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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Fan Art:
The Agony of the Helcaraxe

WonderBroad
Lorien


Apr 28 2007, 7:30pm

Post #1 of 18 (602 views)
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The Agony of the Helcaraxe Can't Post

"The fire of their hearts was young, and led by Fingolfin and his sons, and by Finrod and Galadriel, they dared to pass into the bitterest North; and finding no other way they endured at last the terror of the Helcaraxe and the cruel hills of ice. Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe. There Elenwe the wife of Turgon was lost, and many others perished also; and it was with a lessened host that Fingolfin set foot at last upon the Outer Lands."

--The Silmarillion



I had to photograph this with my camera, since the original is pretty big (20 inches x 13 1/2 inches) and could not be scanned. So it's not the greatest reproduction ever, and you can't see a lot of the detail.

This drawing appeared in an issue of Mythlore. It was a center spread, and I split the title so parts of it would appear on both pages, with plenty of room for the "gutter" in the middle, where the journal was stapled and folded.

If I could do it over, I'd put the whole title on the left, and leave the signature on the right by itself.

Pen and Ink. 1985.


Beren IV
Gondor


Apr 30 2007, 1:03am

Post #2 of 18 (352 views)
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I like this! [In reply to] Can't Post

The Helcaraxë is one of my favorite episodes in the story of the Noldor. The 'enemy' here is not a horde of evil creatures, but forces of nature itself, being both more impersonal (no enemy to fight) and yet more personal (whether or not you survive it is up to your own strength and cunning). I often see Elves facing dangers like this in their adventures, but Tolkien rarely describes them.

You depict it very well. I don't envision that most of the Sea of Ice actually looks like this, but some of it certainly did, based on the photographs I have seen of sea-ice in Antarctica with icebergs embetted within it. Certainly, the Noldor are going to have to go through some of this - and you draw it very well, with its forbidding pillars and towers. The slant of the towers is also ominous, and possibly realistic, assuming some wind. Well done!

Is the figure in the foreground with its back turned supposed to be Turgon carrying Elenwë? What is she supposed to have died of, hypothermia? I had always envisioned that she died because one of the ice towers fell on her - although I hadn't thought of the other dangers besides just the cold and the ice towers: I like how you've got a couple figures breaking through the ice in the middle distance! So Elenwë might not have died just from the cold, but fell in and got hypothermia from the water - I had just assumed that the Noldor would have clothing that could protect them from cold air (but not cold water!). I also like the crumbling ice tower in the background.

You don't show very many faces in this one; the few that you do show reveal the pain and sorrow, but the rest of them we see only their backs clearly do illustrate their emotions with their body language. You are really good at that - a rare talent. Well done!

One thing that I think is wrong is that the path is too level: there is an obvious way through the ice, you just have to walk it and hope you don't fall in or get crushed by a falling ice tower. Real ice flowes are more forbidding than that, with a winding path that seems to have ice blocks in all directions, so you aren't sure there even is a way through. But then, I suppose Galadriel might be up in front of that long column, using her magic to make a straight path, with the dangers of falling in being bad enough as is!

So anyhow, good work. I like seeing these!

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


WonderBroad
Lorien


May 5 2007, 12:41am

Post #3 of 18 (333 views)
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re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I had a number of very cool (no pun intended) photo references for all of the ice in this drawing, even a photo of the archway of ice. That was one stunning picture. I wish I could remember where it is! But that was 22 years ago, so there's no way I can recall where I got it from. These days, I can't remember what I did 22 minutes ago...

In the foreground is Fingon, carrying the deceased Elenwe (by the way, how are you able to do umlauts and accents in your responses here, B-IV? I can't figure it out, or I'd add them, too. Are you copying and pasting from other programs? Thanks.)

I imagined that Elenwe was killed by falling ice, but her body was retreived. (God knows what they were going to do with it, though!) Here Fingon carries her to a distraught Turgon, while a mournful Galadriel seeks to comfort him.

Of course, these big names would have been at the front of the host of the Noldor, leading the way, not a couple of dozen people back. But that wouldn't have worked for this visual interpretation. So imagined that Fingolfin was doing the leading duties at the moment. And imagine thousands of Noldor coming up behind the foreground group. I could only suggest the host, of course.

Ted Nasmith did a terrific version of this scene, and in it you really get a sense of how many Noldor went into exile, making their desperate way to Middle-earth through the dangers of the Grinding Ice.


Patty
Immortal


May 5 2007, 12:52am

Post #4 of 18 (333 views)
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*goes to seek Ted Nasmith's version* [In reply to] Can't Post

*but is sure it can't be better than this!*

At home, amongst the Mallorn trees.


Patty
Immortal


May 5 2007, 1:04am

Post #5 of 18 (323 views)
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Can't find the Nasmith at Rozolo Tolkien link from hompage... [In reply to] Can't Post

do you have a link to a picture of it?

At home, amongst the Mallorn trees.


WonderBroad
Lorien


May 5 2007, 2:28am

Post #6 of 18 (326 views)
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re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
do you have a link to a picture of it?



Go here: http://www.tednasmith.com/...lcaraxe.html#flthath

Make sure to double click on the image, so you can see the largest version.

Then spend some time checking out the rest of Ted's website. It's great!


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


May 5 2007, 2:45am

Post #7 of 18 (321 views)
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Interesting that both you and Nasmith [In reply to] Can't Post

have the Noldor dressed for cold weather. I imagined that in Aman there was no such thing and that the Elves made the march across the Grinding Ice woefully unprepared for it, as far as warm clothing. That would certainly make the suffering even more acute.

~~~~~~~~

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



WonderBroad
Lorien


May 5 2007, 3:46am

Post #8 of 18 (320 views)
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re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
have the Noldor dressed for cold weather. I imagined that in Aman there was no such thing and that the Elves made the march across the Grinding Ice woefully unprepared for it, as far as warm clothing. That would certainly make the suffering even more acute.



LOL! Well, you're right, of course, and I didn't think about that until after the drawing was published. By then, it was too late. And since there's almost no correcting possible in pen and ink (at least not on a grand scale), I was stuck with it, and was not inclined to change it, even if I could. Too much work.

At the very least the Noldor would have had cloaks (although probably not fur-lined, but fur was still a possibility, if it was a "dress" cloak), but probably no hats or gauntlets/gloves. It should have looked more like the Elves dressing for a June garden party in the dead of February.


Patty
Immortal


May 5 2007, 9:02pm

Post #9 of 18 (318 views)
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Thanks, Wonderbroad... [In reply to] Can't Post

well, I frankly admit I prefer yours. I just find it impossible to believe in his perspective that has that long of a line of people so tightly packed together..no gaps between them (even if this view would mean they kept warmer) and all in a perfect row.
I do really like most of his stuff, but this one doesn't do it for me. Plus, yours shows faces, too. Much better IMHO--even though I know this is not a contest! Sly

At home, amongst the Mallorn trees.


Beren IV
Gondor


May 6 2007, 12:53am

Post #10 of 18 (315 views)
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Re: Re: [In reply to] Can't Post

I copy and paste my special characters out of Microsquish Word, yes.

Scenery - yes, it does indeed look like ice-shelf scenery! Smile It looks in particular like winter-spring ice-shelf scenery, where the icebergs that were free during the summer and which have formed into these wonderous shapes have now been encased in a sea of ice around them, with the icebergs themselves sticking up as monoliths within the ice sea. The only problem - if this is a problem - is that the icebergs would be unlikely to get that close together, but this might just be a special case, i.e. most of the Helcaraxë might not look like that, but this one little segment does, and that's where the disaster happened.

More to the point: the reason why I assumed that this Elenwë had died of hypothermia rather than being hit by an ice-block is because her body does not look mangled enough. Of course, we don't see anything except for her head and her legs, so I suppose she could nearly escaped such that only her torso was landed on or crushed, so it's certainly possible. The picture gets the main point across very well, but if you were trying to also paint an interpretation of the events as well as convey the emotion of the characters, you invoke a different interpretation than what you just said.

I like Nasmith's rendition, although at the same time I hold some question to it as the population dynamics of the First Age still don't sit well with me. What do you suppose the mortality going across the Grinding Ice might have been?

Re: cold clothes - WonderBroad has it right here. Like you, I envision Aman as being relatively warm, at sea-level, that is, with Tirion being built literally right on the Equator. The forest at the coast of Aman is thus a tropical rainforest. The temperature at the beach will be about 30º C - about 80º F. However, we know that the Pélori are the highest mountain range in the world. If we want to do this realistically taking into account the limits of the strength of rocks, then they would be higher, but not much higher, than the Himalaya. Sagarmatha (a.k.a. Everest), the highest peak in the Himalaya, is 8850 m in elevation (29,035 ft.). I suggest that Taniquetil is slightly over 10,000 m in elevation (about 33,000 ft.). We all know that mountains are colder than lowlands, and the reason is the atmospheric lapse rate, of which a reasonable lapse rate above a tropical rain forest is about 6º C per 1000 m elevation. So, we calculate that, and we come up with the top of Taniquetil should be about -30º C, about 20º below zero F. Now, I am sure that the Elves have help when it comes to visiting Manwë and Varda up on Taniquetil, but I'm sure they also know that they need that protection from the cold. They would not be caught unaware by the Helcaraxë, which wouldn't be anywhere near that cold because its temperature is regulated by the sea, which can't get below about -4º C (about 28º F).

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


WonderBroad
Lorien


May 6 2007, 5:59pm

Post #11 of 18 (306 views)
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re: [In reply to] Can't Post

>>I copy and paste my special characters out of Microsquish Word, yes.

LOL! Heck, with the trouble I've had lately with some important Word files at work, the program definitely deserves the name "Microsquish".

>>so I suppose she could nearly escaped such that only her torso was landed on or crushed

She could have been pinned at her abdomen. Or the ice struck her from behind, possibly snapping her spine. This is how I imagined her death--that she was a direct victim of the falling ice. But she could have died from exposure (see my comments below about how cold it probably was.) It's a little less visually dramatic, but just as fatal.

>>The picture gets the main point across very well, but if you were trying to also paint an interpretation of the events as well as convey the emotion of the characters, you invoke a different interpretation than what you just said.

I don't understand how. What did I say that contradicts what is depicted?

>>What do you suppose the mortality going across the Grinding Ice might have been?

Tolkien only says "...it was with a lessened host that Fingolfin set foot at last upon the Outer Lands." One might guess 10 to 20 percent, maybe. It's all sheer speculation on my part. But whatever percentage it was, it was noticeable, not just a handful.

>>They would not be caught unaware by the Helcaraxë, which wouldn't be anywhere near that cold because its temperature is regulated by the sea, which can't get below about -4º C (about 28º F).

Despite the temperature of the water, I doubt Tolkien meant the air to be that warm. He refers to their journey through the ice like this: "...they dared to pass into the bitterest North." Twenty-eight degrees F (or something near that temperature in either direction) would have been a cakewalk for the Noldor, newly come from the Blessed Realm. I think Tolkien was talking about air temps a lot colder. The words "Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe" say to me that this was a truly terrible, frigid place that nearly bested the Firstborn in the strength of their youth. This was an event that occurred before the world was changed, so in my opinion needs to be considered on a more mythic scale. I think it was so cold that many of the Noldor could die simply from exposure to it, had the falling towers of ice never existed.

Getting back to the flight: The Noldor didn't know Fëanor would betray them, seize the ships, and abandon them--although they didn't necessarily know they were going by ship (not anticipating the Kinslaying).

The text does say Fëanor at first lead them north, and only made up his mind to seize the ships later, when he had time to think about how hard it would be to get to Middle-earth via a northern route, which meant facing the ice: "But as the mind of Fëanor cooled and he took counsel he perceived overlate that all these great companies would never overcome the long leagues to the north, nor cross the seas at the last, save with the aid of ships".

Perhaps my (or Ted's) depiction isn't inaccurate at all, then, as far as their outerwear is concerned. So I'll emend what I said earlier and say that maybe the Noldor did take thought to what they would need to bring, re: clothing.


Beren IV
Gondor


May 6 2007, 6:13pm

Post #12 of 18 (303 views)
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It doesn't [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
I don't understand how. What did I say that contradicts what is depicted?


It doesn't; as you say, and as I suggested, she could have been pinned at her torso but not the rest of her body. However, I would generally expect somebody crushed under an icefall to look a lot worse than that even on the parts of her body that weren't actively crushed. Since I see no visible injuries, I assume there are none, which causes me to interpret the drawing as if she had died of hypothermia, rather than physical trauma. It's a connotation thing, and really very minor - the drawing portrays the characters' emotions very well, and that's the main point, I think.

This in mind, I note the character being huddled up a few meters down the line, which implies either more injury or hypothermia or something.



Quote
Tolkien only says "...it was with a lessened host that Fingolfin set foot at last upon the Outer Lands." One might guess 10 to 20 percent, maybe. It's all sheer speculation on my part. But whatever percentage it was, it was noticeable, not just a handful.


I would have guessed at least 20%, but yeah, it was noticeable indeed.



Quote
I think Tolkien was talking about air temps a lot colder. The words "Few of the deeds of the Noldor thereafter surpassed that desperate crossing in hardihood or woe" say to me that this was a truly terrible, frigid place that nearly bested the Firstborn in the strength of their youth. This was an event that occurred before the world was changed, so in my opinion needs to be considered on a more mythic scale. I think it was so cold that many of the Noldor could die simply from exposure to it, had the falling towers of ice never existed.


Well, physically, it couldn't have been much colder than that for the same reason: the conduction from sea to air will prevent the air from getting colder than the sea, and because the sea is still liquid underneath, it can't get much below freezing. Now, I suppose that Morgoth could have been using some magic to make the air colder than it naturally could have been...

Also, I can think of quite a number of other problems that the Noldor would have had to have faced, starvation being the big one. I don't know how far the Grinding Ice stretches, but it could be a thousand miles or more - on trecharous ground. And then there's the bad weather - 28º F might not be too cold if the wind isn't howling, but if it's also blowing close to a hundred miles an hour (common in the Arctic), then that's going to make it effectively a whole lot colder. These factors add up, too: a traveller will be much more vulnerable to hypothermia due to exposure if he or she is undernourished than if he or she were healthy.

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


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


May 7 2007, 12:22pm

Post #13 of 18 (306 views)
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So do you think they had the clothes handy, [In reply to] Can't Post

or did they go back home and make some before they set out?

~~~~~~~~

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



WonderBroad
Lorien


May 7 2007, 10:29pm

Post #14 of 18 (300 views)
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re: [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
or did they go back home and make some before they set out?



Well, I don't think they immediately left after Feanor's speech. The text "And indeed when Feanor began the marshalling of the Noldor for their setting-out..." implies it took some time, even if only a few days. That would have given them at least a little time to think of the road ahead.


Patty
Immortal


May 9 2007, 12:42am

Post #15 of 18 (312 views)
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No, they couldn't have left immediately after Feanor's speech... [In reply to] Can't Post

it is documented that they took a bunch of cool things with them, and I'm sure they had to go back and get them first. Maybe they checked the Weather Channel before they left!Sly

At home, amongst the Mallorn trees.


Elven
Valinor


May 13 2007, 2:07am

Post #16 of 18 (267 views)
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What a journey!! [In reply to] Can't Post

WOW!! Beauty in death ... her facial expression still holds the 'shock' of it ... I get the impression that her death was quick and painless - she herself seems frozen in his arms.
The ice looks wonderfully menacing and trecherous!
I really like this! Pity that its too big for scanning, Im sure there is so more more detail to be seen - the camera never captures it quite as much.
Brilliant!!
Thanks for posting this!
Heart Elven


SILVERCHAIRS Daniel Johns gets the crowd going at the 'Big Day Out Festival' at Minas Tirith.


"Never wash your name in hot water Elvenesque - it shrinks!" said the Gaffer.
Tolkien was a Capricorn!
..All we are saying ..Is Give Pete A Chance" ...


Beren IV
Gondor


May 13 2007, 6:06am

Post #17 of 18 (274 views)
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Quite the opposite of what I see [In reply to] Can't Post

I would think that her death could have been excruciatingly painful, but gradual, so that her muscles relaxed in such a way that would look placid, rather than twisted with surprise or obvious agony.

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


PrincessWhat
Bree


May 14 2007, 7:36pm

Post #18 of 18 (297 views)
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Splendid! [In reply to] Can't Post

You have quite a gift, and I love seeing scenes from the books come alive this way!

 
 

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