Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Tolkien's Landscapes 4: 'Mirkwood' ~ pictures by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.



The illustrations that inspired jan-u-wine's poem for this entry have interesting histories.

The first picture, a black and white drawing, was made specifically by Tolkien to illustrate The Hobbit, published in 1936. It is clearly titled "Mirkwood" on the bottom border and there is a large black spider. Tolkien wanted the drawing to appear as the book's front endpaper, but the publishers placed it in chapter 8, "Flies and Spiders", the one that takes place in Mirkwood. The forest, once Greenwood the Great, is shown as ranks and ranks of trees, both thick and slender, with extensive surface roots, the trees so high no leafy branches are visible. A jet black distance visible through the boles suggests either gloom or deep night. The style, clean, decorative and elegant, gives the impression of an eerie, silent, enchanted forest. It is not quite the brooding, dense, stifling Mirkwood of the book, but perhaps an aura of dark enchanted silence mattered more to Tolkien than one of a forest bearing down travelers, hemming them in, close and suffocating.

There was an earlier picture, though, clearly the model for the black and white made for The Hobbit. In 1928, Tolkien painted a watercolour depicting the Taur-na-Fúin, the dark, evilly enchanted forest that sank beneath the waves at the end of the First Age. This picture was made to illustrate the Silmarillion tale of Túrin Turambar when the elf Beleg finds another elf, Flinding (later called Gwindor), recently escaped from Morgoth's fortress-dungeon Thangorodrim. If you look closely at the left foreground you will see a small figure with long black hair, red pointed shoes and a sword hanging at his waist climbing over a sprawling tree root. That's Beleg. To the right at the base of the largest tree is the prostrate body of another elf, Flinding, his red cap and lantern beside him on the ground. It is a scene set in the Taur-na-fúin, yet the name at the bottom of the picture is "Fangorn Forest". How is that?

As it turns out, the title was put there by Tolkien for inclusion in the The J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar 1974. Tolkien obviously loved this picture, working from it to make his illustration of Mirkwood for The Hobbit, later letting it stand in for Fangorn Forest for the calendar. (Perhaps Tolkien didn't think people would notice the two figures with their shoes, long hair, lantern and sword, who could not be Merry and Pippin.)

In any event, both "Mirkwood" and "Taur-na-Fúin" aka "Fangorn Forest" are fine works, drawing in viewers and kindling imaginations just as good illustrations ought.


"Mirkwood" from the first edition of The Hobbit, 1936:



Great and unbowed, the trees which dwell here:

slender-pale beech,
spread-finger'd oak,

dark-crown'd fir.

Black as midnight's pocket,
the beasts:

wary and

ebony-webb'd spiders....

sable clad

A waiting chill lives,

beneath the sombre

leaf-cloak denying the Sun
her merry passage,

staying, with twined limbs,
even the gentle

from a night'd floor.

Greenwood the Great
it was called once,

this darkened forest,

with the happy burden
of a warm Sun,

glades washed with

and the warm scent
of life.

Beneath these trees,
within this place,

dark or light,
good or


the Elves dwell,
listening, ever,

to the song-speech
of their wards,


for the turning of this Age.

The leaves drift slow
in the ending.....

Once again,
soft light blesses them

upon their final journey.

The River Running
murmurs to itself,

threading its way
among grey stones,

green with new grasses.

A curious wind

like a blooded hunter,
running upon the ground,

twisting in tangled branches,
unveiling the moonlight

after the Sun has journeyed

urging the Enchanted Stream
along its laughing way to

the Sea.

The Sea:

that it is where the Elves have gone,
their long day in the Greenwood

at last done,

the songs of the forest

at the last,

by those of a shore

And the trees

and wait,

their songs

to sunlight
or moonlight,

the music of them
borne upon the back

of the wind.

Until World's end,
they endure.

Until World's end,
their Song rises.



~ "Beleg Finds Flinding in Taur-na-fúin", 1928, later titled "Fangorn Forest" by Tolkien for the 1974 Tolkien Calendar.

Previous entry:

Moonlight on a Wood-ICON ~ "Moonlight on a Wood": picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.

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

Tags: art, jan-u-wine, tolkien

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