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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Building Middle-Earth

Luthien Rising

Mar 23 2007, 8:55pm

Views: 246
JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Building Middle-Earth Can't Post

I’m in migraine-land today, so this will be a limited-thought post, except where I already had made notes for myself, and with fewer diacritical marks too. So what, I think, I’ll do is throw in my own thoughts on one of Tolkien’s architecture illustrations for The Lord of the Rings, then show some others and pose related (etc.) questions. And you can just blame my head for any incoherence. Please.

H&S#145 Barad-dur. Pencil, coloured pencil, black and red ink.

(larger at http://www.aumania.it/fa/tolkien/004.jpg)

To me this is a key image when it comes to understanding Tolkien’s concept of the built world – though perhaps that is because I don’t trust strong distinctions that say, for example, that Tolkien loved all things natural and disliked all things unnatural. The Shire, after all, is no less built than Barad-dur.

But this image tells us something about what sets Barad-dur apart from some other built structures, and it does it by not showing us the whole building. The composition of the image makes the structure dominant over the ‘natural’ landscape, which we see beyond it on the left (the eye reads from the strength of the tower and its base to the left – not the direction our eye wants to read – back to the right). The tower itself emerges from the rock, which appears to be shaped both to be more towerlike (below) and to be more ‘natural rock’-like (where it meets the tower). The ordered-unordered patterning of the rocks is carried up into the tower itself, in the zigzag of the windows (which presumably follow a staircase). This time, even in emerging out of the natural, the built has entirely subsumed it.

But we know it falls in the end.

A few Orthancs ... #162. Orthanc (I). Pencil, black ink, coloured pencil. On the back of a leaf of examination paper, 1942. H&S describe this particular Orthanc as similar to the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia, “with echoes of the Tower of Babel as drawn by artists such as Bruegel” (p. 169).

online at http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-164.jpg

#163. Isengard/Nan Curunir. Pencil, blue pencil. In this manuscript version, “Orthanc became ‘marvellously tall and slender, like a stone horn ...’” (p. 169). Tolkien drew (if I’m counting right) four different variations on this particular Orthan with this particular manuscript, and “tentatively began to colour the pool in light blue pencil” (p. 169).

online at http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-165.jpg

#164. Isengard & Orthanc. Pencil. This manuscript version “looks,” say H&S, “remarkably like a modern skyscraper: interesting in its form but alien and forbidding” (p. 170 – that one’s for you, squire).

online at http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-166.jpg1. This last Orthanc is closest narratively to what we are used to reading (with the stairs and balcony etc.), but is it your conception of the tower? Which of these is the tower as it would have been originally built? Could it have changed?

2. Tolkien cannot have echoed internationalist and postmodernist skyscraper architecture, since there wasn’t any yet. What inspirations or echoes can you see in the second and third illustrations?

3. Light blue – yes or no? What else in the form of drawing itself – in the techniques and composition – might be significant here, apart from the architectural details?

And on to Minas Tirith, which Tolkien drew over and over again – from different angles, on separate sheets, on manuscript pages, even covering text.

#167. Untitled (Minis Tirith). Pencil, black ink. (Note the level of legibility of Tolkien’s handwriting here, and give thanks for a moment to his son Christopher for reading all that.)

online at http://www.warofthering.net/...lkien/Untitled-2.jpg

#168. Stanburg or Steinborg. Pencil, coloured pencil.

1. Why might Minas Tirith in particular have been an image Tolkien redrew so often?

2. Sketch #167, H&S say, “recalls the ring-wall of Isengard and the tower of Orthanc, as drawn in tiers. It also looks back to much earlier pictures by Tolkien, of the shining city Kor upon a hill [43–44], and of the towers of Tol Sirion [55], also named (in ‘The Silmarillion’) Minas Tirith” (p. 172). What might be significant in these similarities?

3. Is the White City also a colourful city?

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.

Subject User Time
JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Building Middle-Earth Luthien Rising Send a private message to Luthien Rising Mar 23 2007, 8:55pm
    Orthanc is described as alien Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Mar 24 2007, 1:48am
    The Two Towers (and a city) Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Mar 24 2007, 3:02am
    Take care of yourself! Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 24 2007, 11:46am
    Orthanc and Minas Tirith drogo Send a private message to drogo Mar 24 2007, 11:57am
    I don't have any words of wisdom about towers, but Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 24 2007, 2:04pm
    Orthanc and Minas Tirith. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 25 2007, 11:30am
        Here's an idealized medieval castle FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 25 2007, 1:46pm
            Once again I show my ignorance of the movies. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 25 2007, 2:19pm
                I'm not sure it's Norman FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 25 2007, 2:35pm
                    And my ignorance of Norman architecture. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 25 2007, 5:25pm
                        ;-) FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 25 2007, 6:08pm
                    I would think of Owlyross Send a private message to Owlyross Mar 26 2007, 1:49pm


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