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Birthday Bagginses

Happy Birthday Bagginses 2017, with jan-u-wine’s ‘A Birth Day for Heroes’, art by J. R. R. Tolkien.

Posted on 2017.09.22 at 09:40

Beyond, by J. R. R. Tolkien - TEASER crop.jpg

Happy Birthday, Frodo and Bilbo!

Yes! It is the big day for the Bagginses and in honor of the occasion jan-u-wine has written a glorious new poem, A Birth Day for Heroes. Set after the Quest in the Undying Lands, the Bagginses are on Tol Eressëa, Frodo reflecting on what has been, what is, and what might yet be.

The illustration is a very early watercolor (July 1913) by Tolkien, titled Beyond. It is a color painting, but the only reproduction I have found is in black and white (see further discussion of the illustration below Jan’s poem). Still, even in black and white it has a lot of magic.

1913 was the year before Tolkien began to write for The Silmarillion, but even if he wasn’t actively writing about his secondary world, this picture makes me feel he was already forming that world in his head. When I look at its elements, added to the feel of it, I can’t help thinking it depicts a scene not of this world but of Aman, the Undying Lands. What I thought was a road going to the smaller pyramid-shaped mountain in the background, on closer examination is a long straight bridge flung across from the foreground, with its row of triangular shapes (hills? waves?), to the base of the smaller mountain where it appears to end or enter in. It reminds me of the Straight Road, the trees and triangles in the foreground representing this world, with the sharp peaks beyond representing the other world, the moon and star hanging or rising over them, huge and silent. Very appropriate to a poem set on Tol Eressëa.


Below: ‘Beyond’ by J. R. R. Tolkien, 1927-28:

Beyond by J. R. R. Tolkien - 1200 wide (reduced).jpg

A Birth Day for Heroes

It is the burden of heroes
to be,

just that.

Only that,
their deeds curling
in yellowed parchment's coil....

the heart-balance of them

beneath the crumpled
fabric of their tale.

Long ago,

very long ago},
he and I
released the worn
thread of our story,

wove wonder anew....

Adventured beyond
silver'd Hope

and curtained time......

flows about the Bridge,

tendril'd fingers
Sea's green embrace,

(as a mother might
gather a child
from the arms of one who is but
a nurse)

bearing our upward-bent bow,
the rose-opal of it

cloaking us in enveloped peace.

Music there is as well,

caught up within Light's silken

curving like the Bridge itself,
tender tones

seeking the round-eyed Moon,
rising in sleepy mountains,

glancing from the bright mirror
of Eärendil.....

Perhaps it is the First Song,

echoing still,
playing out upon the harp
of time-distanc'd stars,

the chorusing beauty
of creation sounding
within the shell-cradle
of my ear,

its waiting silence resonating
in my heart......


(laden within deep-layered quiet)

all is Light,

all is Music.

like all else,

is not the same here.

I may not say with certainty
which day might be rising up with the brass'd

or ending with the quiet Moon smiling
upon far-off waves....

within the spooling minutes and hours
(time-spindle holding to a never-empty skein),

I know, somehow,
it is our birth day.

Even here (especially here!)
there is a study,

books like elbows akimbo,
a fire in the grate.

And ..... him,
eyes bright with accustomed curiosity,
head bent to his quill'd task......


This is our mathom,
our place in the great tale
of for ever.....


the best birth-day
in the World, entire.


The Tolkien illustration from which Jan worked, the watercolor Beyond, was painted the summer after Tolkien turned twenty-one (Jan. 3), free at last to propose marriage to Edith Bratt. Perhaps being able publicly to acknowledge his love for Edith and feel confident in its return unleashed a stream of new creative energy.

Excerpts, including the description of the watercolor ‘Beyond’ from J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, Houghton Mifflin, 1995, p. 42:

Early in July 1913 Tolkien bought a sketch-book and took it with him on a visit to his cousins at Barnt Green. Most of the book survives in the Bodleian Library, now separated into single or conjugate leaves, but the original order of its pages can be reconstructed with some certainty. It is a fascinating record of Tolkien’s growth as an artist over at least fifteen years, and also helps to document his writing. (…) Six days after drew the romatic ‘Northern house’, on 12 January, 1914, he tried on yet another style in the watercolour Beyond. Its elements are reduced to basic forms and are brightly painted by category: pink star, purple moon, indigo mountains, pink road, black mushroom-like trees. It is a strange work, like an other-wordly view of the Pyramids, and it has a puzzling rubbed inscription: 'Alas! [?] in dreadful mood'. If the artist was under a dark cloud, it is not reflected in his cheerful colours.

Nan's Reunion-ICON ~ All Mechtild LJ entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.


shirebound at 2017-09-22 17:26 (UTC) (Link)
he and I
released the worn
thread of our story,

wove wonder anew....

Adventured beyond
silver'd Hope

and curtained time......

WOW. I'm so moved by and grateful for Jan's incredible gift. Thank you for sharing it with us.
mechtild at 2017-09-22 17:36 (UTC) (Link)
Greetings, Shirebound, O Shining Star of New Jersey!

Wasn't that piece what the Doctor ordered? I felt restored, renewed reading it, as if it were a gift shared from the restored, renewed heart of the protagonist. It's been a darkish time and the gift of light in the darkness is always deeply, deeply welcome. :)

Edited at 2017-09-22 05:37 pm (UTC)
diem_kieu94 at 2017-09-22 18:04 (UTC) (Link)


Happy birthday to our wonderful hobbits!!

Jan - beautiful poem, as usual!!

And Shirebound - Love love love your profile pic!!!

And to Mechtild - I'm so glad you're still posting here... even if most of your posts are imageless! I stumbled upon your post from August this morning. It makes me so glad I secretly stashed some of your beautiful manips on my phone!! I've been using them as wallpapers. Hope you don't mind!

I'm going to try and release a new teaser today for a new story I'm collaborating on with my friend Sev Baggins on Fanfiction.net... No guarantees though. I've been rather busy and/or distracted as of late. :/ But I at least have to do *something* for the birthday of our muse!

Have a blessed day!! And may our beautiful muse always be with you!

Edited at 2017-09-22 06:04 pm (UTC)
mechtild at 2017-09-22 18:37 (UTC) (Link)


Diem Kieu, I am so glad you enjoyed the poem so much. I certainly did!

I am sorry about the images, but it can't be helped. I am certainly not paying Photobucket hundreds of dollars to host the images they hosted from free since 2004. Shees!

You know, I believe all my Frodo art manips are still in the gallery here at LJ's Scrapbook, but I didn't always use them to make the posts. Still, if you want to see if you've missed any, I'll give you the link to the gallery. There are often several versions of the same manip, sometimes because I made actual variations, but often because some images are the icon version, some the cropped "teaser" version, the rest the full-size uncropped images. Here we go:

Mary Keesling at 2017-09-22 21:05 (UTC) (Link)

Thank you and happy double-hobbit birthday

Dear Jan & Mechtild,
How I enjoyed the art, poetry, and accompanying essay.

I could see the rose-opal color in my mind. It happens to be a favorite shade of mine --- the subtler, the better.

And of course the First Song would continue to resonate 'across the universe', nothing to stop it.
I had never thought of this before. If light keeps going, after all, so will sound... ?

And the saddest line in these lovely phrases is the first -- about the burden a hero bears. Even if he wants to
escape it.

The big smile I got was from reading about the mathom,
another novel interpretation. 🙂

I very much enjoyed reading about the actual colors Tolkien used in the art... some of the last colors I'd
have expected! -- but he always surprises, and delightfully. Just as you two do.

Bless you both.
mechtild at 2017-09-22 21:57 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you and happy double-hobbit birthday

Ah, Mary, how lovely of you to stop by and comment, thoughtfully and appreciatively as is your wont. :)

I'd love to see this piece in color, too. Jan found a color version of 'Beyond' on line, but the colors were not those described by Hammond and Scull. So we must presume it was a photo-shopped version of the black and white reproduction by some fan artist.

"Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator" is a super book packed with fine commentary and lots of color reproductions, but there remain twenty-two reproductions of works using color elements (watercolors, colored pencils or inks) that are in black and white. I wish 'Beyond' had been one of the color ones.

Edited at 2017-09-22 09:58 pm (UTC)
jan_u_wine at 2017-09-22 23:46 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you and happy double-hobbit birthday

Mary, it means so much that you enjoyed the piece....and I have to take off my hat to Mech, who welcomed my very late entry with open arms, whipped it into shape, set it upon the crown of her essay & art work ....

I really do think that Music and Light are two elements that belong together, journeying into the *forever*, taking us over that still-to-be-defined bridge with them.

I cannot help but feel that Frodo would have felt that Bilbo was his gift...and Bilbo, Frodo. And I cant help but think that it was an entirely good and logical thing that they each shed the 'hero' appellation (and all the burden that goes with such) when they passed that curtain.....

I love that rose-opal color, too....I'm afraid it's becoming a motif....but....I can't help it, lol....

(btw, I wrote to Hammond and Scull re the b&w of "Beyond" several weeks ago, but have not heard back....I'm sure they are quite busy....)
aliensouldream at 2017-09-22 23:55 (UTC) (Link)
The Birthday is a happy day and these are the perfect images and words of beauty to celebrate.

I think Tolkien would have made an excellent children's book illustrator as the eyes and imagination are drawn straight into the simple shapes and flowing lines and given freedom to wander.

he and I
released the worn
thread of our story,

wove wonder anew....

Adventured beyond
silver'd Hope

and curtained time......

This lovely poem shows us ultimate faith, and a last act which becomes the first. Dreaming becomes waking to a beauty beyond dreams and the only true gift is one continually re-given.

Thanks, Mechtild and Jan, for this gorgeous post. I love seeing these. I think Tolkien must have been an actual wizard on some level as his words have the power to inspire you so deeply. Hugs xxx
mechtild at 2017-09-23 00:48 (UTC) (Link)
"I think Tolkien would have made an excellent children's book illustrator as the eyes and imagination are drawn straight into the simple shapes and flowing lives and given freedom to wander."

Which is just what Tolkien does with his fiction writing--giving just enough detail to make it live, vividly, but never too much, always leaving space for the reader's "imagination to wander". I think Alan Lee said he tried to do what you describe in his own illustrating--always leaving visual space for the viewer's imagination to go further than what he has made explicit in the drawing or painting, extending and enriching their experience of the piece.

Aliensouldream, your comments--and not just about illustration--make me think but also expand my heart. Thank you. :)

Edited at 2017-09-23 12:48 am (UTC)
jan_u_wine at 2017-09-23 13:39 (UTC) (Link)
ASD......I can only echo what Mech says....the beauty of your comment (and the resonance of hers, echoing back) is just ....well, wondrous. I am not certain if Tolkien purposefully left those spaces, but he was such a careful and thorough writer that I have to believe so. And certainly his writing style and his style as an artist are similar in this way, engaging the viewer in so many different manners.

And look what his crafting engendered: this conversation, and a million others....the Music (and Light) of them traveling outward, forever....

"your comments - and not just about illustration - make me think but also expand my heart. Thank you. :)"

Amen and amen. And thank you again!

PS: you have seen/read his "Father Christmas Letters"? And/or "Mr. Bliss", "Roverandom"......certainly children's books that he illustrated. (and, of course, "The Hobbit" was meant as a children's book. It kind of makes me wonder if he always didn't live in the world of a child, at least in his most interior self.

Edited at 2017-09-23 01:43 pm (UTC)
Lavender Took
lavendertook at 2017-09-23 01:49 (UTC) (Link)
Happy Baggins's Birthday to you both!

Beautiful poem of them being unburdened across the Sea--thank you, Jan. It's so lovely to get this glimpse of their happy continuance. I love music tangling in Light's clothes--bringing the sense of touch into the dance of sight and sound. The scent of parchment and bindings mingling with sea salt must be there, too.

Metchild, I guess the pink trilogy covers of the early paperback editions weren't so off, but picking up from the spirit of Tolkien's illustrations like this one. I like the glow of the star on the mountain--the only part of the pic that shows light reflecting. It's a very sparse pic.

Edited at 2017-09-23 01:50 am (UTC)
mechtild at 2017-09-23 03:09 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, it is spare, Lavender, but it works for me. I'd love to see it in color. The colors described remind me of others of his early watercolors, very imaginative, with simplified shapes in compositions that flow, using bold but attractive colors. I'm thinking of the 1915 "Shores of Faerie" ( https://ic.pics.livejournal.com/mechtild/7380611/80100/80100_800.jpg ), 1914's 'Water, Wind and Sand' ( https://ic.pics.livejournal.com/mechtild/7380611/104239/104239_800.jpg ), or 'Tanaqui' from 1915 ( https://ic.pics.livejournal.com/mechtild/7380611/104652/104652_800.jpg ).

I love what you say about how the poem engages all the reader's senses: "music tangling in Light's clothes--bringing a sense of touch into the the dance of sight and sound. The scent of parchment and bindings mingling with sea salt..."
jan_u_wine at 2017-09-23 13:54 (UTC) (Link)
Dear Lavender.....thank you! With you (and Mech), i missed the colors that are in his other (similar) works...and yet I loved the b&w, loved working with it within a frame of words, making them thus *less* colorful, a bit more sombre.

(but must also admit that adored working / writing to "Shores of Faerie" with its explosion of color, its adventurous lines, the ideas and feelings it engendered)

it's a wondrous thing to be a part of this Tolkien-world, sharing our own Fellowship, engaging and being engaged. Thank you! (and surely, yes, the scent of parchment must've mingled with the sea salt....and the singular scent of bitter black ink....although perhaps ink, upon the Tol, and made of Tol-ish plants, smelled differently.....oh, dear....another thing to think about.....!
pearlette at 2017-11-29 23:42 (UTC) (Link)


Oh my goodness, you're still on LJ! Now and then.

I've been de-cluttering my LJ. I have no intention of purging it, but it really DID need de-cluttering. While I was doing that, I visited some old posts and old favourite fics and memories and ended up here. :)

Ah, sweet memories of the great golden age of Tolkien fandom. :) My first, and greatest, fandom (followed by HP). There won't be another.

I have the Scully/Hammond book, and it's great, but I confess I've never read it in detail. That 'Beyond' pic is so mysterious and yearning somehow. 1913. The year before the Great War. It seems eerily prescient.

As ever, wonderful poem from Jan.

P.S. Love seeing your radiant smile on FB now and then, on all your various walks ...
mechtild at 2017-11-30 06:05 (UTC) (Link)

Re: *waves*

Pearl, hello! I am delighted to see your comment. Yes, we have been "active", if posting an entry once a year is considered active, ha ha. I haven't been involved in any fandom since LOTR. Although I enjoyed Harry Potter a lot (still listen to the audio books periodically), and have come to be an enthusiastic fan of Doctor Who through Jan, I have no desire to talk about them on messageboards or in blogs.

You have seen me on Facebook? It must be on my husband Glen's page. I never post anything in mine, but he likes posting stuff. Yes, I have a radiant smile in those pictures all right. Glen is very good about not posting photos I would hate, ha ha.

Do you remember recommending the "Hawk and the Dove" series to me a couple of years ago? I really enjoyed them, even if I thought her language sometimes anachronistic. I am up to "The Beautiful Thread", which I plan to read after Christmas.
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