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JRRT Artist and Illustrator, Chapter 2 Visons, Myths and Legends Part V


Mar 11 2007, 11:43pm

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JRRT Artist and Illustrator, Chapter 2 Visons, Myths and Legends Part V Can't Post

Silmarillion pictures Part II

The best for last...

Glórund Sets Forth to Seek Túrin
“In the painting, the start of this action is dramatically portrayed. The dragon comes straight at us, fire leaping from its jaws, trees withering in its path. The sun, with a face faintly drawn on it, also blazes mightily. Meanwhile, the serenity of the mountains in the background belies the fierce destruction occurring on the plain, their cool colours a contrast to the gold and red of Glórund. The figure of the beast , awkwardly foreshortened, has none of the sinuous grace of the other dragons Tolkien drew, but is unsurpassing in fierceness.”

How does he compare with other illustrations of the same/similar scene?

Does the dragon look the way you thought he would when you read the text?

“An even interesting series of reincarnations in his art began with his watercolour Taúr-na- Fúin or Beleg Finds Flinding in Taur-na-Fúin, painted in The Book of Ishness in July 1928. It depicts the moment in the ‘Silmarillion’ tale of Túrin when Beleg, an elf from Thingol’s court, finds Flinding (later called Gwindor), an elf of Nargothrond who has escaped from captivity in Morgoth’s stronghold. Flinding lies exhausted beneath a tree, while Beleg with his great sword moves towards him over twisted roots. It is the most detailed rendering Tolkien made of elves in his mythology, though even so they are seen at a distance. Beside Flinding lie a red elvish cap and the lamp whose blue light attracted Beleg… Beleg has a short beard; Flinding’s face is hidden. Both figures have long black hair and are think and elongated – tall, one should say, in keeping with Tolkien’s conception of Elves in the old English and Germanic tradition, but they are also ‘elfin’ in the usual sense (one cannot ignore Beleg’s pointed red shoes). They appear to be diminutive, however, only in relation to the size of the trees…In the painting, the upper margin is reached before any boughs become visible…

Taur-na-Fúin found its way into The Hobbit, redrawn in ink as Mirkwood. Still later, it was published in The J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar 1974 with Tolkien’s consent and with a new title in the artist’s hand: Fangorn Forest. Tolkien seems to have felt that the ‘Silmarillion’ picture somehow could do double duty as an illustration for The Lord of the Rings, and so this one image was used, in one from or another, to illustrate all three of Tolkien’s major works. But in its final contest it cannot withstand close scrutiny. Its tall trees and sombre mood suit that part of The Lord of the Rings in which Merry and Pippin wander through the shadowed wood before meeting Treebeard: but no one for long could mistake these figures for short, shoeless hobbits, who moreover in the story had neither lamp nor sword.”


It’s hard to reconcile the ‘elfin’ elves in this picture with the heroic elves from the Silmarillion.

Halls of Manwë

“The most striking of Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’ pictures also dates from July 1928, Halls of Manwë on the Mountains of the World above Faerie. It is better known as Taniquetil, after the greatest of mountains in Tolkien’s mythology, mentioned already in connection with Tanaqui. It was on that height, raised by the Valar in the east of Valinor as a defense against Melko, that their chief, Manwë, and his spouse Varda, lady of the stars, dwelt in a house of white and blue marble upon a field of snow. Their halls can be seen in the painting in a glow of light at the summit. At the foot of the mountain is one of the towns of the seafaring Elves, the Teleri. Two of their ships are under sail, each as described by Tolkien, with a carved prow like the upheld neck of a swan, but also in the general shape and with oars and square sails like Viking ships. The elves in the foreground wear pointed caps similar to those of the North Pole elves in the ‘Father Christmas’ letters [63]and of the sailors in the Hobbit picture Lake Town [127]

The painting shows a time in the mythology after the Two Trees had been destroyed. The slopes on one side of the mountain are bathed in sunlight, while those on the other side shine more coldly in the light of a crescent moon. The different layer of air depicted here seem to accord with those described in Tolkien’s Ambarkanta or Shape of the World, written in the 1930s. Usually the pure clear middle air, Ilmen, in which were the Sun, Moon, and stars, stretched directly above Valinor, but at times Vista, the lowest air, flowed in from Middle-earth, and ‘if Valinor is darkened and this air is not cleansed by the light of the Blessed Realm, it takes the form of shadows and grey mists’. The stars set by Varda in the firmanment shine brilliantly; those at top left appear to be the Pleiades.”

Lovely picture featuring Taniqueti. Nice detail with elvish boat. What other dwellings of the Valar would you like to have seen drawn?

Untitled (Mountain Landscape)
“A drawing [53] made by Tolkien at Lyme Regis one month after the Halls of Manwë is almost certainly another depiction of Taniquetil, seen from a different scale; and yet it is not Taniquetil, for the mountain now is set in a quiet landscape of field and forest, perhaps a memory of Switzerland from a visit Tolkien made there in 1911. He was a frugal artist, and often reused elements of his pictures that he thought came out well. Indeed, this mountain appeared again, nearly a decade later, redrawn by Tolkien as one of the Misty Mountains in The Hobbit.”


“The pale blue construction in the centre of the picture is probably a poorly drawn road climbing steeply up to the city. Above this appears to be a round-headed tree, perhaps a scion of one of the Two Trees given by the Valar to the Elves of Kôr. A similar form appears to the right of the tall tower.”

Has a lot of empty space with the city in the center. And the city seems oddly proportioned. Nice colors though.

The Shores of Faery
(insert picture)
“In the painting, the almost leafless trees frame the view in an art nouveau manner. The tree on the left has a crescent moon upon the curving branch, and the tree on the right a golden orb. The colours of the work change accordingly from left to right, from dark night to blazing day. The ‘lonely hill’ in the centre is Kôr with its white towers; at its feet.”

Lovely picture. And it captures the description of Kôr in the Legendarium. I like the framing device with the trees. How does this picture compare with Tanaqui above?

“Tolkien made at least twenty of these ‘visionary’ pictures between December 1911 and summer of 1913…

Among the later was a sketch, made probably in 1913, of Xanadu after Coleridge. From its roughness it seems to have been made quickly, and is on the back of a tailor’s bill evidently snatched up on the spur of the moment… It shows the ‘chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething’ in which a mighty fountain cascades down a cedar-covered slope to from the sacred river, Alph, which flow at lower left into the ‘caverns measureless to man’… The spidery ‘bridge’ spanning the chasm is not in Coleridge, nor are the two trees or lamps drawn very small just over the tops of the two cliffs; but the latter look ahead to the two trees of Valinor in ‘The Silmarillion’. Kubla Khanand Tolkien’s vision of it may also be related to his description of the place where the Elves awoke in Middle-earth. ‘Now the places about Koiviënéni the Waters of awakening are rugged and full of mighty rocks, and the stream that feeds that water therein down a deep cleft… a pale and slender thread, but the issue of the dark lake was beneath the earth into the bosom of the world.’ The colours of the sketch are fantastic rather than realistic; light pink on the tops of the cliffs, blue for the shadowed parts, red on either side of the cascading water.”


Subject User Time
JRRT Artist and Illustrator, Chapter 2 Visons, Myths and Legends Part V Saelind Send a private message to Saelind Mar 11 2007, 11:43pm
    Some nice ones here Wynnie Send a private message to Wynnie Mar 12 2007, 4:00pm
    The dragon has a person-like face. N.E. Brigand Send a private message to N.E. Brigand Mar 12 2007, 4:42pm
    I love Taniquetil a.s. Send a private message to a.s. Mar 13 2007, 10:58am
    my favotrite of all of Tolkien's art is Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Mar 13 2007, 12:20pm
        testing link Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Mar 13 2007, 1:37pm
    I have to say that the Tanaqui picture Aunt Dora Baggins Send a private message to Aunt Dora Baggins Mar 13 2007, 8:12pm
    They seem very mythical and stylized Beren IV Send a private message to Beren IV Mar 16 2007, 11:17pm


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