~ Detail from The Stronghold of Barad-dûr and The Fires of Mount Doom, Variation 2, by John Cockshaw.
I can never let the anniversary of the fall of the Dark Lord go by without commemorating it. This year jan-u-wine has risen to the occasion, going deep inside Frodo's consciousness for telling glimpses of his experiences during that day. Below I have copied out what is, for me, the most compelling description of the place where Frodo must contend, within and without, with the Eye. It's not from Return of the King, though, but from the end of Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo, in grief and fear, has put on the Ring to escape Boromir and ascended Amon Hen. Looking out from the Seat of Seeing, recovering himself, he finds his sense of perspective restored -- that is, until he finds his gaze drawn and held by the Dark Lands and its Lord.
This passage meant all the more to me after reading Jan's poem, where a similar thing happens, or so it seems to me, in reverse. In 'Hope', Frodo emerges from a state of thrall, his perspective narrowed to a point, to find his perspective restored after the Ring is destroyed and the Tower fallen. Not only perspective, but hope.
A brief discussion of the illustrations featured in this post, and their creator, John Cockshaw, follows the poem.
Jan-u-wine's latest Tolkien-based poem was not written for a particular painting or image, but from an inspirational mix. Talking with friends about the work of Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Hobbit and Sherlock, jan-u-wine began to wonder more deeply about the nature of Smaug's existence in the Lonely Mountain, and the relationship, however brief, between Smaug and his diminutive conversation partner (possibly his only conversation partner in centuries). Did the great Smaug live under the mountain in splendid isolation or simply in isolation? Tolkien named the peak that became Smaug's lair "The Lonely Mountain", no doubt because it stood alone, cut off from the nearby mountain chains. But for jan-u-wine, the "lonely" in the name evokes more than geographical isolation. "The Desolation of Smaug" no doubt refers to the ashy wasteland Smaug's attacks wrought, but perhaps "desolation" hints at another sort of desolation, an inner state produced by a solitary existence.
The poem has two parts, the first from Smaug's point of view, the second from that of Bilbo Baggins. Together they make a brilliant piece, evocative and perceptive.
Heavens! I almost missed the Baggins Birthday! I am out of town on a family visit and forgot all about it. Happily, jan-u-wine reminded me in time. This is only a re-post, but raise your glasses with me.
I am sure you all know the images from which the manip is made. Pierre Vinet's FOTR publicity stills are as well-known as they are beautiful.
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.
Although utterly different in look and feel to the starkly geometric Moonlight on a Wood, Tolkien's The Wood at World's End (1927-28, pencil, black ink, watercolour) is a similarly highly stylized piece. The mountains dip in the center nearly symmetrically to frame the setting sun and the treetops merge to form a rolling green expanse, almost like waves. In the sea of trees the ranks of their boles are like great stalks of seaweed rising from the ocean floor. It isn't realistic, but the forms together create an almost mesmerizing effect.
The painting inspired jan-u-wine to write a wonderful new poem, rich and contemplative. It depicts Sam's thoughts as he sails towards World's End, the Undying Lands. ( Collapse )
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. ( Collapse )
Tolkien created 'Moonlight on a Wood' in a spurt of artistic and literary creativity that burst forth in the late 1920's. As was seen in the previous post, Tolkien long had been drawing from life. He also had been making imaginative, non-realistic pictures, particularly in 1913-15, which illustrated his expanding secondary world. But he made few pictures in the years that followed, and, after 1922, none at all.
In 1927-28, however, his imagination exploded. ( Collapse )
'Foxglove Year', was painted in the summer of 1913, apparently notable for foxgloves and worth recording in watercolour. Tolkien had been doing paintings and drawings from life since boyhood. 1913 was also the year Tolkien became engaged to Edith Bratt. Fr. Francis Morgan, Tolkien's guardian, had forbidden him to see Edith until he'd come of age, and, on Tolkien's twenty-first birthday, 3 January 1913, he dashed off a proposal.
That summer, Edith was staying in Warwick with her cousin, Jennie Grove. Her relations, opposed to her conversion to Catholicism (she agreed to convert before marrying Tolkien, a devout Catholic), had turned her out. While Edith was in Warwick, Tolkien traveled into Worchestershire, staying for a while with his maternal cousins, the Incledons. They had a cottage in Barnt Green Tolkien loved to visit, both for the company of his cousins and its idyllic setting. At the bottom of this post I've included another watercolour Tolkien painted while staying there, a view of the Incledon's garden filled with flowers. In just one week it will have been one hundred years since Tolkien painted the foxgloves of Barnt Green. So much time has gone by, but Tolkien's watercolours are still vibrant and fresh.
Tolkien must have been feeling very content and high-hearted during his stay in Worchestershire, both because of the high summer beauty all around him and because he was engaged to Edith at last. Jan-u-wine's poem well conveys the mood, both of the watercolour and its painter. ( Collapse )