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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Designing the Doors of Durin

Luthien Rising

Mar 20 2007, 6:35pm

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JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Designing the Doors of Durin Can't Post

The Moon now shone upon the grey face of the rock; but they could see nothing else for a while. Then slowly on the surface, where the wizard's hands had passed, faint lines appeared, like slender veins of silver running in the stone. At first they were no more than pale gossamer-threads, so fine that they only twinkled fitfully where the Moon caught them, but steadily they grew broader and clearer, until their design could be guessed.

At the top, as high as Gandalf could reach, was an arch of interlacing letters in an Elvish character. Below, though the threads were in places blurred or broken, the outline could be seen of an anvil and a hammer surmounted by a crown with seven stars. Beneath these again were two trees, each bearing crescent moons. More clearly than all else there shone forth in the middle of the door a single star with many rays. "There are the emblems of Durin!" cried Gimli.

"And there is the Tree of the High Elves!" said Legolas.

"And the Star of the House of Fëanor," said Gandalf. "They are wrought of ithildin that mirrors only starlight and moonlight, and sleeps until it is touched by one who speaks words now long forgotten in Middle-earth. It is long since I heard them, and I thought deeply before I could recall them to my mind."

"What does the writing say?" asked Frodo, who was trying to decipher the inscription on the arch. "I thought I knew the elf-letters but I cannot read these."

"The words are in the elven-tongue of the West of Middle-earth in the Elder Days," answered Gandalf. "But they do not say anything of importance to us. They say only: The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. And underneath small and faint is written: I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.'

"What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?" asked Merry.

It must have been quite irresistible, the possibility of illustrating this more “adult” book, at least occasionally. And how much more irresistible could it be than here, at the Doors of Durin? (Well, maybe a little ...)

In this thread we’ll trace the development of Tolkien’s design for the doors, from an early pencil-and-ink illustration on a manuscript page (these are my personal favourites, for sentimental reasons and for what they suggest about the important of drawing for Tolkien’s writing process) to the final full-page printed illustration. In each version, Tolkien alters both the illustration and the surrounding text.

#1 - pencil and black ink, with manuscript text (#150, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)

online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-155.jpg

#2 - pencil and blue ink (#151, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)

online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-154.jpg

#3 - pencil and black ink (#152, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)

online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-152.jpg

#4 - pencil and black ink (#153, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)

online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-153.jpg

#5 - the final printed illustration (#154, p. 159 in Hammond and Scull)

A large version may be seen here: http://www.aumania.it/fa/tolkien/036.jpg

1. Tolkien adds and subtracts symbols from his drawing as he develops it – the ground is added beneath the trees and a second arch line beneath the first, while the two crescent moons disappear. Do you care? Why does Tolkien care?

2. The first manuscript illustration is much rougher than the next, and Tolkien is already editing it just as he is editing the text he has written above it. Yet the illustrations after that show none of the kinds of self-editing on them that his manuscript shows right through to the finished book. Admittedly, I might be the only one here who finds that interesting, but there you are. Is Tolkien a different artist-in-action than a writer-in-action? Or do you find other similarities in his crafting process? (This one’s for you folks whose Tolkien libraries exceed mine.)

3. Most interesting, of course, is the stylistic progress of the Doors of Durin, from squat-appearing half-circles containing childlike, simplistic symbols to an elegant arch of something like neo-Grecian proportions and all their Grecian column parts, with elaborately stylized trees wrapping themselves around, like something off a William Morris wallpaper. How does this development speak to the Dwarven culture that the Doors of Durin represent?

4. And this is where I drop in a throwaway line about Elvish text (and stylized English text) as illustration – but you, of course, know that it’s not really throwaway at all, and just might have something to add to it.

Lúthien Rising
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. / We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

(This post was edited by Luthien Rising on Mar 20 2007, 6:38pm)

Subject User Time
JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Designing the Doors of Durin Luthien Rising Send a private message to Luthien Rising Mar 20 2007, 6:35pm
    that pretty Elvish script a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Mar 21 2007, 11:18am
        "...along with the Ring inscription in tengwar..." dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 21 2007, 1:30pm
            darn those ellipses anyway... a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Mar 21 2007, 3:18pm
                *phew* dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 21 2007, 3:47pm
    Tolkien the designer and Tolkien the linguist drogo Send a private message to drogo Mar 21 2007, 2:59pm
    I'm not a fan of those quasi-Greek columns. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 21 2007, 5:27pm
        Columns Morwen Send a private message to Morwen Mar 21 2007, 7:03pm
            We can pretend Frodo drew it from memory. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 21 2007, 8:12pm
                a couple of thing paleostone Send a private message to paleostone Mar 22 2007, 2:33am
                    In the Sil the Noldor got along well with dwarves, Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 22 2007, 10:41am
        I think Covalent capitals would have been much better. Advising Elf Send a private message to Advising Elf Mar 22 2007, 4:15pm
            How about Times New Roman capitals? Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 22 2007, 4:43pm
    Runes add air of believability Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Apr 4 2007, 1:02am


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