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Mt. Doom blows up

For the Anniversary of March 25: jan-u-wine's 'Upon the Tol', with art by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Posted on 2013.03.24 at 14:46
Tags: , , , ,

1915 Shores of Faerie-TEASER

The fall of Sauron is always worth celebrating. Fans around the world are reading Tolkien's works aloud, toasting Frodo and Samwise and the victorious army of the West, posting entries, browsing the pertinent chapters or re-watching ROTK.

Jan-u-wine wrote a beautiful new poem in which Frodo contemplates his life from the vantage of Tol Eressëa. He hasn't been there long, still trying to take it all in. It's early days. Bilbo is alive and well, watching, hoping, eager for signs that Frodo has begun to heal. This poem offers those signs. Jan-u-wine's writing allows readers to enter Frodo's inner experience at a pivotal time, the time when healing at last begins.

After reading it I asked immediately, 'could we post this for March 25?' What better way to celebrate the victory of the Free Peoples over the Dark Tower than with a poem in which Frodo finally is able to begin to appreciate the part he played in it.

The illustration is a water colour by Tolkien. Painted in 1915, The Shores of Faery depicts Tolkien's early envisioning of Kôr, the city of the Elves in Eldamar (not Tol Eressëa). I emailed a copy to jan-u-wine as a possible illustration and she liked it immediately. For me, 'The Shores of Faery' captures better than any realistic landscape a sense of the look and light and feel of the Undying Lands, a place recognizable to us, with its rocks and trees and sun and sea, yet quite Other. I thought it suggested the sense of being alien which Frodo seems to experience in the poem. However marvelous and beautiful the setting, he yet has not quite found his place. He is, still, a disenfranchised traveler, a 'stranger in a strange land'. From the descriptions in Tolkien's writings the Lonely Isle looked more like the rugged Italian shore of the Mediterranean, redolent of flowers and herbs and filled with the song of birds and buzz of bees, and Avallónë was more like the Bay of Naples than the extreme landscape of The Shores of Faery. But to Frodo it would still seem alien and strange, because he himself felt alien and strange. But no more. In this poem, the Ring-bearer begins to be at home in his world, and, more importantly, in himself. In this I rejoice.

For those who would like to know more about the picture and Tolkien's paintings at this time, it appears again below the poem with further discussion and excerpts from the book from which it was scanned.


1915 Shores of Faerie-1000

Upon the Tol

Many days,
I walk until
I cannot walk more,

sun warm upon my face,
wind chill-salted with the Sea.

No friendly stick warms the emptiness
of my hand,
no pipe,

nor even bits of bread
or tang'd water-skin.

If I might manage it,
I should go naked
into the world,

bare as my beginning,

as at my ending.

Only bird-song
follows me,

upon my way,

small notes
sounding and retreating
like lace waves

on an unknown shore.

If I were Home,
I should have thoughts

running, quick-silver,
within my head,

but here there are none,
my mind silent as a stream

emptied and dry-boned with bronze summer.

looks at me without curiosity
on those days,

his face worn and tired,
his smile coddle-bright,

the words I know he might
wish to say

caught behind his teeth.

It is a serious matter,
this not-saying

of his agile thoughts.

My heart hurts
for him,

for *us*,

for all the words that
lie between,

for all the deeds that lie


Yet still I walk,
wide roads

turning to paths,

to imagin'd
courses through
shore, field,


I walk until
night comes up,

adamant stars far-off
and silent,

wide and all-but-unseen clouds

and revealing
the persistent Moon.

I walk until my knees give,
and lie where I must,

asleep and dremeless
beneath the sky's dark eye,
pillowed upon gold-misted sand,

rich brown earth,

spring-green fern.

And I wake upon many a dawn,


clothing the bared bones of my self
with gentle redemption.

With joy,

at last,
I begin to understand
what small place
I hold

in this
Grand Story.


About the Painting.

1915 Shores of Faerie-700

~ The Shores of Faery by J. R. R. Tolkien, 10 May, 1915.

Tolkien had loved sketching and painting from childhood and in 1913 bought a sketchbook. It is in the Bodleian library in Oxford. How I'd love to see it. 'It is a fascinating record of Tolkien's growth as an artist over at least fifteen years, and also helps to document his writing,'write Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, co-authors of the fascinating J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator (Houghton Mifflin, copyright 1995; paperback edition 2000). A fine book by two Tolkien scholars, the quotes following come from it.

From September 1914, 'with few exceptions, nearly all of Tolkien's illustrative art was inspired by his own writings. The growth of his imagination as he began to create his mythology was almost explosive, and produced art as dramatic as the words behind it' (p. 45). The Shores of Faery was dated May 10, 1915, 'two months earlier than the date Tolkien elsewhere assigned to the poem [of the same name]' (p. 47).

Here is the original text of that poem; you will recognize much in the picture with its help (pp. 47-48):

East of the Moon
West of the Sun
There stands a lonely hill
Its feet are in the pale green Sea
Its towers are white & still
Beyond Taniquetil in Valinor
No stars come there but one alone
That hunted with the Moon
For there the two Trees naked grow
That bear Night's silver bloom;
That bear the globed fruit of Noon
In Valinor.
There are the Shores of Faery
With their moonlit pebbled Strand
Whose foam is silver music
On the opalescent floor
Beyond the great sea-shadows
On the margent of the Sand
That stretches on for ever
From the golden feet of Kôr
Beyond Taniquetil
In Valinor.
O West of the Sun, East of the Moon
Lies the Haven of the Star
The white tower of the Wanderer,
And the rock of Eglamar,
Where Vingelot is harboured
While Earéndil looks afar
On the magic and the wonder
'Tween here and Eglamar
Out, out beyond Taniquetil
In Valinor -- afar.

Hammond and Scull continue,
The phrase 'the Shores of Faery' refers in Tolkien's mythology to the lands along the great bay on the east coast of Valinor in Aman, in or near which the Elves built their dwellings. The Two Trees, Silpion (later Telperion) and Laurelin, provided light to Valinor, and it was their light also that was captured in the Silmarils, the jewels at the heart of the legendarium. But the Trees were poisoned by the giant spider Ungwë Lianti (later Ungoliant), weaver of darkness, at the behest of Melko (later Melkor, Morgoth), the evil Vala. Before dying, Silpion bore a last silver blossom which became the Moon, and Laurelin a last golden fruit which became the Sun. In the painting, the almost leafless trees frame the view in an Art nouveau manner. The tree on the left has a crescent moon upon the curving branch, and the tree on the right a golden orb. The colours of the work change accordingly from left to right, from dark night to blazing day. The 'lonely hill' in the center is Kôr with its white towers; at its feet are golden sands and 'the pale green Sea'. A prose preface to the later versions of the poem makes it clear that the star that 'hunted with the Moon' was Eärendel (Eärendil), in the painting a bright spot within the Moon's curve.

J. R. R. Tolkien, what a genius.


Previous Tolkien poem entry:
Bilbo's Book-ICON flowers-ICON ~ "As Shall I" and "These Were His", with screencaps and art by Tolkien, posted 12/12/12.

Other Links:
Nan's Reunion-ICON ~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.


Mary Keesling
KeeslingMary at 2013-03-24 20:34 (UTC) (Link)

feast for the senses

I appreciate JRRT so much more (and just when I think I couldn't appreciate him more) after reading your wonderful posts, jan-u-wine and mechtild.

The inclusion of JRRT's painting, his poem and jan's, and the discussion of all that, makes for rich, deep reading. It is a window into beautiful minds. Thank you, (well-) 'Met', and thanks, jan.

I especially loved the line :

wind chill-salted with the Sea

-- something magical about 'chill-salted' ... I certainly know what it means, even though I have never before seen that word combination... that is the wonder of good poetry.

And another : like lace waves on an unknown shore

we all know what the lace waves are, or, I feel that I do, anyway, and the 'unknown shore' has several meanings for me, all at once. All are nebulous, but real.

Brava, dear ladies. I know that JRRT loves these sorts of posts, from his perspective on his own unknown shore!

I think I finally got the LJ account working (!) ... it only took a year?! :)

jan_u_wine at 2013-03-24 20:38 (UTC) (Link)

Re: feast for the senses

dear Mary......praise from you is praise to be cherished. Thank you, always, for the passion and love you bring to all that you touch!
shirebound at 2013-03-24 23:10 (UTC) (Link)
pillowed upon gold-misted sand

How lovely. I'm so happy whenever there's peace and healing for Frodo.
mechtild at 2013-03-24 23:16 (UTC) (Link)
Me, too. :)
rakshi at 2013-03-25 01:57 (UTC) (Link)
Exquisite as always. Your work brings tears to my eyes. Thank you, dear lady.

mechtild at 2013-03-25 02:56 (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Rakshi. :)
ambree40 at 2013-03-25 11:47 (UTC) (Link)
Jan’s poem moved me. I admired the images it evoked and the beautiful language but I was moved by some strophes that resonated within my own life.

“the words I know he might
wish to say

caught behind his teeth.

It is a serious matter,
this not-saying

of his agile thoughts.

My heart hurts
for him,”

And also:

“With joy,

at last,
I begin to understand
what small place
I hold

in this
Grand Story.”

The Tolkien painting is so interesting. I’ve always interpreted “East of the moon - West of the sun” as a place that doesn’t exist because, in reality, you would be east of the sun and west of the moon. Curiously, that’s also what Tolkien has painted here. For me, this is puzzling but perhaps I’m seeing it the wrong way. Anyway, it’s a beautiful painting.
Thank you both, ladies!
mechtild at 2013-03-25 13:44 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Ambree, for stopping and commenting. I'm so glad you enjoyed the poem. :) And your reply has made me think.

I’ve always interpreted “East of the moon - West of the sun” as a place that doesn’t exist

I would agree with you that "east of the Moon, west of the Sun" (or the other way around, which I have also heard) does not exist. Well, not that it doesn't exist, but that it's a figure of speech to describe one of those unseen realities that humans can only conjecture at, yearn for, hope for, and, some, believe in. Tolkien's Undying Lands, though a real place in his created world and in his spiritual perspective, is not "real" in the sense that one can find it in the physical universe, anymore than one can find and travel the "Straight Road" from map points to get to it. Still, he's writing about the place as a real, physical place, so it makes sense that he'd have concrete visual images that he'd be writing from, and, being an artist, want to try and paint.

Similarly no one was around to watch God create the cosmos, and many don't believe such a thing ever happened. But from what is known of the earliest myths, humans who believed the world was created by divine power (or powers) have written about it and tried to depict it in paintings. Trying to paint that which is east of the Moon and west of the Sun might be that sort of creative act. It can never be literally true as a rendering, but it can can be true symbolically, the way an image can act as a sign pointing the way and opening up possibilites in the mind and spirit.

Edited at 2013-03-25 01:47 pm (UTC)
diem_kieu94 at 2013-03-26 14:30 (UTC) (Link)

A Happy Fall

Well... Happy Anniversary to the fall of Barad Dur!!! (Technically that was yesterday, but oh well!)

Well, here I am, another blogger wishing to sing her praises for Jan-u-wine's lovely poem! My favorite verse:

If I might manage it,
I should go naked
into the world,

bare as my beginning,

as at my ending.

*Sigh...* Such is the mood of a love-struck Frodo fan! Please don't stop your lovely work!
mechtild at 2013-03-26 20:55 (UTC) (Link)

Re: A Happy Fall

Thanks for stopping in and reading, Diem Kieu! It's a splendid piece with which to commemorate March 25th, I agree. And what if you are saluting the day on the 26th? I posted it on the 24th, after all, not very precise. Celebration is celebration! :)
not_alone at 2013-03-26 21:33 (UTC) (Link)
>>The fall of Sauron is always worth celebrating.<<

Definitely!! And what better way to celebrate than with a wonderful new poem by Jan-u-wine and a picture by Tolkien himself!

Your posts are always such a feast for the senses, Mechtild and, especially when combined with Jan's moving words, they are actually works of art. The trouble is, I never feel I have words suitable enough to do them justice and this one is no exception! But I always love them - your interesting and thought-provoking observations on Tolkien's world, your carefully chosen and always suitable pictures and, of course, Jan's beautiful poetry. Thank you so much to both of you:)
mechtild at 2013-03-26 22:06 (UTC) (Link)
I never feel I have words suitable enough to do them justice and this one is no exception!

Oh, posh. *blush* I'm deeply pleased you like our efforts so well, Pauline. And thank you for expressing your appreciation so liberally. Your words are very affirming. :) :) :)
antane at 2013-04-01 01:14 (UTC) (Link)
Happy Easter both of you! Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen!

This is such a lovely and moving poem, showing another glimpse into this beloved, broken one that begins to mind. I love the walking until he drops into peaceful, secure sleep - that he can do that and think about his life and then just stop where his legs give out knowing he will be safe no matter where it is. You feel like you are there with him but though you are aware of him he is not aware of us. There is pain in a way because of that as you want to comfort him but he does not seem to need it. He finds his own peace and we can only be glad. One hopes there will be healing of the space that remains between him and Bilbo with no pain, no guilt, no shame invading the oneness that they had shared and could/would share again.

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
mechtild at 2013-04-01 19:46 (UTC) (Link)
Antane, a blessed Easter!

I really enjoyed your comment. I felt as if I was experiencing the poem in a new way by entering into your perspective as you read the piece. It enhanced my own experience. Thank you.

I often feel as though I am right by Frodo's side in Jan's poems written from his point of view, if not right inside his head. And, yes, it does seem odd that we can't actually reach out and touch him, speak to him, the proximity seems so close, even intimate.
antane at 2013-04-02 18:03 (UTC) (Link)
It's really you, jan-u-wine, who have us seeing Frodo inside. It is a honor to be so close to him and you two, jan and mechtild, honor me that I would have you look at this masterpiece with different eyes. I am touched. I thought maybe it's better that he does not know where are so close to him for he is indeed naked here - emotionally and spiritually - and I doubt he would be so if he knew strangers were listening, even strangers who love him. :) Though he certainly trusts you, jan!

Namarie, God bless, Antane :) *hugs you all*
mechtild at 2013-04-02 21:22 (UTC) (Link)
Though he certainly trusts you, jan!

I believe so, Antane. I think it's because not only does Jan love him, she absolutely respects him. She never fails to honour his dignity as a person (even if a fictional person, which is always difficult to remember).
diem_kieu94 at 2013-04-28 05:07 (UTC) (Link)

Here I am again...

Adoring Jan-u-wine's poem! I just finished a drawing trying to illustrate it... I'm praying that this link works! Enjoy!

PS: You might have to scroll down a bit.

Edited at 2013-04-28 07:36 pm (UTC)
mechtild at 2013-04-28 19:42 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Here I am again...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Diem Kieu. I tried opening your link but a password is required. Maybe you could post it to LJ Scrapbook if you have access to it. I use LJ Scrapbook for posting some of my images, but maybe Scrapbook is something they gave to old subscribers that's no longer offered to newer users. I remember hearing a while ago they'd been paring back on the benefits of new accounts. Why not check to see if your account includes the use of Scrapbook. It's a free service, or it was. :)

Edited at 2013-04-29 12:05 am (UTC)
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2013-06-29 01:27 (UTC) (Link)
It's a very stark painting; you're right--it's alien. Its lack of green and lushness makes me sad. It is, though, the color of a twilight sky against bare winter branches, which is a wonder of color when there is no green in the world except in memory. This is the landscape of stark, fierce Elves bringing War, not gentle silvan ones bringing Light and Beauty.

Such a heart-breaking poem. Poor Bilbo, and Frodo worrying about Bilbo worrying about him. The stilling of whirring thoughts is the healing of depression. I can see how walking in such vastness can do that, though I can't feel it because the peace he can feel at the end is inexplicable to those of us on this side of the sea. I love how this poem conveys that Frodo's healing is not something we can really comprehend.
jan_u_wine at 2013-06-29 11:38 (UTC) (Link)
To me........this is a very......fractured sort of a piece. Almost like a lovely water-globe had been crushed, retaining its basic theme, but its beautiful elements cruelly perverted.

And that is a good symbol for Frodo's life, post-Quest, too, I reckon.

It's interesting to note that the poem was written first (this is often not the case) and Mechtild almost immediately came up with this, which simply is a perfect 'frame' for the action of the poem. Before she and I began our partnership, I had little idea how images such as this could not only serve the words nicely but actually take them to new levels of meaning.

thank you, Mechtild, for our friendship, our partnership. And thank you, LT!

(now.....start writing that dissertation, young hobbit!)
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