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NF-Lee's 3/4 Frodo sketch

Tolkien's Landscapes 5: 'The Misty Mountains' ~ picture by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.

Posted on 2013.07.20 at 08:50
Tags: , ,

Misty Mountains-ICON

I was not able to find much background information about this watercolour, not even a date, but suffice it to say I like it very much, although more as a rendering of a beautiful natural setting than as a depiction of the Misty Mountains, built by Melkor, delved by dwarves and peopled by orcs and "darker, fouler" things. Its tone is soft, its warm colours glow, the composition with its pleasant road winding leisurely over the river towards the foot hills invites the viewer to approach. Thus, as lovely as the painting is, it doesn't conjure for me a sense of the book's Misty Mountains.

But if the watercolour fails to convey the grandeur, mystery and menace of the Misty Mountains, the poem it inspired does. Bilbo experienced much in the Misty Mountains -- beauty, wonder, enchantment, but also terror and darkness. Jan-u-wine's poem, reminiscing through Bilbo's eyes, savours of all these things.


"The Misty Mountains", watercolour and pencil, undated:


The Misty Mountains

It is said that

them to being,

these now-silent

wreathed grey-white
with cloud,

feet astride
the road's ribboned miles.

Evil birthed them,
ages passing

in the dwelling of it.

But light there was, too,

traveler's tales,
and small laughter,


upon the upward and downward
paths they have known.

My feet walked there,

the fine,
of the Road,

bruised themselves
upon the unyielding stone
that stays within.

Blacker than any night,
that ....


by a dark

that is more
than an absence of Sun.

the smell of them....

these creatures of mountains
(for such they are....

they are)...

the earth-tang of vast caverns
and rock-bone aeries

that live beneath the
mountains water'd cloak,

or the close chambers
whose scent whispers
of age-beyond-age.

Ah, the smell of them:

the under-earth scent of soft, wet rock,
of plants large with

green-glow'd in this

encompassed night.

In that compacted,

there is memory,

Fine-drawn pictures
of the day

prisoning walls:

of far-off,
lemony Sun,

of the risen moon's
brass-burnished light.....

the small diamond pen-strokes
of attendant stars.

Of pine's comforting spice,
the recollection

limned in fire,
the memory

into pinioned night
upon strong, dark

I think on these things,

an Age

a World away.

I think on them,

the Sun laying a fire-path
upon the blue-green of the Sea,

the bright scent of Oiolairë
drifting like smoke

within the high vault of the sky.

An eagle flies there,
sailing upon the breast of the clear wind
like a barque upon the Straight Road.

I smile.

Perhaps, again,
he may come to bear me away.


The Towers of Mist.

So they were,
so they are.


Previous entry:

Mirkwood-ICONTaur-na-Fuin-ICON ~ "Mirkwood": pictures by Tolkien, poem by jan-u-wine.

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


shirebound at 2013-07-20 15:25 (UTC) (Link)
The two of you continue to delight me, and fill my senses with new images.

wreathed grey-white
with cloud,
feet astride
the road's ribboned miles.

mechtild at 2013-07-20 16:14 (UTC) (Link)
I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post, Shirebound. Isn't it a fine piece? I love the way jan-u-wine weaves her word-magic.
primula_baggins at 2013-07-20 15:46 (UTC) (Link)
I can't help but think the Misty Mountains painting was inspired by the European Alps. They have that same spikiness to them.

mechtild at 2013-07-20 16:19 (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure you are right, Primula. In the book I've been working from, although it doesn't say Tolkien painted these mountains from life (as he did in many cases when the setting was local and English), the authors note that as a young man visiting the Alps Tolkien was deeply impressed by them and based his depiction of the snow-capped mountains of Middle-earth on them, including the Misty Mountains. Perhaps he worked from memory, or maybe he used a photograph, but he was surely thinking of the Alps.
bellewood at 2013-07-20 19:29 (UTC) (Link)
Blacker than any night,
that ....
by a dark
that is more
than an absence of Sun.


The mountains in the gorgeous paining may not have the menace of the Misty Mountains, but if you look closely i'm sure that you can see images of dwarves..
mechtild at 2013-07-21 03:35 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Belle, I'm so glad the post pleased you!

if you look closely i'm sure that you can see images of dwarves..

Really? You're pulling my leg, right? :)
antane at 2013-07-21 00:37 (UTC) (Link)
Another masterpiece' my dear jan! You are too good to us. I didn't even miss Frodo this time because dear Bilbo was there. Le hannon!

Namarie, God bless, Antane :)
mechtild at 2013-07-21 03:36 (UTC) (Link)
Jan-u-wine captures Bilbo's perspective well, I agree. :) Thanks for stopping by, Antane!

Edited at 2013-07-21 03:36 am (UTC)
ambree40 at 2013-07-21 15:21 (UTC) (Link)
“it doesn't conjure for me a sense of the book's Misty Mountains”.

Agreed! Another Tolkien painting of the Misty Mountains: “Bilbo Woke Up with the Early Sun in His Eyes” also lacks that sense of malice from the book. Behind the Eagle are the same steep snow-clad peaks as in the painting you posted. There are yellow streaks of sunlight in the painting that make the landscape quite cheerful.

For me, the sense of menace from the books is best shown in Tolkien’s black and white drawing ‘The Mountain-path’.

What I love about Jan-u-wine’s poem is that it captures all these different feelings Bilbo has. I even recognize what he could smell in the mountain caves.

Once again, thank you both for a lovely post.
jan_u_wine at 2013-07-21 16:56 (UTC) (Link)
Dear Ambree.....I'm so glad that you are enjoying this series. In doing research for this piece, I read the Thain's Book entry on the Misty Mountains. Created by Morgoth. What a patent and what a parent! What might be worse than having Sauron's boss as your creator? And yet......there are few things in any world that are utterly evil, for they are acted upon, and flavored by, in every moment, other things.

(and such acting (may) laughs in the face of the arrogant evil of a Morgoth or a Sauron)

I think on the nature of Bilbo at that moment in time. Although the dwarves were certainly upon the Road with a rather grim and determined mission, Bilbo (at least at first) was a Squire On An Adventure. How much of his simple hobbit nature, his solid and decent (Martin Freeman's word, in describing Bilbo)self, did he bring?

When I look at this picture, that is what i see: a land capable of innocence, a land capable of being adventured upon. But, like any place, there is that we bring with us and that which others have brought. We are not alone within the places of the world. Nor was Bilbo.

You know, i think i have been nattering along like this to explain to myself why i wrote the poem as i did (as well as why Tolkien's pics of MM might not have been so dark). I can't help but think that Bilbo brought his careful, yet sunny hobbit disposition to his small quest.....only to find that dark waits behind the sun as well as behind the grand curtains that mark out the beginnings of Adventure.

thank you again, Ambree!

Edited at 2013-07-21 05:06 pm (UTC)
diem_kieu94 at 2013-07-22 15:05 (UTC) (Link)

Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold....

...to dungeons deep, and caverns old.
We must away, ere break of day,
To find our long forgotten gold.

The pines were roaring on the height;
The wind was moaning in the night;
The fire was red, its flaming spread,
The trees like torches blazed with light.

Doesn't this entry about the Misty Mountains make you think about that Dwarven song from the Hobbit? (Although I do agree with metchild about the painting's mood). It certainly does for me!
mechtild at 2013-07-24 18:13 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold....

I LOVE the way that song was used in the film. :)
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2013-07-26 01:09 (UTC) (Link)
Aww, Bilbo--dreaming of traveling on, even in Tol Eressea, and it doesn't have to mean he's discontent with where he is anymore than mistiness denotes lurking menace alone, for mist becomes the morning dew under a warming sun. Bilbo, of course, knows this. If you can see the Misty Mountains from Rivendell and Loth Lorien alike, those mountains can also see these places of light--they inform each other. The eagles live in their heights and the hobbits may have originally come down from their foothills. And Bilbo yearned to live out his days under them.

It's very hobbity that Bilbo's love and defense of the mountains' beauty rests in the sense of smell and feel--the earthiness that Jan has caught here, more than in the sight the painting appeals to. And the yellowness dotted with green of the painting is the favorite colors of hobbits. Maybe the gold of the ring is in it, too. Bilbo can't forget the good the ring brought him in helping him accomplish his quest and giving him long life, even though how it affected Frodo grieves him. These are his Misty Mountains, not Frodo's. But maybe they have become Elanor's Misty Mountains as well.

I've never seen the painting before, so thank you once again.
jan_u_wine at 2013-07-27 17:25 (UTC) (Link)
wow. LT, what an absolutely beautiful response. I'm blown away. I feel as if you have entered a dream-state here, but were able to speak to us in the mi(d)st of it, conveying lovely pictures of your own.

yes, I think you have hit it: these are *Bilbo's* mountains (and perhaps Ellie's) but not Frodo's. But.....perhaps, in time, they might be so.

what a lot you've given me to think on. Thank you.
diem_kieu94 at 2013-07-28 03:30 (UTC) (Link)

Concerning the Mountains...

If Bilbo could find beauty in the Misty Mountains, then can you imagine how he'd react to the Undying Lands?!

My goodness...! *Sigh*... I've just gone under one of my Frodo dream spells again!
mechtild at 2013-08-01 23:17 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Concerning the Mountains...

Diem Kieu, thank you for stopping and commenting. Forgive me for not answering sooner but about two weeks ago I stopped getting emailed notices from LJ when anyone comments. I decided to check my "inbox", on a whim, to see if comments showed up there. That's when I saw this.
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