Our Sponsor Sideshow Collectibles Send us News
Lord of the Rings Tolkien
Search Tolkien
Lord of The RingsTheOneRing.net - Forged By And For Fans Of JRR Tolkien
Lord of The Rings Serving Middle-Earth Since The First Age

Lord of the Rings Movie News - J.R.R. Tolkien
Do you enjoy the 100% volunteer, not for profit services of TheOneRing.net?
Consider a donation!

  Main Index   Search Posts   Who's Online   Log in
The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Elven Halls**


Feb 21 2007, 1:47pm

Post #1 of 14 (4138 views)
**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Elven Halls** Can't Post

The next thing we know, Thorin, the Dwarves, and even the Hobbit are marched through the woods to the underground fastness of the Elven-king’s halls.

From The Hobbit, Chapter VIII, ‘Flies and Spiders’:
In a great cave some miles within the edge of Mirkwood on its eastern side there lived at this time their greatest king. Before his huge doors of stone a river ran out of the heights of the forest and flowed on and out into the marshes at the feet of the high wooded lands. This great cave, from which countless smaller ones opened out on every side, wound far underground and had many passages and wide halls; but it was lighter and more wholesome than any goblin-dwelling, and neither so deep nor so dangerous. In fact the subjects of the king mostly lived and hunted in the open woods, and had houses or huts on the ground and in the branches. The beeches were their favourite trees. The king's cave was his palace, and the strong place of his treasure, and the fortress of his people against their enemies.

Tolkien wanted to illustrate this one for this chapter, but he ran into two problems: one, how to draw the subject with the proper artistic and emotional feeling; and two, how to think about this Elvenking’s halls without thinking about another’s – that is, the halls of Nargothrond in the Silmarillion tales, which he had just been inventing, in the late 1920s, when he began his Hobbit tale.

Hammond and Scull quote Christopher Tolkien on this issue: “The two [palace entrances] were visually one, or little distinguished: a single image with more than one emergence in the legends.”

From The Hobbit, Chapter IX, ‘Barrels Out of Bond”:
Bilbo had all he could do to keep up with the torches, for the elves were making the dwarves go as fast as ever they could, sick and weary as they were. The king had ordered them to make haste. Suddenly the torches stopped, and the hobbit had just time to catch them up before they began to cross the bridge. This was the bridge that led across the river to the king's doors. The water flowed dark and swift and strong beneath; and at the far end were gates before the mouth of a huge cave that ran into the side of a steep slope covered with trees. There the great beeches came right down to the bank, till their feet were in the stream. Across this bridge the elves thrust their prisoners, but Bilbo hesitated in the rear. He did not at all like the look of the cavern-mouth and he only made up his mind not to desert his friends just in time to scuttle over at the heels of the fast elves, before the great gates of the king closed behind them with a clang.

Well, you be the judge. In any case, here are Tolkien’s various attempts at rendering the Elvenking’s Halls, in the order that Hammond and Scull have assigned them:

117. Untitled (Entrance to the Elvenking's Halls)
Click here for a larger view.

118. Entrance to the Elvenking's Halls
Click here for a larger view.

119. Untitled (Entrance to the Elvenking's Halls)
Click here for a larger view.

What do you see so far in the sequence? What is Tolkien trying to get at, if none of these pictures proved satisfactory to him?

How close are these pictures to the description?

Could you begin to describe a Tolkien ‘style’ based on these efforts?

Now here are the two pictures, of the Elvenking’s Halls, and Nargothrond, respectively. Based on the papers he drew these on the back of, Hammond and Scull conclude that both were drawn in the same relatively short span of time, presumably late 1936-early 1937.

120. Gate of the Elvenking's Halls
Click here for a larger view.

57. Untitled (Nargothrond)
Click here for a larger view.

What are the differences between the Nargothrond image, and the Mirkwood one? Are the differences important?

Where else did a “single image” emerge in two (or more) different places in Tolkien’s legendarium?

Hammond and Scull comment that 120 is technically good enough to have been published (they are considering issues of tone and line from a printers’ point of view, as well as the artistic). But Tolkien obviously did not think so. Here is the illustration Tolkien settled on.

121. The Elvenking's Gate (published in The Hobbit)
Click here for a larger view.

How does it differ from the earlier compositions? What did Tolkien learn from this process?

Do you think this is the best one, or do you wish that Tolkien and his publishers had settled on one of the others?

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Feb 21 2007, 6:54pm

Post #2 of 14 (3476 views)
Elvenking's Hall and Nargothrond [In reply to] Can't Post

The similarity of design between the two halls in 120 and 57 is striking. I had long know, at some level, that Tolkien was "recycling" elements from the larger legendarium (the Beleriand stories) in his more homespun Middle-earth accounts, but seeing the two images side by side reinforces that. The bridge over the Narog is quite different in design, though, and perhaps seems to suggest a more advanced level of Elven engineering.

The final drawing with its rows of trees is very much like the pillared hall of Beorn in the other illustration. It has that orderly architectural look to it, perhaps too orderly! But it is an interesting perspective since it gives you the view that someone entering the hall would see.

(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Feb 21 2007, 8:08pm

Post #3 of 14 (3531 views)
chez Thranduil [In reply to] Can't Post

#117 looks the most forbidding, almost dungeon-like. I'm picturing "Abandon all hope" posted over the door. Looking at this, one can understand why Bilbo "did not at all like the look of the cavern-mouth" and hesitated to enter. Unfortunately, the trees look highly implausible. Many are not convincingly rooted in the ground, and there's too much weight over the entrance.

#118 is just too far away. Get a zoom lens!

#119 makes the cave entrance seem too out in the open, and the path leading up from the bridge is awkwardly drawn.

In #120, the door looks something like Stonehenge -- surely it's sticking up above ground level. And why does it appear to have windowpanes?

Interesting to compare # 57 to # 120. I see the Nargothrond picture has one of those friendly foreground trees that Tolkien was fond of in his topographic work, e.g.:

I'd say the final picture best conveys the idea of a fortress; even the trees give the impression of straight-standing soldiers guarding the door. The door is still Stonehenge-shaped, but now it's appropriately buried in a hillside. The entrance is more hidden than in # 118, 119, or 120, which seems fitting.

Still, this is not one of Tolkien's better illustrations, I'd say.

ink drawing by JRRT

Beren IV

Feb 22 2007, 1:29am

Post #4 of 14 (3442 views)
It is again difficult to tell apart the First Age from the Third [In reply to] Can't Post

when one looks at The Hobbit.

One thing that I notice, perhaps the biggest difference, is a difference among the trees. It is only in the last ones that they really look like beeches, which to my mind are tall and straight, and not convoluted like the close relatives, the oaks. The hills in the background for some of the pictuers are also far too steep in some of the pictures. Tolkien also gives the impression that the hills are bare up high, not what I imagined, unless they are truly the Mountains of Mirkwood, in which case I imagined them higher yet and craggier.

I do like the difference in bridge architecture between Greenwood and Nargothrond, though.


Feb 22 2007, 12:03pm

Post #5 of 14 (3428 views)
Notice the contrast with the pictures of Mirkwood and Fangorn. [In reply to] Can't Post

In all these pictures Tolkien shows us the leaves above, and the trees don't seem endlessly tall or woven together to block out the light. In the last picture the trees on the near side of the river seem obviously planted and pruned and tended by the Elvenking's gardeners.

In fact the trees remind me of those we saw in the Shire, except that there are more of them. Even the hill in the background looks a bit like Bilbo's hill, except bigger. If I were in England, I would expect the hill to have sheep on it, accounting for the closely-cropped grass. I saw several hills like that in the Lake Country, including the highest "mountain" in England (not very high).

I guess I'm slow, because I had always made the connection between the Elvenking and Thingol, who both had trouble with dwarves, but not between the Elvenking's hall and Nargothrond. Of course Nargothrond and Thingol's underground dwelling also resembled each other, with the possible exception of the guarded entrance.

But I have no problem with Tolkien borrowing from himself. I've never felt that it showed a lack of imagination, but rather an obsession with certain images and themes, and even a belief that everything in history, or at least in mythological history, mirrors something that came before.


Feb 22 2007, 1:21pm

Post #6 of 14 (3420 views)
Different perspectives [In reply to] Can't Post

I would have preferred that 120 been selected, the higher perspective helps place it in the surrounding landscape. On the other hand, since this is a tale told from Bilbo's point of view, keeping the viewpoint lower as in 121 also makes sense even if I find the image less pleasing. 119 might have been a good compromise giving a wider view while still keeping a near-ground viewpoint by looking out over a valley.

"The grand scheme of God is inscrutable; the object of life is virtue, not pleasure; and obedience, not liberty, is the means of its attainment." ~Russell Kirk

N.E. Brigand

Feb 22 2007, 4:30pm

Post #7 of 14 (3385 views)
Nice to see you here again. (nt) [In reply to] Can't Post


Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


Feb 23 2007, 5:35am

Post #8 of 14 (3384 views)
Thanks. (nt) [In reply to] Can't Post


"The grand scheme of God is inscrutable; the object of life is virtue, not pleasure; and obedience, not liberty, is the means of its attainment." ~Russell Kirk

Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 23 2007, 4:36pm

Post #9 of 14 (3419 views)
Tolkien does like "round", doesn't he [In reply to] Can't Post

Round trees, round hills, and in earlier drawings, round doorways - all in contrast with the incredibly straight tree-trunks.

For a cave "some miles within the edge of Mirkwood", nos. 118 and 119 are too much in the open. But no. 121 has the best sense of foreboding, of being a corridor between prison bars, leading to one's cell!

Still 'round the corner there may wait
A new road, or a secret gate...


Mar 5 2007, 5:12am

Post #10 of 14 (3376 views)
The final image [In reply to] Can't Post

in the thumbnail size reminded me of the grand ascent to the halls of the Forbidden City. In the larger view I then see the entrance as a grand Japanese tori gate. Was Tolkien at all influenced by Asian architecture? The ordered trees also add to the Asian landscape feel. Interestingly, the Nargothrond image has a curved Japanese looking bridge, almost too curved to manage, and I have come across such higly curved bridges while in Japan.
I think the final image was the best choice, it has the most imposing feel and the point of view of the visitors. Besides, I don't particularly like the balloon hills in the others.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
"I walk along the shore and I gaze
At the light that radiates down
Will it travel forth to you
Far across this shimmering sea?"
formerly linkinparkelf

Tol Eressea

Mar 5 2007, 2:01pm

Post #11 of 14 (3375 views)
I've read that European art of the late 1800s [In reply to] Can't Post

derived much inspiration from then-recently-discovered Japanese artists like Hiroshige. It wouldn't surprise me if some of that effect spilled over into the early 20th Century. Tolkien, with his preference for serene landscapes, might not have been immune. Of course, it's also possible he arrived at his style independently.


I used to be GaladrielTX, but my TX ran away with the dish, the spoon, and my modding powers.


Mar 5 2007, 10:52pm

Post #12 of 14 (3385 views)
possible Japanese influence [In reply to] Can't Post

First, I should point out I know absolutely nothing about the subject of Japanese art (or any art, for that matter!) just in case someone might ask me a question!! Better to confess up front than look foolish after, or so they say...


Anyway, I don't know if Tolkien was directly influenced by Japanese art, but it might be that some of the artists he was influenced by did find some of their techniques in Japanese art. Although somewhere in the Hammond and Scull book they mention the Japanese prints he bought for his room as an undergraduate.

An article in Touchstone (which I can only access in its cached form, so hopefully this link will work. If not, search "touchstone tolkien art" in Google and click on the "cached" page). It seems Japanese art technique was quite influential with both Rackham and Kay Neilson (who illustrated a fairy-tale book Tolkien had access to: East of Sun, West of Moon), who both influenced Tolkien.


"an seileachan"

Everybody's wondering what and where they all came from.
Everybody's worried 'bout where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done.
No one knows for certain, and so it's all the same to me:
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Mar 8 2007, 6:54am

Post #13 of 14 (3390 views)
The link worked, thanks, a.s. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Japanese references are a little slim, though, and the influence I saw in the images was more of an architectural one. But the fact remains that no ones works or creates in a vacuum and what I see in Tolkien's art may reflect more on me, who has spent a lot of time in Asia, than on him. That curved bridge is very Japanese though.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
"I walk along the shore and I gaze
At the light that radiates down
Will it travel forth to you
Far across this shimmering sea?"
formerly linkinparkelf

N.E. Brigand

Mar 8 2007, 7:01am

Post #14 of 14 (3659 views)
He bought some Japanese prints c. 1911. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wynnie, working from Hammond-Scull, noted that here.

Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Mar. 5-11: Tolkien's "Visions, Myths and Legends".


Search for (options) Powered by Gossamer Forum v.1.2.3

home | advertising | contact us | back to top | search news | join list | Content Rating

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings, and is in no way affiliated with Tolkien Enterprises or the Tolkien Estate. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and their use is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Law. Design and original photography however are copyright © 1999-2012 TheOneRing.net. Binary hosting provided by Nexcess.net

Do not follow this link, or your host will be blocked from this site. This is a spider trap.