Anniversary of March 25 ~ 'Naked in the Dark' by jan-u-wine, with painting by Tim Kirk.
Praise them with great praise, Frodo and Samwise!
Yes, it's March 25, ever so many ages after the destruction of the Ring, but I still feel the need to celebrate the efforts of Tolkien's heroes, who endured so much and risked so much for the sake of their world. So far, this has been a dark, catastrophe-ridden year for much of the world. Some might wonder what is the point of celebrating the deeds of fictional people in fictional crises. But it is the way of great literature to offer an alternate, richer, more intense way to perceive and experience the real world, giving it back to readers freshly observed and appreciated. It is never a waste of time to lift up the good, even if they are fictional. The exemplary are exemplary whether they live in books or the news or the house next door. So let us praise the day and its heroes, and the man who told their story. Praise them with great praise!
The illustration chosen for this entry is 'The Cracks of Doom' by American artist Tim Kirk. Kirk, an early fan-artist, painted a series of Tolkien illustrations for his master's thesis project at CSU-Long Beach, including 'The Cracks of Doom'. Ballantine published his illustrations in the 1975 Tolkien Calendar. Kirk now runs his own design firm in the L.A. area. It's the drama of the composition that attracted me, the extreme darks and brilliant fire colours, Frodo alone on the precipice, seen as a mere shape silhouetted in the fiery light. Still Frodo, and yet something simplified, stripped of detail. I thought it suited the mood of the poem well.
The poem jan-u-wine wrote for this day, 'Naked in the Dark', is set near the end of the Quest, in the Sammath Naur. On the slopes of Mt. Doom, Frodo and Sam have just repulsed an ambush by Gollum. Frodo has commanded Gollum down, like a dog, then gone on ahead. Sam is left to deal with Gollum. Gollum might have died right there, Sam itching to run him through, but Gollum begs for mercy. "The pity of Bilbo" wells up in Sam, almost against his will, and he tells Gollum to "be off". Remembering Frodo, Sam turns to follow after, to find him. The poem, you will see, has already found him.
The book scene, from Mount Doom:
The path climbed on. Soon it bent again and with a last eastward course passed in a cutting along the face of the cone and came to the dark door in the Mountain’s side, the door of the Sammath Naur. Far away now rising towards the South the sun, piercing the smokes and haze, burned ominous, a dull bleared disc of red; but all Mordor lay about the Mountain like a dead land, silent, shadow-folded, waiting for some dreadful stroke.
Sam came to the gaping mouth and peered in. It was dark and hot, and a deep rumbling shook the air. ‘Frodo! Master!’ he called. There was no answer. For a moment he stood, his heart beating with wild fears, and then he plunged in. A shadow followed him.
At first he could see nothing. In his great need he drew out once more the phial of Galadriel, but it was pale and cold in his trembling hand and threw no light into that stifling dark. He was come to the heart of the realm of Sauron and the forges of his ancient might, greatest in Middle-earth; all other powers were here subdued. Fearfully he took a few uncertain steps in the dark, and then all at once there came a flash of red that leaped upward, and smote the high black roof. Then Sam saw that he was in a long cave or tunnel that bored into the Mountain’s smoking cone. But only a short way ahead its floor and the walls on either side were cloven by a great fissure, out of which the red glare came, now leaping up, now dying down into darkness; and all the while far below there was a rumour and a trouble as of great engines throbbing and labouring.
The light sprang up again, and there on the brink of the chasm, the very Crack of Doom, stood Frodo, black against the glare, tense, erect, but still as if he had been turned to stone.
‘Master!’ cried Sam.
Then Frodo stirred and spoke with a clear voice, indeed with a voice clearer and more powerful than Sam had ever heard him use, and it rose above the throb and turmoil of Mount Doom, ringing in the roof and walls.
‘I have come,’ he said. ‘But I do not choose now to do what I came to do. I will not do this deed. The Ring is mine!’
Naked in the Dark
Hill of Fate.
That is the name of this place in the high language,
its silver tones as lost to me
as the small voices of water,
or the sweet-green touch
of grass beneath my feet.
It is all that is left me -
the heat and sulphur of it beating upon me,
its armoured fist
pulling me from myself, terrible shadows
gathering within me like night-blackened crows' wings.
this curtain of dark,
at the heart of it, there is but
a void yet
somehow, with voices which have no words.
Malice which I cannot fight
lies upon me,
presses me with cruel intent,
the red clamour of it like the thrust
of a notch-toothed dagger.
All of this.....
of this wars within me,
the very evil of it stopping my breath,
slowing my heart to near silence.
I am beyond will now, beyond thought
or reason, hope
or fear or
In this all-but-final night, only a stifled sense
of shame remains,
its call faint and far away, as if the deeds which drive it
were those of
someone else's time,
someone else's story,
someone else's sharpened
I am naked, finally,
all that I am
opened to his view,
raw and twisting, in these last moments,
bloodied within and
without by the pitiable lash
of my desire.
I cannot say what keeps my feet
upon this Road,
broken-nailed fingers scribing
my passage in blood,
nor how my emptied self
might be roused,
by unmerciful, undying rage.
Upon this tortured mountain, in this dread place,
here is the heart of you,
here is *your* desire,
here are you,
known at last,
and laid bare to me.
Here is Amon Amarth,
Hill of Fate,
Mountain of Doom.
Within this day, upon this mountain,
Doom shall fall.
Previous 'Anniversary' entry:
~ March 23: "Report From the Road", with painting by Anke Eissmann.
Final 'Anniversary' entry:
~ March 25: "Eagles to Ithilien", with screencaps from the film scene.