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**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Lake Town**

squire
Valinor


Feb 24 2007, 6:13pm

Post #1 of 16 (516 views)
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**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Lake Town** Can't Post

The Hobbit and the Dwarves in their barrels arrive at the Raft-elves’ settlement on the Forest River, as we’ve seen. There the barrels are gathered into a raft and transported to the Long Lake, with Bilbo riding invisibly on top.

From The Hobbit, Chapter X, ‘A Warm Welcome”:
Suddenly the cliff fell away. The shores sank. The trees ended. Then Bilbo saw a sight: The lands opened wide about him, filled with the waters of the river which broke up and wandered in a hundred winding courses, or halted in marshes and pools dotted with isles on every side: but still a strong water flowed on steadily through the midst.
After a while, however, the river took a more southerly course and the Mountain receded again, and at last, late in the day the shores grew rocky, the river gathered all its wandering waters together into a deep and rapid flood, and they swept along at great speed.
The sun had set when turning with another sweep towards the East the forest-river rushed into the Long Lake. There it had a wide mouth with stony clifflike gates at either side whose feet were piled with shingles. The Long Lake! Bilbo had never imagined that any water that was not the sea could look so big. It was so wide that the opposite shores looked small and far, but it was so long that its northerly end, which pointed towards the Mountain, could not be seen at all. Only from the map did Bilbo know that away up there, where the stars of the Wain were already twinkling, the Running River came down into the lake from Dale and with the Forest River filled with deep waters what must once have been a great deep rocky valley. At the southern end the doubled waters poured out again over high waterfalls and ran away hurriedly to unknown lands. In the still evening air the noise of the falls could be heard like a distant roar.


Tolkien prepared a map to show the local geography, though in the end it was not published. (We’ll discuss the Lonely Mountain sketch that is on the same sheet of paper in the next post.)


128. The Lonely Mountain and map of the Long Lake
Click here for a larger view of the map only.



Does the map agree with Tolkien’s description of Bilbo’s journey from the Forest to the Lake?

Is the map necessary, that is, should it have been published to make things clearer for the reader?

The actual map is delicately drawn and done with colored pencil, like most of Tolkien’s sketch maps. Had it been published, it would have had to be redrawn in black ink. Would that have helped or hurt this composition?

And why would Tolkien make a colored map when the color is not needed to explain the geography and could not reasonably be reproduced in a book?

Not far from the mouth of the Forest River was the strange town he heard the elves speak of in the king's cellars. It was not built on the shore, though there were a few huts and buildings there, but right out on the surface of the lake, protected from the swirl of the entering river by a promontory of rock which formed a calm bay. A great bridge made of wood ran out to where on huge piles made of forest trees was built a busy wooden town, not a town of elves but of Men, who still dared to dwell here under the shadow of the distant dragon-mountain. They still throve on the trade that came up the great river from the South and was carted past the falls to their town; but in the great days of old, when Dale in the North was rich and prosperous, they had been wealthy and powerful, and there had been fleets of boats on the waters, and some were filled with gold and some with warriors in armour, and there had been wars and deeds which were now only a legend. The rotting piles of a greater town could still be seen along the shores when the waters sank in a drought.
As soon as the raft of barrels came in sight boats rowed out from the piles of the town, and voices hailed the raft-steerers. Then ropes were cast and oars were pulled, and soon the raft was drawn out of the current of the Forest River and towed away round the high shoulder of rock into the little bay of Lake-town. There it was moored not far from the shoreward head of the great bridge.
They would have been surprised, if they could have seen what happened down by the shore, after they had gone and the shades of night had fallen. First of all a barrel was cut loose by Bilbo and pushed to the shore and opened. Groans came from inside, and out crept a most unhappy dwarf.

Hammond and Scull provide a probable source for Tolkien’s Lake Town:


125. Untitled (Reconstruction of a Lake Village) by Robert Munro after A. de Mortillet
Click here for a larger view.



And here is Tolkien’s first sketch of his idea:


126. Esgaroth
Click here for a larger view.



Finally he arrived at this version, which was published:


127. Lake Town (published in The Hobbit)
Click here for a larger view.



What has Tolkien used from the de Mortillet archaeological reconstruction? Is this the same kind of source usage as we saw with Beorn’s house?

What graphic style did Robert Munro use in translating de Mortillet’s ideas? Is it a “successful” drawing? How does it compare to Tolkien’s drawings?

What changes does Tolkien make between his first and second tries at drawing Esgaroth? What is happening in the two pictures?

How much does the final drawing assist the reader in imagining what Tolkien describes in his story?

Here are some earlier comments I made on this drawing; I think it was during the last RR Hobbit discussion. Yes, I’m afraid it involves perspective. But what do you think of this picture, as an illustration and as art?

It is interesting that the War of the Ring site that has posted many of Tolkien’s pictures has also put up this colored-in version of Lake Town:


127A. Lake Town (colored by another artist)
Click here for a larger view.



Does the color improve the illustration? What does the color make clearer? What does it ruin (if anything?) Would Tolkien have approved?

How does this compare with the trend of “colorizing” old black and white movies?



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


Penthe
Gondor


Feb 25 2007, 1:40am

Post #2 of 16 (263 views)
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I like the Munro very much [In reply to] Can't Post

And I prefer the black and white illustration. It suits the sombreness of the location, for me. I know that the Lake people give the dwarves a lot of feasting and fun, but sitting on the edge of ruin seems quite grim to me. Echoed in the Flotsam and Jetsam chapter in LOTR I suppose.

The colouring in makes it seem a bit too Wind in the Willows for my liking.


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 25 2007, 1:49am

Post #3 of 16 (231 views)
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Who isn't sitting on the edge of ruin in ME? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm going to have a hard time poking at Squire's questions, mainly because the differences, though there, are sublte. However, "sitting on the edge of ruin" - it seems to me that the Shire alone is not sitting on the edge of ruin, or maybe it is, and the Hobbits don't know it. Do you think that color should be used in Tolkien-inspired artwork at all, then?


Curious
Half-elven

Feb 25 2007, 5:36am

Post #4 of 16 (281 views)
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What drove men to build Laketown? Not the dragon, I trust, since [In reply to] Can't Post

building a wooden city on the water does little to stop a flying dragon that breathes fire. Giant spiders? Goblins? Evil men?

And what is the source of Laketown's wealth? After all, this is a rather grand city on the lake. Is it all due to trade with the elves? Isn't it strange that elves would depend on humans for trade?

Yes, Tolkien's drawing of Laketown has problems with perspective. But I value it much more than the barrels on the river because it shows me how Tolkien imagined Laketown. The map is similarly useful. And that is primarily why I value Tolkien's drawings; like reports from a famous explorer, they are the first-hand reports of the person most familiar with the "real" Middle-earth.


squire
Valinor


Feb 25 2007, 6:01am

Post #5 of 16 (270 views)
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The bridge was gone, and his enemies were on an island in deep water -- too deep and dark and cool for his liking! [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree that it seems odd that this should pose a problem for a flying, fire-breathing dragon, but Tolkien assures us it does, and then goes on to describe how Smaug proceeds to destroy the city from the air, just as we'd expect! I wonder if Smaug wasn't channelling Glaurund, the wingless worm of Turin's time, for just a moment.

As to who Laketown is really fortified against, it seems clear from the story that there were other cities on the Lake with whom trade wars were fought, in the good old days. A water barrier would certainly be useful against other armies of Men. He even mentions that Lake Town is the lesser successor of an earlier, larger city whose piles are still visible in the shallows near by, implying that it was burned or destroyed in some warlike catastrophe.

The money? Well, in best Tolkien fashion, he's not clear, but he does mention a great civilization to the south of the falls. Also, just as the lands we now call The Shire were very undefined in The Hobbit, we might imagine there are other unmentioned trading entities within reach of Lake Town, even in these lesser years. Elves were part of the trade, to be sure, but in The Hobbit there's no reason to wonder about Elf-Man hostility - the Elf King goes right to Lake Town's aid, after Smaug's death. Elves and Men are not estranged in this world, clearly, so why should they not depend on each other for trade?



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


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 25 2007, 7:06am

Post #6 of 16 (236 views)
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Dorthonion? [In reply to] Can't Post

There is of course Dorthonion, but there is no mention of that in later chapters.

I would assume that Lake-town is living off of wealth that it used to have as a much larger and more prosperous city. Maybe the Easterlings aren't as uncivilized as we think?

In my fanfics, there is a civilization of Elves, the Hylar, that live to the east, and they are very advanced and sophistocated - but they live so far east that it is unlikely that they would trade much with Esgaroth (more likely, they would sail all of the way around Harad and trade with Gondor...)


squire
Valinor


Feb 25 2007, 2:55pm

Post #7 of 16 (237 views)
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"They still throve on the trade that came up the great river from the South" [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien does not make Lake Town a poor city, living on interest from past investments. He only says it was once very much richer before Dale was destroyed.

Without getting into fan fiction, the world of The Hobbit just is not Middle-earth, no matter how much Tolkien wanted it to be later on, when Middle-earth had finally been invented. The local economy and history that underlays the world that Mr Baggins encounters is only described enough to keep the story interestingly realistic. No Easterlings. No Gondor. No Harad. If he says Lake Town still "thrives" on trade from the South and with the Elvenking, so that the Master of the town thinks only of "trade and tolls, cargoes and gold", then why shouldn't we believe him? There might be twenty other towns within trading distance of the Lake, and settlements of Men, Elves and Dwarves all about Wilderland, that Tolkien does not and need not mention for us to follow the story.

Underlying the entire fiction is the idea of a "Golden Age" of prosperity in the dim past, which is a standard legendary theme in human history and story. Tolkien has recreated it in his own terms for this tale.



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


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 25 2007, 8:59pm

Post #8 of 16 (879 views)
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The clearest difference [In reply to] Can't Post

between Monroe's conception and Tolkien's, for me, is the high degree of order and design in Tolkien's Lake Town. It suggests a strong central authority and a lot of forward planning. In contrast, Monroe's reconstruction looks like a town that has grown organically, with separate platforms for individual buildings rather than that almost industrially-designed pier structure (reminiscent of something like Brighton Pier?) in Tolkien's drawing. I suppose this could be a sign of the much more developed society that created the town in the forgotten past, but even so, there must still be a strong central authority since it's still so formally laid-out, with no buildings added on (or demolished) later to spoil the symmetry.

Monroe's drawing makes good use of reflections, I find, whereas reflections are totally absent from Tolkien's first attempt and only done sketchily in the second version. That's probably due at least partly to the different perspective - Tolkien has chosen to view the scene from low on the bank.

The colouring-in highlights the weakness of the perspective, as the mismatch between the line of the houses and the platform becomes more obvious. The colours themselves remind me of Tolkien's choice of palette for his drawing of Hobbiton. And like the drawing of Hobbiton, there's a very long, open view to the horizon.

It's interesting that the little ship seems to be a Viking one - it seems unusual to see such a clear reference to the real world.

...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.


Luthien Rising
Lorien


Feb 25 2007, 9:42pm

Post #9 of 16 (226 views)
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colorizing [In reply to] Can't Post

First of all, the sense of distance between the black and white version and the colour version here is different - there is less foreground presence in the black and white, and less of a pull around the lakeshore. The black and white is an island of houses; the colour is a shoreline with an island of houses off of it. Does it matter as illustration? Perhaps not. Or it may shift emphasis, somewhat, such that the colour places *us* in the position on the shore where the black and white does not do so.

As to colorization of movies -- a friend of ours worked as colorizer in the Early Days of colorization. This is an excellent conversation starter over beer & barbecue.



In Reply To


Finally he arrived at this version, which was published:


127. Lake Town (published in The Hobbit)
Click here for a larger view.





It is interesting that the War of the Ring site that has posted many of Tolkien’s pictures has also put up this colored-in version of Lake Town:


127A. Lake Town (colored by another artist)
Click here for a larger view.



Does the color improve the illustration? What does the color make clearer? What does it ruin (if anything?) Would Tolkien have approved?

How does this compare with the trend of “colorizing” old black and white movies?


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.


squire
Valinor


Feb 25 2007, 9:52pm

Post #10 of 16 (243 views)
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I was staggered [In reply to] Can't Post

on first looking at the color version, to realize that the wavy lines in Tolkien's foreground represent a bank of the shore, not the water of the Forest River. The bollard-thingy and rope were just not enough to keep my eye from seeing those lines as Tolkien-style water.

Good point about the balance between the shore and the town changing with the color. Tolkien uses less linework on the shore than in the town, and the result is the town is darker, heavier, and the center of attention. The color artist, simply by filling in between the lines on shore with solid colors, shifts the focus of the picture, and in a bad way. Nice catch!

I think the same thing is going on in the sky, too.

Good use of the quote feature, too. You learn that somewhere?



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


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 26 2007, 12:42am

Post #11 of 16 (223 views)
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Tolkien was an authoritarian [In reply to] Can't Post

when it came to his societies. It is obvious that he did not really like democracies all that much given that the heroes of his one democratic government become the thanes of kings. Tolkien may not have liked kings who used their power continually, and preferred kings who were interested in being something other than kings, but still, his governments are monarchies, and he stresses the virtue of an orderly countryside in several places. I think Tolkien had something of the medieval Catholic sentiment that social order was by definition good, and that disorder or human allowance of natural disorder something of an affront to God, all of this in spite of Tolkien's obvious love for some of nature's creations, such as trees. So yes, his societies of good and light, all of them, are very orderly societies with lords and everybody behaving in an orderly way - the Shire, perhaps, is his only exception.


Penthe
Gondor


Feb 26 2007, 1:49am

Post #12 of 16 (218 views)
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Oh, very good question [In reply to] Can't Post

The Shire is certainly sitting on the edge of ruin, isn't it? And so is Bree, if there are foes within a day's march that would freeze Barliman's blood. The difference, I guess, is that the Laketown inhabitants are slightly more aware of the ruin than the hobbits are. They try to deny it, but from the perspective of the reader we know that they are very mistaken. We know, because Bilbo and the dwarves know, that the dragon really is there, and the Desolation is very desolate indeed. In contrast, the hobbits really do believe that they are comfortable and safe, and have no evidence to contradict their opinions.

In The Hobbit, as opposed to LOTR, there is no sense of these dangers being right on the doorstep of the Shire anyway.
Elrond is aware that he is also on the edge of desolation, or his house wouldn't so nattily be called The Last Homely House, but he is actively setting up a refuge, which is the opposite to the denial of the Laketown folk. I suppose the Mirkwood elves have reached a different accommodation with the evil things in their neighbourhood. The elves fight actively against them, and keeping their own woodland realm beautiful is part of the battle. The Laketowners attitude always seems more fatalistic than that to me.

So no, I don't think all Tolkien's illustrations should necessarily be black and white or monotone. Laketown and the desolation should be, but the Shire, Rivendell and Mirkwood could probably be colourful. And Beorn's house too I guess. Having said that, do enjoy all the black and white pictures just as they are.


Curious
Half-elven

Feb 26 2007, 11:33am

Post #13 of 16 (203 views)
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Yes and no. Tolkien preferred an inactive monarch, with [In reply to] Can't Post

the Shire being the ultimate example of that -- even after Aragorn resumes his throne, he makes a point of refusing to enter the Shire. The order in Tolkien's free societies, then, comes not from the orders and force of the leader and his army, but from the consensus of the governed. And Tolkien's free societies usually achieve a remarkable -- even an unbelievable -- level of consensus. The leaders, in human, elven, and dwarven societies of free peoples, are usually chosen by acclimation, even though the leadership is hereditary. In other words, the hereditary leaders are almost always the popular leaders as well. This is highly unrealistic, of course, but it is part of Tolkien's fantasy that the hereditary leaders are also the best and most popular leaders.


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 26 2007, 3:08pm

Post #14 of 16 (197 views)
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Very true, [In reply to] Can't Post

although there does seem to be a big point in serving the monarch. I also note that some of the leaders in the First Age were not the best leaders acclaimed by the people, even though the people were doubtlessly free. And one leader in particular, namely Thingol, started out idyllic but changed, becoming more and more corrupt.


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 26 2007, 5:24pm

Post #15 of 16 (197 views)
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Leadership [In reply to] Can't Post

is an important theme of LotR, I find. The ideal leaders combine birthright and ability. And leadership is not about authority as such, but about behaving in such a way (with kindness and understanding) that loyalty is freely given. Aragorn is the ultimate example, but I think Frodo is the "everyman" echo of this theme. Of course, having set up this default scheme, Tolkien provides striking exceptions to the rule, from the feet-of-clay Saruman, Denethor and (almost) Boromir, to the "made not born" leader Sam. And the Shire itself, as you say, seems to thrive without any real leaders - although perhaps there's an underlying assumption that the moral leadership of the great families is what keeps the Shire so orderly.

It's only when you see a "real" laketown, with its ordinary, disorganized layout, that you become so clearly aware of Tolkien's different approach, with its underlying love of order.

...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.


linkin-artelf
Lorien


Mar 5 2007, 5:45am

Post #16 of 16 (246 views)
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This ain't no town! [In reply to] Can't Post

It's Venice on stilts! With barrels the size of houses. The perspective is all wrong but I find it a charming image nevertheless.
The color rendition takes the focus off the town and draws far too much attention to those giant barrels.

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