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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #12 – The Silmarillion II

Superuser / Moderator

Apr 6 2007, 8:07pm

Post #1 of 7 (696 views)
Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #12 – The Silmarillion II Can't Post

Tolkien Illustrated: Ted Nasmith #12 – The Silmarillion II

Given the frequent references to light in the book, and Ted’s luminist style and love for capturing light as described in Tolkien’s text, doing the illustrations for The Silmarillion really gave Ted a chance to shine (pun intended, *groan* Tongue). (Note: the pictures in the next few posts will be from either the 1998 or 2004 hardcover editions of The Silmarillion).

The first painting we’ll look at, from the 1998 edition, may have been a no-brainer for someone who loves to paint the effects of light:

“Illuin: Lamp of the Valar is an attempt to portray one of the more beautiful images Tolkien describes in his intriguing accounts of Middle-earth’s prehistory. While I doubt that Yvanna’s giant trees would actually have surrounded the lamp Illuin, it is an artist’s prerogative sometimes to compose a picture which combines two interesting concepts as a “taste” of his ideas.

“And since, when the fires were subdued or buried beneath the primeval hills, there was need of light, Aulë at the prayer of Yvanna wrought two mighty lamps for the lighting of the Middle-earth... and the light of the Lamps of the Valar flowed out over the Earth, so that all was lit as it were in a changeless day.” — The Silmarillion
- tednasmith.com

Illuin: Lamp of the Valar; tednasmith.com

Question 1: I don’t know; if I were Yavanna I think it would be a perfect place for my trees. plus I suspect she had ulterior motives when she asked Aule to create the lamps. Wink Thoughts on that and the painting?

Speaking of light, following are two of my favorite paintings from the book:

The Kinslaying at Aqualonde; tednasmith.com

The Burning of the Ships; tednasmith.com

Despite the grisly subject matter of the first painting, it’s one of my favorite Nasmith works. The beauty of the ships and the light eminating from them makes the tragedy of what’s happening in the rest of the picture all the more compelling. And, the fire from the second painting; you can almost feel the heat! A triumphant Feanor is another tragic, but nice, touch.

Please share your thoughts and impressions of these two paintings.

A few more depictions of light and fire:

The Light of Valinor on the Western Sea; tednasmith.com

Another one of my favorites from the Sil, primarily due to the use of light:

Luthien Escapes Upon Huan; tednasmith.com


Another of Luthien, in the form of a bat, and Huan, in the form of a wolf (notice the light shining through the bat-wings):

Transformed; tednasmith.com

A final painting for this post, of refugees fleeing a burning Gondolin:

Flight of the Doomed; tednasmith.com

Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.

"All we have to decide is what to do with the boards that are given to us"

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase

TORn Calendar

(This post was edited by Altaira on Apr 6 2007, 8:13pm)

Tol Eressea

Apr 6 2007, 10:02pm

Post #2 of 7 (559 views)
I hadn't seen his Kinslaying before. [In reply to] Can't Post


I also like "Earendil Searches Tirion" at this URL:


It was the centerfold for a calendar a few years ago. I love the colors!

I would think for an artist, Silmarillion subjects would be more fun than things from the Third Age. Everything was so much more grand and iconic.


I used to be GaladrielTX, but it's springtime and I'm shedding.


Apr 7 2007, 4:05pm

Post #3 of 7 (558 views)
A Elbereth! Gilthoniel! [In reply to] Can't Post

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas

I love the picture of the light shining out from Valinor on the Western Sea. I also love the picture of Luthien escaping on Huan's back, and I believe it's for the same reason. It's hard to explain what I mean, but Naismith succeeds in making me think those things he portrays in these pictures are REAL. I feel like Valinor is a real place, behind real mountains, and the light shining out onto the sea there at the coast is REAL light from a REAL source.

Luthien seems not like an ethereal magical princess but a real woman escaping on a real being across a real landscape in a real night in a real world.

The Kinslaying is beautiful, the ships are beautiful, and the buildings on the shore are beautiful. But they are also "elvish" in a way that makes me NOTICE they are elvish, and that automatically makes me notice the fantasy involved. It's not that I don't like the picture, I do. It's just that I have to remind myself to believe in those things.

When I look at the light of Valinor shining out on the sea, I just....believe it.

How he accomplishes this in one painting and not another, I'm afraid is something I don't understand. Again, to an untrained person like myself, I can only fall back on the old truism: "I don't know art, I only know what I like".



"an seileachan"

Some say they're going to a place called Glory, and I ain't saying it ain't a fact.
But I've heard that I'm on the road to Purgatory, and I don't like the sound of that!
I believe in love, and live my life accordingly,
And I choose: let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Apr 7 2007, 9:03pm

Post #4 of 7 (551 views)
There is one thing that I think of when I see these. [In reply to] Can't Post

There have been a few times when after seeing certain paintings in magazines, books, television and so on, I have had the opportunity to see the actual paintings in real life. No matter how wonderful the paintings looked in whatever media I saw them, when I saw the real thing I have always been stunned. What must it be like to see these paintings in real life?

Beren IV

Apr 8 2007, 2:38am

Post #5 of 7 (548 views)
I'm going to be critical here - [In reply to] Can't Post

I still like the Lost Tales version of the Lamps better, where Aulë and Melkor together forged the Lamps, but Melkor sculpted the pillars out of ice - and the heat of the lamps melted the ice. It's a much more satisfying Melkor, to me anyway, than the one we get in the Sil: that Melkor really was good once, liked to play practical jokes, even was required to do so being the chaos to oppose the order of the rest of the Valar. It wasn't until this incident that he was exiled from the Valar - and because of that He actually became evil. It sort of makes more sense to me, as well as offers a possible redemption in the future.

Anyhow, comments on the other paintings -

The Kinslaying at Aqualondë - too much armor. It's impossible to tell who is who. And did the Teleri even have that much armor at this point? Anyhow, I thought they were taken somewhat by surprise. Also, because of the armor making everybody look alike, it is impossible to tell any details of the people that seem relevant. For instance, are the Teleri being massacred, male and female alike? Are the entire Noldorin people fighting, or just some warrior-class? Obviously, the entire Noldorin people has to go over the Sea to Middle Earth... Otherwise, great painting. The light of the buildings and ships really does look like Valinor, like all of the buildings are crystal or something like that. The lamps also don't look like they are lit by ordinary fire, but by magic - also a nice touch.

The Burning of the Ships - I can't help but wonder what the followers of Fëanor are feeling and thinking at this moment. I cannot imagine that there isn't a "what have we done?" sentiment among them. Fëanor seems so clearly evil at this moment. I wonder what it is about him that make the rest of his people follow him - or his sons? Were all of Fëanor's followers evil?

The Light of Valinor on the Western Sea - the Light is not luminous enough. It looks like strong moonlight, or possibly some sort of giant electric floodlights. Sunlight really is very intense light, and the Light of Valinor has to at least equal sunlight. Aqualondë looks nice, but otherwise the rest of the scene is lacking also - the mountains are bare. They should be snowy, or else forested.

Lúthien escapes upon Huan - I would suggest that Huan isn't big enough, but what bothers me more about this picture is the absence of any background. Huan is running across a featureless, open plain - and I don't imagine that any part of Beleriand was ever like that, except possibly for the Angfaulith, and even then you had Trangodrim in the fistance. Nice picture, othewise.

Beren and Lúthien on Halloween - better, although Lú would be flying higher. She wouldn't want to crash into the ground...


Flight of the Doomed - I, generally, like this one a great deal, with the nice, glacial-looking mountains, the fire in the city, and so on. Not enough fire in the valley as a whole, though, I think. Too many conifers - unless they're Metasequoia or something. Wink There aren't any glaciers visible, but that could be explained as just the angle. The mountains don't look that high, though, although high enough (come to that later).

More to the point, though, is the refugees don't look right. First off, they're not armed - they should be (they're going to encounter some foes, and they would be idiots not to). The one huddled between two in the lowermost left looks hurt, but there's no obvious reason for the injury. The screaming one behind them is not believable - he would give away the refugees and get them all killed! Also, there aren't any that are obviously female, and that seems lacking. Probably, Nasmith didn't pay attention to these details...

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Apr 8 2007, 11:13am

Post #6 of 7 (536 views)
I love the use of light [In reply to] Can't Post

in all of these. Both the subtlety of the starlit and moonlit scenes, and the intensity of the firelit ones, is very well done. I have to echo others in this discussion, though, in thinking that the figures are the least successful parts of the pictures, and that the images would probably be better without them.

I especially like the last image, The Flight of the Doomed, for the almost impressionistic style of the effects of the smoke on the colouration of the scene (I especially love the blues in those three ranges of mountains!) In this picture, the general look of the figures coming out of the smoke is fine, but the details of the people, with their theatrical gestures, takes away from the overall effect, for me. If the artist had kept to his impressionistic approach for the figures this one would have really worked for me.

As it is, the one that works the best for me is the Light of Valinor, with no figures and no actual "fantasy" elements either, although the cragginess of the rocks is just a bit too overdone and "fantasy" for my taste.

...and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew,
and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth;
and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore
glimmered and was lost.

Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens

Apr 9 2007, 7:33am

Post #7 of 7 (563 views)
Lúthien Escapes [In reply to] Can't Post

'Lúthien Escapes Upon Huan'

This is my favorite of all Nasmith's work. Perhaps it is a purely aesthetic one for me personally.

All I know it that when I see this image, each and every time I see this image I have a very deep visceral reaction: my stomach flutters I get a twinge in my chest, and my neck hairs stand up.

The visual aspect of noting but the two of them in flight across the luminous terrain in the more luminous moon-light and the contrast & texture that creates is thrilling to me. There is nothing at all else in the image to detract from the effect. Just the two of hem in the mist and the moon-light. It is, to me, a thrilling image. I never tire of looking at it.


Illuin: Lamp of the Valar; tednasmith.com

I like this one too, for Aesthetic reasons…though very different ones. It is the color contrast and the composition of shapes within the image…more than the content that appeals to me.

Art Gallery Revised, my drawings,
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Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


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