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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Artist & Illustrator: Chap. 3: # 2: Shop on the Edge of ... Fairy Land

NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 12 2007, 10:02pm

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JRRT Artist & Illustrator: Chap. 3: # 2: Shop on the Edge of ... Fairy Land Can't Post

First, apologies for being unable to find a scan on the ‘net of Nr. 71 in Hammond & Scull. I will describe it below, but I hope that people have access to *JRR Tolkien. Artist and Illustrator.*

A two-storey, oblong stone house with a red tile roof; set amidst fields with a road running in the foreground before the house. In background to left a rising (?) sun, in background to right some hills. A few trees in the fields. It is, at first glance, a perfectly ordinary rural scene with a country shop by the roadside. However, even before we read the inscription a few things alert us to the possibility that something is not quite ordinary with this shop: first, on the one side stands the word “Gogs” -- what on earth are they? --; and, next, the main sign over the storefront reads “Fruit for ...” -- we expect to read, of course, “sale,” but read instead “... gift” -- “fruit for gift.” No shopkeeper just gives his wares away, so, what gives? The inscription confirms that this is no ordinary shop, for there we read: “A Shop on the Edge of the Hills of Fairy Land.”

Now Tolkien drew several pictures that at first glance appear quintessentially rural, but upon closer inspection -- or upon reading of the title -- are anything but. Thus, from this chapter of Hammond & Scull, we have Nr- 73: “House Where ‘Rover’ Began His Adventures as a ‘Toy’”. Again I’ve not been able to find a scan on the ‘net; the drawing appears in most editions of *Roverandom* as well.

Rover, who will be renamed Roverandom, from this house proceeds to have all sorts of entanglements with wizards and will eventually make it to the moon where he meets a dragon. The most fantastic adventures can, it seems, begin in mundane settings, if there’s a way to get from them to what we may call “fairy land.”

(Another example: the famous painting of Hobbiton, which, at first glance looks like a country village -- till we see the hill in the background with the Hobbit-holes. Then we know that this is no ordinary country village; and, in any case, Bilbo travels from this village to meet with Elves and have an adventure with a dragon.)


Q.#1: Whart sort of an impression do Tolkien’s “country settings” make on you? Are you drawn most to the placidity of them? Or do the hints of the fantastic close to or just behind the ordinary strike you most?


In various of his stories Tolkien situates “fairy land” close to or just beyond what to all appearances is a placid little village. Smith in “Smith of Wootton Major” (granted with the aid of the star upon his brow) walks from the village straight to the “perilous realm” of Faërie -- which lies, it seems, just on the edge of town or in a nearby enchanted forest. Likewise, the road that runs through Hobbiton also leads to Rivendell and Mirkwood.


Q.#2: Do you find it re-assuring or disturbing that the “perilous realm” can lie so close to the ordinary?


Finally, let me close with a few tangential remarks on this “Road to Fairy Land” which leads from ordinary towns to the fantastic: In his *Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border* Sir Walter Scott included various poems on Thomas the Rhymer. They stand on pages 486-507; I was fortunately able to acquire a reprint, from 1869, of the original edition of 1802.

Thomas of Ercildoune, *alias* the Rhymer, lived in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The tradition maintains that, while he lay on Huntlie Bank by the Eildon Tree, he met the Queen of Elfland who whisked him away to her country...

“True Thomas lay on Huntlie Banl;
A ferlie (‘a marvel’) he spied wi’ his ee;
And there he saw a ladye bright,
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.”

Although Thomas initially mistakes her for the Virgin, she reveals her true identity and takes him with her. They ride till they come to “a desert wide” where the Queen shows Thomas three ways: one leads to Heaven, the second to the other place, but there is at last a third one...

“O see not ye that bonny road,
That winds about the fernie brae (‘hillside’)?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae (‘must go’).”

A very similar version to Sir Walter’s was published by Robert Jamieson, in *Popular Ballads and Songs*, Edinburgh 1806.


Now the older versions of the ballad (collected in *The Romance and Prophecies of Thomas of Erceldoune,* edited by J.A.H. Murray, London 1875, Early English Text Society, Original Series, Nr. 61), all have the Queen showing to Thomas not three, but four roads, and doing so moreover after they arrive in Elfland. The roads lead: 1.) from Purgatory to Heaven; 2.) straight to Heaven; 3.) to Purgatory; 4.) to the other place.

On p. LIII with note 1, Dr. Murray (who was also the editor of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary) explains how Sir Walter and Jamieson came by their versions. There was this Mrs. Brown who lived near Erceldoune, whom both Sir Walter and Jamieson visited and from whom both procured alleged copies of ancient manuscripts... It seems that Mrs. Brown, who wrote verses herself, had updated the old tale and palmed off her version on two learned antiquaries -- both of whom, incidentally, revised the poem according to their own lights. At any rate, the “third way” in Sir Walter’s ballad -- the one which leads from earth to Elfland -- and which seems to play such a rôle in Tolkien’s literary works -- derives from the creative imagination of one Mrs. Brown, who lived in Scotland around 1800.


Hyarion
The Shire

Mar 13 2007, 3:44am

Post #2 of 14 (109 views)
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The Image [In reply to] Can't Post

For those like myself who are too lazy to go get the book off the bookshelf:

http://tolkiengateway.net/...ls_of_Fairy_Land.jpg


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 13 2007, 6:05am

Post #3 of 14 (71 views)
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Thanks for that! [In reply to] Can't Post

I tried to google that picture, but found nothing and gave up rapidly since I was racing against time (i.e. my one-year-old's nap -- only when he is napping does anything get done). So, thanks very much; and I've bookmarked that website.


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Mar 13 2007, 2:24pm

Post #4 of 14 (75 views)
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here is another [In reply to] Can't Post

 



sorry it is far too late or me to be up...I'll respond later. see my post in your previous thread.
(and see my footer for gallery links)

Art Gallery Revised, ORC pic of Hawaii friends, my drawings,
Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 13 2007, 2:44pm

Post #5 of 14 (83 views)
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Very interesting story about Mrs. Brown, although it also says lots about [In reply to] Can't Post

Sir Walter Scott and Tolkien, who lived at two ends of the 19th century, and about the romantic nationalism, real and invented, that was very much a part of European literature and scholarship during that century. I wonder, though, if Tolkien knew Dr. Murray's story about Mrs. Brown quite well, and chose to cite the anachronistic poem anyway, since it served his purpose. I would give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

I judge that even the original poem is anachronistic, as is Beowulf, since Fairie predates Christianity. I would think the very first Christians in Britain would have categorized Fairie as pagan and therefore evil, and not somewhere between heaven and hell. They might, however, have co-opted some of the pagan traditions and turned them into Christian traditions. I also think the original Brits might have feared Fairie far more than their 19th century descendants. I remember reading one of the versions of the Quest for the Holy Grail, translated from the Old French, and realizing that the Christian monks who told the tale genuinely feared magic, and that Galahad was revered because he was bringing an end to the Age of Magic. I have a feeling those monks would have cheered the departure of the Elves from Middle-earth, rather than regretting it.

It is a recurring theme in Tolkien's work that Fairie lies just around the corner, or in our own backyard. However I do think Tolkien might have believed the urbanization of England was killing Fairie, or turning it into Mordor. I think of that when I read Galdor's words about Bombadil, a/k/a Iarwain, who in a different incarnation was the spirit of the Victorian countryside:

"`I know little of Iarwain save the name,' said Galdor; `but Glorfindel, I think, is right. Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills.'"

There are stories in which urban dwellers find paths to Fairie, but Tolkien did not write them. For him the path to Fairie lay on the outskirts of a country village, or beyond the last shop or inn. And usually there were forests or mountains in the distance, larger and wilder than any still found in England.

By the way, this idea of wilderness just beyond the last shop reminds me of my visit to Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is more like Toledo, Ohio than Oxford, England, but just beyond the last suburb is ... wilderness. And from time to time a bear or moose wanders into the suburb. Similarly in Kenya, suburban residents have to watch their pets, or leopards will eat them. People who don't live anywhere near wilderness, like Tolkien, love to dream about it, while those who do live near it sometimes grumble about their neighbor, much like the residents of Buckland or Bree.

As far as whether it is reassuring or disturbing, like Tolkien I like dreaming about dragons, and that means imagining that they could visit my neighborhood, or live in the woods at the end of the street, or in the sewers (which, as I sometimes tell my daughter, might account for all that steam coming out of the ground in the winter!). All the while I realize, of course, that it is just a fiction and I have much more to fear from the nut behind the wheel of the car or truck in the next lane of traffic. But that is such a boring fear.


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 13 2007, 4:21pm

Post #6 of 14 (76 views)
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Saturday night in Toledo Ohio [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
is like being nowhere at all.
All through the day, how the hours rush by
You sit in the park, and you watch the grass die

Oh, but after the sunset, the dusk and the twilight
When shadows of night start to fall
They roll back the sidewalks precisely at ten
And the people who live there are not seen again.


(From a song by Randy Sparks, best known as a John Denver recording.)

Sorry, couldn't resist. Are there echoes of Faerie in "the dusk and the twilight"? (Beyond Toledo is the Sea, at least the inland sea of Rhûn Erie.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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".


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 13 2007, 7:50pm

Post #7 of 14 (76 views)
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Yes, anything could happen after they roll up the sidewalks. [In reply to] Can't Post

And no one would know. But it's hard to picture elves congregating in a parking lot, unless they could work a drastic transformation.


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 13 2007, 11:22pm

Post #8 of 14 (77 views)
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Tolkien himself was never above "correcting" [In reply to] Can't Post

the stories which he worked on. (In fact, some of his work as a scholar, esp. an editor of ancient texts, obligated him so to do: when editors find what they think is a mistake, orthographical or otherwise, in a manuscript, they have to "correct.") He need not have disapproved fully of Mrs. Brown's activities. After all, the four roads in the older versions have struck most as slightly odd, esp. since the road from Purgatory to Heaven comes first -- why on Earth that one?

Anyway, one of the older versions -- Cotton, Vitell. E.x.leaf 240, back -- makes mention of only three roads: bizarrely, the road to Purgatory has been left out, but the road from Purgatory to Heaven kept. This seems itself a sort of correction -- reducing the number of roads from four to a more "fairy-tale-appropriate" three. (I've just finished reading all the Grimms' tales to my son: the magic number is always "three.") Yet the "correction" hardly solves the problem since there still has to be a road which gets travellers to Purgatory in the first place. Roads to Heaven and the other place probably have to remain, but what then is the "third" road that had to exist to get us to the number "three"?

I'm just playing around, of course; but this seems to be the sort of speculation which Tolkien engaged in a great deal whilst composing his legendarium. So he might have felt some attraction to a solution which made the "third road" the road to Elfland. In any case, Mrs. Brown's solution did have some appropriateness to the story itself: Thomas goes neither to Heaven nor to hell, but to a sort of "middle place" which exists in an uneasy position betwixt the other two.

Although the Elves acknowledge God -- the Queen speaks with perfect reverence of Mary --, they're not exactly on His side. It later turns out that the Elves aren't exactly on the other side either: they have an uneasy truce with the Enemy, whom they allow every seven years freely to take one of their number -- he, for his part, then leaves them alone. The Queen gets Thomas out of Elfland just before the seven years are up because she wants to make sure that the Enemy doesn't choose Thomas.

So, if Elfland is a kind of "middle place" -- why not have the third road go to it?


I've missed these boards and the opportunity to think about these stories!


Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 14 2007, 4:27am

Post #9 of 14 (52 views)
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Love your "tangential remarks"! [In reply to] Can't Post

What a great story about Mrs. Brown. And I do like the Elfland version with three roads best, of course!

I really like the idea of Faerie (or Elfland, or whatever) being just down the road, 'round the bend. When I lived in California, in a fairly heavily populated residential area, I still had opossums, racoons, and skunks living in my bushes. I loved the occasional glimpses I got of them, because it made me think that there was a bit of The Wild right there in my yard.

Of course, to a real "city mouse" all these open meadows and hills might feel just as discomfiting as city canyons are to a country dweller. The sense of rural serenity that Tolkien enjoys tweaking is widespread, but not universal.




Queen Mary II approaching Honolulu harbor
February 9, 2007, 7:30 am


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 15 2007, 1:50am

Post #10 of 14 (56 views)
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perilous realms on the edge of the ordinary [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Q.#2: Do you find it re-assuring or disturbing that the “perilous realm” can lie so close to the ordinary?



Both simultaneously. Who of us wouldn't love to glimspe Faerie, perilous as it may be?

I do find much of what Tolkien writes and draws has a connection with twisty roads and possibilities of things around the corner. This may get back to your question about why he always paints that same similar scene of a hidden valley (I'm sure it was influenced by a real life mountain experience, but why is it recurring?): hidden hobbit holes, hidden cities, roads that run...anywhere:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.


That's what's so enchanting about his prosaic country houses right on the edge of Faerie...how can we tell (aside from the little clues we may be looking for), Faerie can be around the corner anywhere.

Thomas the Rhymer reminds me of the traditional Irish story of Oisin and Niamh, the Faery Queen who carries him off to the land of immortal youth, etc. Perilous but lovely, the world of the Faery.

a.s.


"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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Mar 15 2007, 4:00am

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"The Orgog" [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
However, even before we read the inscription a few things alert us to the possibility that something is not quite ordinary with this shop: first, on the one side stands the word “Gogs” -- what on earth are they? --; and, next, the main sign over the storefront reads “Fruit for ...” -- we expect to read, of course, “sale,” but read instead “... gift” -- “fruit for gift.” No shopkeeper just gives his wares away, so, what gives? The inscription confirms that this is no ordinary shop, for there we read: “A Shop on the Edge of the Hills of Fairy Land.” [emphasis added]


I have just been reminded that Tolkien wrote a story, unpublished, titled "The Orgog", that Hammond and Scull mention in connection with this painting, based on the appearance of that very word "Gogs", though "there is no mention of a shop like this in the (unfinished) typescript preserved". H&S vaguely describe the story: "a strange, convoluted tale of an odd creature travelling through a fantastic landscape" (p. 77 for both quotes).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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".


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 15 2007, 9:12am

Post #12 of 14 (68 views)
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I do wish that Hammond & Scull [In reply to] Can't Post

had been a little less cryptic in describing that story and in giving their reasons for connecting this drawing with it. Reading between the lines, I suspect that they have stronger evidence than what they give, but, then again, until that story is published we can't know.


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 16 2007, 12:53am

Post #13 of 14 (70 views)
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even the S&H Reader's Guide [In reply to] Can't Post

is pretty silent on the issue, just mentioning basically what it says in the Illustrator book: that it's an unpublished story written for his kids and probably related to that picture.

In an excerpt from The Annotated Hobbit by Douglas Anderson at the Houghton Mifflin web site, it has the following, which again is no information beyond what we read in Illustrator:


Around 1924, Tolkien began telling tales to his children,
sometimes writing them down. One of these early efforts is “The Orgog,” an
unfinished tale of a strange creature traveling through a fantastic landscape.
Another, a short novella called Roverandom that was published posthumously
in 1998, was first told extemporaneously to his children in September 1925
but apparently was not written down until around Christmas 1927. Mr. Bliss,
an illustrated booklet published in a facsimile edition in 1982, was written in
1928, according to a summer diary of Michael Tolkien’s, though the only
surviving manuscript appears to date from the early 1930s.


I would dearly love to see this...

a.s.

"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


Kimi
Forum Admin / Moderator

Mar 16 2007, 1:30am

Post #14 of 14 (85 views)
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Gogs [In reply to] Can't Post

This may be sheer coincidence, but "Gogs" immediately made me think of Gog and Magog, particularly in their British forms.




Promises to Keep: a novel set in 19th Century New Zealand.

The Passing of Mistress Rose

Do we find happiness so often that we should turn it off the box when it happens to sit there?

- A Room With a View

 
 

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