Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Tolkien's Landscapes 7: 'Old Man Willow' by Tolkien, 'Suite: Meriadoc' by jan-u-wine.


Old Man Willow TEASER2

Old Man Willow (pencil, coloured pencil), like most of the pictures done to illustrate The Lord of the Rings, was made while Tolkien was working on the novel. These pictures, unlike those done for The Hobbit were not done to be published, but "for his own pleasure as well as for reference, as he had done earlier for 'The Silmarillion'. Old Man Willow is a fine example." (Hammond and Scull, p. 156)

"Suite: Meriadoc" is a fine example, too, but of what Tolkien's illustrations can inspire jan-u-wine to create. This piece, written from Meriadoc's point of view, is set in the Fourth Age, Meriadoc remembering a dark time as he watches his small son settle into sleep.

For those with further interest in the background of Tolkien's picture, an extended extract about the drawing from Hammond and Scull's book appears below.


Old Man Willow 1000-original

Suite: Meriadoc

I saw him.

That was the start of it:

Old Bilbo,
face fixed between
fear and mischief,

fingers dipping
within the narrow eye-pocket
of his waistcoat.

As I write, I remember,

the colour of it,
stitched deep-red,

like heart's blood,
bursts of needle-fine

I remember, too,
his finding of that which he sought,

what followed.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Seventeen years passed,
the old squire long since gone off,

(disappeared, they say,


the new one, my cousin,

the quiet, not-mad Baggins

Seventeen years of deep-peaced winters,
quiet springs and heated summers,

seventeen years
of gold-brass autumns......

In all of those moments
evil lay hidden,

waiting in gilt silence
for its waking,

ever hearkening
for the welcome caress
of a dark Master's call.


There was a war,
a great war,

of which I was a part.

A small part,
I add,

when I am of a humourous mind,

a small part for one of the small ones,
one of the Periannath.

Still, I did what I might,
what I ought.

Folk ask me:
of all we saw,

of all that befell
myself and my kin,

of what
was I most afeard?

Plain is my answer,
plain as my fright,

simple as dark,
devouring day:

A tree.

It was the beginning of my.....

of evil,
of the weight and reach of it,

the twisted,
devouring horror
of it.

It was the end,
though I knew it not,

of a world of innocent


I did not take the autumn Road from Hobbiton,

did not see the sun-tired draggle of the grasses
of Woodhall,

or the deep-starred silence
of Stockbrook’s sleeping meadows.
I did not see the ruff'd fox
who wondered at three hobbits
so far from home.

Coppers kept at ready
concerned me then,

nut-brown ale,
pale mushrooms.....

light-hearted songs,

and the un-burdening
of my cousin's heart.

How very young I was,
how painfully artless.

How thoughtlessly


I remember the fog,

rising and

upon the ground
as we set out,

wisping fingers
twining even about
the small, brass'd
flower-petals of light
from ever-distanced

I remember the smell
and feel of the great forest,

how it wound,
tight as a noose

about me,
shortening my very

my thoughts fleeing

its dark oppression,

running frighted
and heedless


they tumbled
into darkness
and lay still.

From outside myself,

I hear the world:

I know it is there.

I hear my cousin.

Other sounds there are, too,

sounds within the swift-closing
window of my mind:

dark whispers,
thoughts of evil

(as if evil were daylight
and song,

and all that is good and needed)
press down upon me.

Pain takes me,

deep and ancient,

as the dark behind the stars.

It wants.....

it wants to kill me.

But not


It wants to kill all that
have warm bodies,

all .....

It wants
dark and silence
and an end to feet and wings
and hearts that thrum with blood.


I am rescued.

*We* are.



Escaped from that which held my body.


from the dull-sharp memory
of a fierce

and undying malice.


Old Man Willow.

when all is over,

I spin the tale of him
for my son,

children's stories
in the fair candlelight,

covers drawn up

beneath his chin,

copper hair
shining upon the pillow,

his laugh sweetening
the night.

my son.

May you never know

May what we became,
what we did,

what we gained
and lost,
be the golden

of your

May you sleep,
and dreme.


From J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, 1995 (2000 paperback edition):

The Old Forest, on the far side of Buckland, is a dark, nightmarish place in book 1, chapter 6, but Tolkien chose not to draw it as such, possibly because the result would have been too like Taur-na-Fúin or Mirkwood. Instead he illustrated the (deceptively) tranquil scene the hobbits come upon suddenly out of the gloom of the trees:
As if through a gate they saw the sunlight before them. Coming to the opening they found that they had made their way down through a cleft in a high steep bank, almost a cliff. At its feet was a wide space of grass and reeds; and in the distance could be glimpsed another bank almost as steep. A golden afternoon of late sunshine lay warm and drowsy upon the hidden land between. In the midst of it there wound lazily a dark brown water, bordered with ancient willows, arched over with willows, blocked with fallen willows, and flecked with thousands of faded willow-leaves. The air was thick with them, fluttering yellow from the branches; for there was a warm and gentle breeze blowing softly in the valley, and the reeds were rustling, and the willow-boughs were creaking.
A 'huge willow-tree, old and hoary' dominates the picture. With a little imagination one can see a 'face' on the upper right part of the trunk. 'Enormous it looked, its sprawling branches going up like reaching arms with many long-fingered hands, its knotted and twisted trunk gaping in wide fissures that creaked faintly as the boughs moved.' Enormous, maybe, to one of the hobbits looking at it, but in the picture the willow does not seem unusually large. 'Willow-man' antedated The Lord of the Rings by several years, having first appeared in Tolkien's poem The Adventures of Tom Bombadil in 1934. In that work it is Bombadil, not Merry and Pippin, who is caught in a closing crack of the great willow -- an idea, Tolkien said, that probably came to him in part from Arthur Rackham's drawing of gnarled trees. John Tolkien thinks that his father's drawing was inspired by a fully grown willow on the banks of the Cherwell near Oxford, distinct from others because it was not pollarded (p. 156).

Old Man Willow 800-original


Many thanks to ambree40, whose wish for a poem to go with Old Man Willow prompted the writing of this piece.

Previous entry:
Wood at World's End ICON ~ "Wood at World's End": 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, meriadoc, tolkien

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