Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

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


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
Tags: art manips, cuyp, frodo, frodo art travesties, jan-u-wine, webbe

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic