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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Artist and Illustrator: Chap. 3: #4: Goblins, Bears, and a Whale

NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 15 2007, 9:03am


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JRRT Artist and Illustrator: Chap. 3: #4: Goblins, Bears, and a Whale Can't Post

I’ll start with the whale. Below there should be Tolkien’s watercolour of the Mer-King’s gardens in “Roverandom”:



Note the whale -- called Uin: presumably the whale in Book of Lost Tales, chap. 5. Now in the sub-thread that Curious started in thread #3 (Mountains of the Moon) there is some good discussion by him, Drogo, and Daughter of Nienna on Tolkien as an amateur draughtsman who knew his limits. I pretty much agree with what they say. This particular watercoulour of Tolkien's, however, is rather ambitous: “The Gardens of the Mer-King’s Palace.”

Q.#1: What do people think of this watercolour as art?

(Squire -- you’ve subjected the Brothers Hildebrandt to some searing criticism [I’ve been reading the past threads, you see!]; what is your analysis of this one of Tolkien’s?)

My take (which please criticise!): The selections of colours (pale greens and blues) is suitably “watery,” and a blurriness such as one would expect under water is achieved.

As to composition: The whale is entering the picture at the upper left hand; that naturally guides the eye along a diagonal line through the brightly white plants and past the fish to the Mer-King’s palace -- which gives the picture its name. At the lower right hand a road begins which also leads the eye directly the palace. All the same, the palace still seems too much off-centre, but perhaps the focus is to be on the gardens? They aren’t exactly centred either, however, being mostly in the lower left quadrant of the painting. Here, things strike me as a little cluttered, although the sea-squirt (or whatever it is) in the foreground is charmingly executed. All in all, the composition could be better in the opinion of me who couldn’t draw to save my life.


Finally, this underwater scene stands, I think, alone in Tolkien’s work -- or have I missed something? -- for hardly any motif connects this painting to his others.

Q.#2: Do you think that this painting became more ambitious and perhaps even better (as a painting) than many of the others because Tolkien could not rely on motifs borrowed from other drawings and had to create everything fresh (from the octopus onwards)?



Now the goblins: Tolkien wrote much of goblins, but with the exception of several drawings for the Father Christmas letters he never drew any:


(Goblins are in the second panel from the top, with Father Christmas, Polar Bar, and Cave Bear inspecting cave paintings on the right side, with goblins lurking on the left: hints of Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves in the Misty Mountains? or of Gandalf and the Fellowship in Moria?)

Next:


(Polas Bear is throttling some goblins.)


Q.#3: These goblins are little, black, nasty things. How much do you think they have to do with the more fearsome orcs of the LotR and the Silmarillion? Or are these the more comical goblins from *The Hobbit*? Or should we view these goblins as fully separate from the rest of Tolkien’s work?



Finally, bears. Be forewarned, however, that here I don’t have a a question, just some difuse rambling. Tolkien worked his children’s teddy bears into the story Mr. Bliss. There are two pictures in which the bears appear, of which I’ve found no scans in the little time I’ve had to look -- sorry! In one of the drawings the bears are sitting at table in a hall which bears (ouch!) a remarkable resemblance to Beorn’s hall in *The Hobbit*:



Now, Beorn not only can turn into a bear, but his name in Old English even means “bear.” However, because of the bear’s strength, it’s also more or less a kenning or riddling circumlocution for “warrior” -- which eventually became the word’s other meaning. Moreover the word has a connexion with the greatest of English heroes, Beowulf, whose name is another kenning: literally, “bee-wolf” or “the one who robs bees (i.e. of their honey) like a wolf” i.e. “bear.” Finally, there exists an Icelandic saga, the Saga of Hrolf Kraki, which contains an analogous tale to Beowulf’s slaying of Grendel: here the hero is Bjarki or “Little Bear,” son of Bjorn (“Bear”) and Bera (“She-Bear”). Anyway, Beorn and his hall may have gotten their start as the Tolkien children’s teddies; and bears immediately suggest many Old English and Norse legends.

Subject User Time
JRRT Artist and Illustrator: Chap. 3: #4: Goblins, Bears, and a Whale NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 15 2007, 9:03am
    A quick question re: Bros. H and Tolkien's visual style drogo Send a private message to drogo Mar 15 2007, 12:56pm
        Posted, as requested, in the "Hildebrandt Parting Shot" thread. /nt NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 16 2007, 8:25am
            Thanks, and link drogo Send a private message to drogo Mar 16 2007, 11:52am
                I hope that we can see that repost at the Eiszmann discussion as well squire Send a private message to squire Mar 16 2007, 2:48pm
                    I'm looking forward to the discussion of Eiszmann. NZ Strider Send a private message to NZ Strider Mar 16 2007, 7:11pm
    "Like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea" squire Send a private message to squire Mar 15 2007, 1:07pm
    focus on the gardens Wynnie Send a private message to Wynnie Mar 15 2007, 2:20pm
        I love your connection to the other garden pictures. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 16 2007, 8:51am
    The Sea King's palace looks like Magic Rocks to me. Elizabeth Send a private message to Elizabeth Mar 15 2007, 4:29pm
    Mer-King’s Gardens Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Mar 16 2007, 2:26am
        "a great mural for the kids room or bathroom" dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Mar 16 2007, 3:35pm
    As others have noted, I see compositional elements from other pictures. Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 16 2007, 9:27am
    Oh, and about those black goblins (and the bears), Curious Send a private message to Curious Mar 16 2007, 9:49am
    Mr Bliss Links - two Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Mar 16 2007, 10:29pm
        Thanks for the links... diedye Send a private message to diedye Mar 20 2007, 12:47am
            You're welcome / Daughter of Nienna Send a private message to Daughter of Nienna Mar 20 2007, 7:36pm

 
 
 

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