of looking at maps is so ingrained in me, however, I automatically think of the left side of a picture as the west and the right as the east. It's silly, I know. Cuyp could easily have painted this scene looking south, so that the east would be to his left and the west to his right. But to my visual sense, east light has to come from the right. So I flipped the image. Happily, in the selected screencap Frodo is already facing the right, walking into strong sunlight. The lighting is so well matched between painting and screencap, it was not difficult to work Frodo's image into Cuyp's painting. After I finished the hand-tweaking, I applied a light paint filter to Frodo (trying to better match the look of the painting).

Source for Frodo image ~ FotR, Sam and Frodo leaving the Shire:

2. Frodo on a Shire path.

Reading Jan's poem, I knew I wanted to show Frodo in the woods as well, in something that suggested the broodier, slightly melancholy undercurrent of the piece. An image of Frodo in RotK came to mind, from the EE Crossroads scene. He and Sam have just seen the sunlit flower-crowned stone head in the grass, the shadows close in again, and they move on. Frodo's face as he walks looks thoughtful but a bit anxious in the frames, but I thought it would read as observant and reflective in a Shire setting. Still-bare Ithilien isn't the Shire, though, especially the Shire celebrated through Frodo's eyes in Jan's poem, so I needed to put Crossroads Frodo somewhere else. I didn't have a painting that would work, but it occurred to me I could use a Shire screencap. So I selected a frame from the "Get off the road" scene in FotR, a view of the woodland road dappled with sunlight, took the hobbits out of it (painting in substitute scenery with the clone brush), and imported Frodo from the scene in Ithilien.

After tweaking the colour and lighting to get a match between the caps, I worked with the lighting and colour of the joined images to make the woods shadier, darker, and cooler. But it still looked like a screencap. I wanted it to look more like an illustration, so I applied a layer of watercolour "traditional" to the entire image. I also cropped it, so that the focus was more on Frodo looking back at the path behind him, the Road winding back into the curling mist. I wanted to evoke a sense of Frodo looking back not just at the path but what he's been through, where he's come from, even if he's now in the Shire, treading a familiar woodland road.

Source for Frodo image ~ RotK EE, the Crossroads:

Source for Shire background ~ FotR, just before the Black Rider appears:

The Road Back

by jan-u-wine

Broad as summer,
the light as I set out;

brand-hot and golden
the cloudless sky.

The Road

takes me,
feet threading the fine

fabric of dust-coat,

the scent of trees
and little green grasses


the far-off voice of a stream,
twining its busy-slow way
about the grey gleam

of sleepy

The Road

the day


until my feet

upon spears
of emerald grass,


earth-fragranced, wide blades.

Sun's-set laces grey fingers
upon the sky-path,

soft, ebbed blue
spilling to pink'd amaranth,

faded green
woven about spilt-gold.

An ice-slender moon,
its water'd lemon


upon the widening cloak
of night.

Fog-fingers of cold


from the earth
below my feet.



cold and immediate,
shocking and familiar,

comforts me,

holds me to this place,
the rocks' time-worn faces

in the velvet smudge of dusk.

Not even the compass'd, ragged

of the black night-birds
frighten me,

overlaid as they are
by the queries

of an owl,
grey-brown neck-ruff

proof against the cold,
yellow-orange eyes

intent as an arrow
upon his prey.


There is a certain

I owe,

a debt of remembrance

to a

of coneys.

It will not be of large consequence,
I think,

if Master Aiwë
should prove dismayed in his hunt.


Upon the morrow,

I waken
in my small bed.

The sunlight is fair and clear,
the heavy thrum of bees

leaks through thin window-glass.

I smile.

Only a dreme,




Only a dreme,
the edges of it

stitched with down-feather'd memory,
the boundaries of it

dun-fur swaddled
by the soothing

arms of time.


Tables of Links:

~ Frodo Art Travesty LJ entries (manip presentations).

~ Album of all Frodo Art Travesties (a gallery of images only—be sure to enlarge images after opening).

~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.

~ Mechtild


(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2010-01-15 22:31 (UTC) (Link)
Jan's poem really *is* exquisite. I love the Cuyp-based manip (cattle in sunny meadow), too. But I love the painting in the first place. The screencaps that made up the second manip are just screencaps (but I am sure someone really good at photoshopping could have done something more interesting with it). Still, the image I love best is still Webbe's "Twilight". How I would love to have a large, good copy of it.
pearlette at 2010-01-15 23:09 (UTC) (Link)
Info on Webbe (Webb) here: :)


I thought his 'Twilight' painting had a strong PreRaphaelite influence. :) It's beautiful, very dreamy and mystical, I love the light! It has that 'super-real' effect the PreRaphaelites strove for.

Of your two manips, I particularly love the one of Frodo walking into the morning sunlight. His image blends seamlessly into the original artwork, just lovely. And I love how Frodo is depicted here. Whether it's one of his many pre-Quest walks, or whether he's leaving the Shire with Sam and Pippin, or whether he is on his way to the Havens, he looks strong and determined ... and somehow wistful. This is one of the images of Film Frodo which conform completely to my image of Book Frodo. I wish now we had seen more of this Book Frodo in the films. The films are wonderful, but they're not perfect. ;)

Hmm. I really like this manip, Mechtild. :)

In the screencap of Frodo and Sam leaving the Shire, it looks like the crow perched on the scarecrow behind Frodo is actually perched on his head, LOL.
mechtild at 2010-01-15 23:23 (UTC) (Link)
I love the way you describe Frodo walking in the Shire, Pearl. Yes, he does have a "strong and determined ... and somehow wistful" look to him. It's the light that fires me, though. What a lovely image of Frodo in the Shire.

The Webbe: actually, I put that link in the post, but under the artist's name. But perhaps I need to say something like, "read more about Webbe here", and put the link under the "here". That's what I usually have done. ETA: I went ahead and made that change, Pearl.

I really do love that Webbe painting. And while I can see his relation to the Pre-Raphaelites in terms of style, I can't picture most of my Pre-Raph guys painting purely a landscape. A landscape in which to put a subject, yes, a woman (or a goat, like Holman Hunt), or a larger pictoral narrative, but a landscape as such, a picture with no people, no tale or moral or allegory to illustrate. In that he reminds me of the Renaissance Dutch and Flemish masters, not so much the landscape artists who depicted complete scenes, but the ones whose paintings of faithfully, almost reverently rendered patches of turf, vases of flowers, or produce spread across a table cloth can make me weep.

Edited at 2010-01-15 11:41 pm (UTC)
shirebound at 2010-01-15 23:13 (UTC) (Link)
Only a dreme,
the edges of it
stitched with down-feather'd memory,
the boundaries of it
dun-fur swaddled
by the soothing
arms of time.</i *sigh* This poem is very dreamlike indeed. Beautiful. The manips are really lovely. You did a great job.
mechtild at 2010-01-15 23:35 (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting you should call it dream-like, Shirebound. In a conversaton about the poem and post as I prepared it, Jan said she wasn't sure Frodo wasn't dreaming in the first part. Maybe walking and dreaming at the same time. I suppose only Frodo knows. :) Thanks for commenting, Shirebound.
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2010-01-15 23:25 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, ladies.

Looking at your beautiful manips and reading Jan’s beautiful poetry has made me nostalgic.

the scent of trees
and little green grasses


the far-off voice of a stream,
twining its busy-slow way
about the grey gleam

of sleepy

Hi there! Did you just change the first picture?
mechtild at 2010-01-15 23:40 (UTC) (Link)
Hello, lass! Jan has done another ravishing job, hasn't she? What a painter she is with word images, as good as Webbe or Cuyp.

P.S. Yes, I did change the first image, the "teaser" (it's all that shows when people are scrolling down the friend's list). I thought it was more luminous and gave more of a sense of the larger poem than the dark woods.
wakerobin at 2010-01-16 06:36 (UTC) (Link)
Think it would be possible to have Congress pass a law, or some king somewhere decree that ELijah go back to his Fellowship Frodo hair??? Really short hair framing that face seems...unkind.
mechtild at 2010-01-16 17:20 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, was there ever a lovelier head of hair than Frodo's? Well, I suppose all the hobbits had lovely hair, and the hair of the three leading ladies was ravishing. Let me rephrase: was there ever a head of hair that better suited a person? Yes, he looked wonderful as Frodo. In terms of looks, EW the person, and Frodo the character as conceived by the costumer, wig and make-up people, were a match made in aesthetics heaven. Thanks for stopping, Wakerobin. :)
bellewood at 2010-01-16 23:42 (UTC) (Link)
Your posts are always so beautiful.. with so much information to take in.. and all of it utterly breathtaking. Thank you!
mechtild at 2010-01-17 00:45 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Bellewood. I'm so pleased you enjoy them. I think I speak on behalf of Jan, too. :)
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2010-01-18 05:52 (UTC) (Link)
Wow--what the sound of the poem does! Staccato and broken and disconnected in his relationship to daylight and the land--only smoothing as he mentions the river--and what an evocative word is busy-slow. Water he can relate to, and the night--he's reading to leave. Beautiful.

And you've seamlessly worked that image of Frodo into the golden twilight of the painting--it illustrates the opening of Jan's poem perfectly. I love the screen cap of Frodo and Sam in Ithilien, and though I miss Sam's golden head echoing the light of the previous painting, I love the painting you've created. My heart is more with the green woods than the open fields I guess because that's the one I'd rather lose myself in. He looks beautiful in that lush background that you've filled out gorgeously. Thank you both for another lovely post.
mechtild at 2010-01-18 16:39 (UTC) (Link)
You have taken the time to read Jan's poem, I see, and with a word-smith's eye and ear. Hasn't she got a gift? You, too, you describe what you hear so well.

I'm pleased you liked the woods manip. It doesn't have the richness or intricacy of the Cuyp or Webbe, who have provided their landscapes with a wealth of artfully chosen detail not present in the screencap. Nor does it have their magical morning and twilight auras. But I like those shady woods, too. They are cool, refreshing, but also, to me, a bit broody or weighted with meaning, other "woods" imagery shifting around in my brain: Frost's two roads that diverged in a yellow wood, reminding me of Frodo choosing a path that radically diverged from the norm, even if he was partially compelled (by his sense of duty) to choose it. Frost's winter woods, whose dark, hushed mystery called to the aging poet, yet who shook himself (and the reins) and passed on, knowing it was not yet his time. Frodo in these woods, although already backwards-looking, is younger than the poet in either of the Frost poems. Maybe the choice of these woods conveys, subliminally, for I never thought of this until writing this answer to you, my sense that Frodo was not at the end of his life, literally or figuratively, when he left the Shire. My belief has been that while it was a kind of death for him, to leave the world and people he had known and loved all his life, before him lay a world of love and experiences as yet unimagined, with plenty of time to come to know and appreciate it all. Frodo, in this manip's shady green-blue woods, like the traveller on the snowy evening, still has "miles to go before I sleep".

Well, I wandered a bit there, lol. I guess it's because it's sunny here and not bitterly cold, a welcome change.
jan_u_wine at 2010-01-20 04:08 (UTC) (Link)

you two!

Ms Took and Ms Mechtild, I do protest. The images of your own writing, right *here* (puts foot upon the post and taps it fondly)are overwhelmingly wonderful. Now I know why I need never write for mere money: as a form of payment, its worth should never exceed what you've said, the two of you.

thank you, my friends. Now....off with you..and write!

mechtild at 2010-01-20 15:26 (UTC) (Link)

Re: you two!

Howdy, Jan, fancy meeting you here! :)
jan_u_wine at 2010-01-21 02:20 (UTC) (Link)

Re: you two!

it was quite fancy! And a flight of fancy, as well!

telstar_gold at 2010-01-18 11:07 (UTC) (Link)
Lovely, lovely work as always - both of you! I'm sure young Frodo and little Sam are somewhere just out of "shot" in that first painting - maybe scurrying to get home in time for supper! And for the rest, your two manips and Jan's poem are perfect companion pieces. It's always such a pleasure to look at your entries.
mechtild at 2010-01-18 16:17 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Telstar. I'm happy the post, poem and visuals, has given you LotR pleasure. :) Isn't Webbe's "Twilight" a quintessential Shire image? I found a place on line that sells painted copies of it, but I'd rather have a good print of the real thing -- or the real thing, lol.
not_alone at 2010-01-19 23:08 (UTC) (Link)
To think I almost missed this! Such beautiful images for a dreary January day! I particularly love 'Frodo striding in the morning sun'. This is brilliant work, Mechtild. And as always, jan-u-wine's wonderful words and your pics complement each other perfectly:)
mechtild at 2010-01-19 23:12 (UTC) (Link)
It's dreary here, too, Paulie. Grey, grey, grey.

But I'm so glad you were able to see this! What a tonic to see Frodo striding into the sunlight like that. I can almost see and hear him take a big, refreshing breath of the Shire morning air. Jan's poem, ah, it's a painting in itself. She's an artist.

(P.S. great choice of icon!)

frodosweetstuff at 2010-01-22 13:44 (UTC) (Link)
Oh both are very lovely and well-done! The first one is so very uplifting and positive. It's almost as if Frodo is the reason everything around him looks so golden and beautiful.

Thank you!
mechtild at 2010-01-22 13:56 (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome, O mistress of manipping. I am so pleased you enjoyed it. :)
frodosweetstuff at 2010-01-26 14:47 (UTC) (Link)
Mistresss of manipping???? *giggles*
mechtild at 2010-01-26 15:02 (UTC) (Link)
Well it *was* you, wasn't it, who made that extremely convincing Christmas image of Sean and Elijah in Santa gear, wasn't it? I thought that was extremely well done, as if they had really posed for it!
frodosweetstuff at 2010-01-26 16:06 (UTC) (Link)
Yup, that was me! :)

Maybe they did pose for me... :D
julchen11 at 2010-03-14 03:02 (UTC) (Link)
Goodness, what a post! The manips are soooo beautiful. Especially the first one moves me- it's so golden, so sunny, so positive... and so very warm.
This is how you must feel walking in the sun in the Shire.
The second one makes my heart beating faster, it looks a little bit dangerous. There is rustle to hear, the wind is blowing slightly and the upcoming danger is palpable somehow.
Wonderful works, mechtild.

Jan's Poem is breathtaking. She's very gifted, isn't she. She catched up the moments, Frodo's thoughts in a way only she can.

"Only a dreme,
the edges of it
stitched with down-feather'd memory,
the boundaries of it
dun-fur swaddled
by the soothing
arms of time."

This IS like a dream, so so so beautiful. *happy sigh*

Thanks to both of you, my friends.
You made my night. And I know exactly what I'll be reading in bed tonight...

*hugs you both gently*
mechtild at 2010-03-15 00:01 (UTC) (Link)
Hi, Julchen! I've been out of town but got back an hour ago. Now I am beginning to go through the mail. I'm so glad you enjoyed this post, both the lovely Cuyp manip (I love the way you described it - golden, sunny, positive and warm) and the splendid poem by Jan. Thanks so much for stopping and commenting.
a_lexxy at 2015-04-25 12:52 (UTC) (Link)
Very intresting post. Thank you!
mechtild at 2015-04-26 18:58 (UTC) (Link)
You are welcome. :)
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