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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
K is for Kirith Ungol

Modtheow
Lorien


Mar 25 2010, 5:32am


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K is for Kirith Ungol [In reply to] Can't Post

I picked the manuscript spelling of Kirith Ungol with a “K” because it’s the manuscripts that I want to look at. Tolkien spent a lot of time, it seems, trying to figure out where to put the pass into Mordor and how to get Frodo and Sam up the stairs, through Shelob’s lair, and over the pass. Volumes 8 and 9 of The History of Middle-earth have chapters describing Tolkien’s plans and drafts and sketches as he worked out this part of the story. What I found interesting was that Tolkien was not only writing his way into Mordor, he was also drawing his way over the pass of Kirith Ungol.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the way in which Tolkien draws his way forward. And if you’re interested, you can look at the last section of my post for more specific questions about the last image and the possible influence of the picture on the words of the story.


Here’s an early sketch, from HOME Vol. 8, chapter 2. At this point, it’s just a rough idea of where things might be.

Early sketch of Kirith Ungol

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Here’s a more detailed drawing, trying to work out the location of the stairs and Shelob’s lair on the way up to the Tower:

Shelob's Lair


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Here is one of the diagrams that Tolkien drew of the layout of Shelob’s lair. You have to get through that to make it to the Tower!

Plan of Shelob's Lair

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In all of the sketches up to this point (and there are more in HOME), the Tower is only a tip that you can see just over the mountain top. You don’t know what it looks like below the topmost point. Once Sam gets over the pass, what does he see? I think that Tolkien had to stop writing and start drawing in order to figure out some of the details of what is on the other side of the mountain:

Tower of Kirith Ungol


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In case anyone is interested in looking at this last page more closely, here is the text on the manuscript page, exactly as recorded by Christopher Tolkien in The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 9, chapter II, pages 18-20. The only additions are my comments in blue.

The questions that I’ve been thinking about are which came first, words or image? How might the words influence the drawing of the image, or how might the image influence the words that we now read as part of the story?

************
[Above the image:]

And in that dreadful light Sam stood aghast; for now he could see the Tower of Kirith Ungol in all its strength. The horn that those could see who came up the pass from the West was but its topmost turret. Its eastern face stood up in four great tiers from a shelf in the mountain wall some 500 feet below. Its back was to the great cliff behind, and it was built in four pointed bastions of cunning masonry, with sides facing north-east and south-east, one above the other, diminishing* as they went up, while about the lowest tier was a battlemented wall enclosing a narrow courtyard.

[Somewhere around here the image starts to intrude on the margin and the words are no longer written up to the left margin but follow the contours of the picture]

Its gate open[ed] on the SE into a broad road. The wall at the [?outward] … was upon the brink of a precipice.
*[The bottom one was probably projected some 50 yards from the cliff, the next 40, the next 30, the top 20 – and on the top [or tip] of it was the turret-tower. Their heights were 50 ft., 40 ft., 30 ft., 20?]
With black blank eyes the windows stared over the plains of Gorgoroth and Lithlad; some [?form(ed)] a line of red-lit holes, climbing up. Maybe they marked some stair up to the turret.
With a sudden shock of perception Sam realized that this stronghold had been built not to keep people out of Mordor, but to keep them in! It was indeed in origin one of the works of Gondor long ago: the easternmost outpost of the defence of Ithilien and Minas Ithil, made when after the overthrow of Sauron, in the days of the last Alliance, the Men of the West kept watch upon the evil land where still his creatures lurked. But as with the Towers of the Teeth that watch[ed] over Kirith Gorgor, Nargos and ? [sic], so here too the watch and ward had failed and treachery had yielded up the Tower to the Ringwraiths. [?And] now for long it had been occupied by evil things. And since his return to Mordor Sauron had found it useful.

[penciled passage that follows the end of the overwriting in ink reads as follows:]

….keep watch upon the evil land where still his creatures lurked. But as with the Towers of the Teeth upon Kirith Gorgor, so here the watch and ward had failed and treachery had yielded up the Tower. But Sauron too had found it useful. For he had few servants and many slaves. Still its purpose was as of old to keep people in.
Sam looked and he saw how the tower commanded the main road form the pass behind; the road he was on was only a narrow way that went corkscrewing down into the darkness and seemed to join a broad way form the gate to the road.

From History of Middle-earth. Volume 9. The final version of this passage is in RotK, “The Tower of Cirith Ungol.”

*************

I would love to hear ideas about the interplay of words and images in this or anywhere else in Tolkien’s work. Or you can just enjoy the progression of sketches – it’s almost as if you can actually watch Tolkien in the process of envisioning the geography and landscape step by step as he fills in the story.


Subject User Time
It's Tolkien Reading Day! Post your ABCs of Tolkien here. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 25 2010, 3:48am
    C is for Cerin Amroth... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 3:57am
        Wow - nicely done! NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 11:57am
            <Bows low> GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 1:24pm
                GREAT ELEPHANTS! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 3:27pm
                    No problem - it's a common mistake NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 3:53pm
                        But you did so... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 4:56pm
        A question Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 1:42am
            Yep.// Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 27 2010, 3:01am
            As Lady Elizabeth says... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 3:18am
                It *raises* the question... Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 27 2010, 4:09am
                    <chuckle> GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 5:57am
                    A good poet is aware of all levels of meaning in his work. Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 2:32pm
                        But he never tells us... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 3:56pm
                            A guess... Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 27 2010, 6:20pm
                            A good poet offers the poem not its meaning Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 6:26pm
                                (smile) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 7:07pm
                                    Simbelmyne or Evermind in ths common tongue Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 7:16pm
                                        Thank you! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 7:21pm
                                            Yes it is about time I reread the Silmarillion. It has been a couple years.// Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 8:09pm
                                    The Heart of Elvendom on earth Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 8:03pm
                                        Am I to understand then... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 27 2010, 8:21pm
                                            A bit more difficult to explain Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 8:41pm
                                                Cool! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 28 2010, 1:44am
                                                The perilous realm FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 31 2010, 4:22am
                                                    Nicely said! // Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Mar 31 2010, 2:33pm
                                                        No. Night Wolf Apr 1 2010, 4:58pm
                Perhaps the place chose them. // Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 2:22pm
    T is for Tolkien Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 4:10am
        Very "British"... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 3:25pm
            British wit Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 26 2010, 1:16am
                "Frank-ness" GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 1:32am
        well... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 26 2010, 1:11am
            re: coffee Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 26 2010, 1:14am
    X is for X-Ray vision ... NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 4:12am
        LOL at #5 :-) // Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 4:16am
        Interesting question! FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 25 2010, 7:21am
        E is for Emission Theory Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 25 2010, 3:46pm
            Interesting - good to know I wasn't alone... NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 25 2010, 3:54pm
        I think.... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 4:54pm
        Light of eyes White Gull Send a private message to White Gull Mar 26 2010, 2:00pm
        The answer to Smaug's powers... Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 2:05am
    P is for Peregrin Took! fairelvenlady Send a private message to fairelvenlady Mar 25 2010, 4:46am
        Give or Took... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 5:20pm
    K is for Kirith Ungol Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 5:32am
        corrected link Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 12:33pm
        Tolkien - word pictures. Istari68 Send a private message to Istari68 Mar 25 2010, 4:16pm
    "Ha, hmm, my friends, let us go for a walk!"... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 25 2010, 5:54am
        sidestepping the quiz for a comment on the word Quickbeam Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 1:57pm
            Wow! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 5:32pm
            My son is Rowan Kangi Ska Send a private message to Kangi Ska Mar 27 2010, 3:15pm
        Hmmmm.... Darkstone Send a private message to Darkstone Mar 25 2010, 7:38pm
    T is for Thursday! sador Send a private message to sador Mar 25 2010, 6:10am
        How subversive, satirical and sharp of you SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 7:49pm
    E(ä) is for Eärendil Night Wolf Mar 25 2010, 7:15am
        Interesting SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:13pm
    B is for Beowulf SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:35am
        worthy of study Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 5:56pm
            I'm glad we agree! SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:18pm
        Scholarly... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 6:01pm
            Thank you SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 10:33pm
            Yes but don't forget... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 26 2010, 4:52am
                (laughs) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 1:30pm
                    I have to agree FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 26 2010, 2:05pm
                        Cool stuff! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:14pm
                Would that be a stoat? N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 26 2010, 5:51pm
                    Whoops! FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 27 2010, 1:13am
                        Regardless of the typo SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 27 2010, 3:38am
    F is for Fëanor Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 25 2010, 10:03am
        In pity for Feanor... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 6:39pm
            Thank you! Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 25 2010, 8:05pm
    I is for Ioreth dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 25 2010, 10:15am
        I think it says a lot... Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Mar 25 2010, 2:07pm
            Yes, a favourite SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 3:42am
                Intriguing idea indeed! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 1:33pm
                Concurring with GAndy dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 26 2010, 3:43pm
        Ioreth is a fun character. fairelvenlady Send a private message to fairelvenlady Mar 27 2010, 8:26pm
        A little learning... FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 28 2010, 1:01am
            From a medieval history syllabus... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 28 2010, 1:51am
                my own favorite quote sevilodorf Send a private message to sevilodorf Mar 28 2010, 5:43pm
    L is for Lothórien drogo Send a private message to drogo Mar 25 2010, 10:19am
        through a high window Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 25 2010, 5:49pm
            I'd never thought about it that way Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Mar 25 2010, 9:36pm
        Nasmith, for me. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 25 2010, 10:46pm
        Thanks for those links! Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 26 2010, 1:00am
        Middle-earth in HD... batik Send a private message to batik Mar 26 2010, 9:16pm
        I guess it depends FarFromHome Send a private message to FarFromHome Mar 29 2010, 1:09pm
    J is for Josef Stalin Pryderi Send a private message to Pryderi Mar 25 2010, 11:36am
        It seems, SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 25 2010, 9:32pm
            He does seem to dislike "globalisation" doesn't he?... Pryderi Send a private message to Pryderi Mar 25 2010, 11:01pm
    'D' is for Denethor Hamfast Gamgee Send a private message to Hamfast Gamgee Mar 25 2010, 11:38am
        Denethor, son of Ecthelion GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 6:57pm
    W is for Woses! Tweezers of Thu Send a private message to Tweezers of Thu Mar 25 2010, 12:22pm
        always something new Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 26 2010, 12:20am
            Oh, yes! Even after 44 years (gasp!)... Tweezers of Thu Send a private message to Tweezers of Thu Mar 26 2010, 4:58pm
        Ack - they're everywhere! NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 12:24pm
            Another example! Flame-eyed Elves! Tweezers of Thu Send a private message to Tweezers of Thu Mar 26 2010, 5:36pm
    "L" is also for "Letters" Elwen Send a private message to Elwen Mar 25 2010, 1:37pm
        (Soft, benevolent smile for Frodo) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:17pm
    O is for Olórë Mallë Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Mar 25 2010, 2:33pm
        Roverandom? GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:23pm
    R is for Rosie Rosie-with-the-ribbons Send a private message to Rosie-with-the-ribbons Mar 25 2010, 3:27pm
        (laughs) Getting two in at once? GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:29pm
            Yep Rosie-with-the-ribbons Send a private message to Rosie-with-the-ribbons Mar 26 2010, 9:23am
                Wish I had your impishness! GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:50pm
                    Muchos gracias Rosie-with-the-ribbons Send a private message to Rosie-with-the-ribbons Mar 26 2010, 6:59pm
                        It's not too far off... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 7:14pm
                        Close enough... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 7:21pm
                    Marido Oscuro, lol... Evernight Send a private message to Evernight Mar 26 2010, 7:03pm
                        <Takes his lumps> GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 7:16pm
    G is for Gandalf Nerdanel Send a private message to Nerdanel Mar 25 2010, 6:01pm
        At a guess... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:35pm
        laughter Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 26 2010, 2:33am
    S is for Smith of Wootton Major. Evernight Send a private message to Evernight Mar 25 2010, 6:08pm
        (Daubs tears) GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:44pm
        "Why is Faery important? How important is it to you?" SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 4:12am
    A is for Arkenstone! entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Mar 25 2010, 6:53pm
        Because you asked... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 25 2010, 7:51pm
        It just so happens Oiotári Send a private message to Oiotári Mar 25 2010, 8:57pm
    Z is for Zirakzigil weaver Send a private message to weaver Mar 25 2010, 8:29pm
        "I need no map," said Gimli... N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 25 2010, 9:20pm
            Aha! More Z's! weaver Send a private message to weaver Mar 25 2010, 9:46pm
            On living rock. Pryderi Send a private message to Pryderi Mar 25 2010, 11:34pm
            Zis monument, carved into ze hillside - it is zuspicious, no? squire Send a private message to squire Mar 26 2010, 1:53am
    U is for Uolë Kúvion, the Man in the Moon Dân o’Nandor-on-Anduin Send a private message to Dân o’Nandor-on-Anduin Mar 25 2010, 10:43pm
        How charming... SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 2:48am
    E is for Erendis acheron Send a private message to acheron Mar 26 2010, 12:39am
        I really like this story Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 27 2010, 1:49pm
    V is for Voronwë Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Mar 26 2010, 2:12am
        One of the amazing things about the depth of Tolkien's writing - NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 12:48pm
            I remembered... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:55pm
    H is for Halfling! aranelthehobbit22 Send a private message to aranelthehobbit22 Mar 26 2010, 2:21am
        No worries SirDennisC Send a private message to SirDennisC Mar 26 2010, 2:30am
    Thank you GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 2:40am
    M is for Morwen Saelind Send a private message to Saelind Mar 26 2010, 2:54am
        The saddest... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 3:18am
            M is for Morwen Saelind Send a private message to Saelind Mar 26 2010, 3:48am
    'H' is for, hip, hip, hooray, everyone! Altaira Send a private message to Altaira Mar 26 2010, 3:33am
    N is for Niggle Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Mar 26 2010, 4:11am
        Whoops! Finding Frodo Send a private message to Finding Frodo Mar 26 2010, 2:33pm
        Niggle and Tasks... GAndyalf Send a private message to GAndyalf Mar 26 2010, 4:33pm
    Y is for Yggdrasil. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 26 2010, 6:42am
        How did drasils turn into wargs? NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 3:47pm
    A is for N.E. Brigand - NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Mar 26 2010, 12:28pm
        Seconded! sador Send a private message to sador Mar 26 2010, 12:31pm
        Thirded! entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Mar 27 2010, 12:09am
        All in favour Modtheow Send a private message to Modtheow Mar 27 2010, 1:57pm
            And a big thank-you from me, too Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn Mar 28 2010, 6:03pm
    Wow! This is great! Compa_Mighty Send a private message to Compa_Mighty Apr 4 2010, 7:52pm

 
 
 

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