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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Designing the Doors of Durin

Luthien Rising
Lorien


Mar 20 2007, 6:35pm

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JRRT Author & Illustrator, ch. 5: LOTR: Designing the Doors of Durin Can't Post

The Moon now shone upon the grey face of the rock; but they could see nothing else for a while. Then slowly on the surface, where the wizard's hands had passed, faint lines appeared, like slender veins of silver running in the stone. At first they were no more than pale gossamer-threads, so fine that they only twinkled fitfully where the Moon caught them, but steadily they grew broader and clearer, until their design could be guessed.

At the top, as high as Gandalf could reach, was an arch of interlacing letters in an Elvish character. Below, though the threads were in places blurred or broken, the outline could be seen of an anvil and a hammer surmounted by a crown with seven stars. Beneath these again were two trees, each bearing crescent moons. More clearly than all else there shone forth in the middle of the door a single star with many rays. "There are the emblems of Durin!" cried Gimli.

"And there is the Tree of the High Elves!" said Legolas.

"And the Star of the House of Fëanor," said Gandalf. "They are wrought of ithildin that mirrors only starlight and moonlight, and sleeps until it is touched by one who speaks words now long forgotten in Middle-earth. It is long since I heard them, and I thought deeply before I could recall them to my mind."

"What does the writing say?" asked Frodo, who was trying to decipher the inscription on the arch. "I thought I knew the elf-letters but I cannot read these."

"The words are in the elven-tongue of the West of Middle-earth in the Elder Days," answered Gandalf. "But they do not say anything of importance to us. They say only: The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. And underneath small and faint is written: I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.'

"What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?" asked Merry.


It must have been quite irresistible, the possibility of illustrating this more “adult” book, at least occasionally. And how much more irresistible could it be than here, at the Doors of Durin? (Well, maybe a little ...)

In this thread we’ll trace the development of Tolkien’s design for the doors, from an early pencil-and-ink illustration on a manuscript page (these are my personal favourites, for sentimental reasons and for what they suggest about the important of drawing for Tolkien’s writing process) to the final full-page printed illustration. In each version, Tolkien alters both the illustration and the surrounding text.



#1 - pencil and black ink, with manuscript text (#150, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)



online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-155.jpg


#2 - pencil and blue ink (#151, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)



online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-154.jpg


#3 - pencil and black ink (#152, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)



online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-152.jpg


#4 - pencil and black ink (#153, p. 158 in Hammond and Scull)



online at: http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-153.jpg


#5 - the final printed illustration (#154, p. 159 in Hammond and Scull)



A large version may be seen here: http://www.aumania.it/fa/tolkien/036.jpg


1. Tolkien adds and subtracts symbols from his drawing as he develops it – the ground is added beneath the trees and a second arch line beneath the first, while the two crescent moons disappear. Do you care? Why does Tolkien care?


2. The first manuscript illustration is much rougher than the next, and Tolkien is already editing it just as he is editing the text he has written above it. Yet the illustrations after that show none of the kinds of self-editing on them that his manuscript shows right through to the finished book. Admittedly, I might be the only one here who finds that interesting, but there you are. Is Tolkien a different artist-in-action than a writer-in-action? Or do you find other similarities in his crafting process? (This one’s for you folks whose Tolkien libraries exceed mine.)


3. Most interesting, of course, is the stylistic progress of the Doors of Durin, from squat-appearing half-circles containing childlike, simplistic symbols to an elegant arch of something like neo-Grecian proportions and all their Grecian column parts, with elaborately stylized trees wrapping themselves around, like something off a William Morris wallpaper. How does this development speak to the Dwarven culture that the Doors of Durin represent?


4. And this is where I drop in a throwaway line about Elvish text (and stylized English text) as illustration – but you, of course, know that it’s not really throwaway at all, and just might have something to add to it.

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.

(This post was edited by Luthien Rising on Mar 20 2007, 6:38pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 21 2007, 11:18am

Post #2 of 14 (127 views)
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that pretty Elvish script [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
1. Tolkien adds and subtracts symbols from his drawing as he develops it – the ground is added beneath the trees and a second arch line beneath the first, while the two crescent moons disappear. Do you care? Why does Tolkien care?




I don't care about the moons, because they look awkward to me, in both renditions. Tolkien might care, because of his meticulous attention to "detail". He drew his illustration to exactly mirror his text (I think he did, haven't traced all the changes actually!) and not the text to match his illustration. I like the last picture the best, at any rate, and it has no crescent moons.

I just want to point out that the "crescent" shape is retained in the leaves of the trees in the finished (and published) illustration.

And I feel all "arty" and everything, pointing that out! Whoo. This series is teaching me something about art???

Sly



Quote
2. The first manuscript illustration is much rougher than the next, and Tolkien is already editing it just as he is editing the text he has written above it. Yet the illustrations after that show none of the kinds of self-editing on them that his manuscript shows right through to the finished book. Admittedly, I might be the only one here who finds that interesting, but there you are. Is Tolkien a different artist-in-action than a writer-in-action?




Hmmm. Maybe this is because in this instance, he is drawing AFTER he writes a description. In other words, he wasn't "working stuff out" in his drawing, he was doing it in text and then drawing it. The editing was done to the text, in other words, and not to the drawing. He only changed the drawing as he changed the text.



Quote
4. And this is where I drop in a throwaway line about Elvish text (and stylized English text) as illustration – but you, of course, know that it’s not really throwaway at all, and just might have something to add to it.




Well, of course to people like me who can't read the Elvish text no matter how many times they look at the appendix, the written script just looks nice on the paper. It's "pretty". H&S explain:

"And although they were vividly described in the text, Tolkien felt that they should be illustrated as well--along with the Ring inscription in tengwar...and the runes inscribed on Balin's tomb...--for the same reason that he had illustrated the 'moonrunes' in The Hobbit, because the letters were unusual and interesting."

I agree with Tolkien.

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


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 21 2007, 1:30pm

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"...along with the Ring inscription in tengwar..." [In reply to] Can't Post

Interesting that H&S say that Tolkien wanted that on these doors, since what's written there in all sketches is neither the Ring inscription, nor the exact same tengwar script (for example, tehtar are used only in the lower inscription, and only for certain vowels).

And the letters, instead of being "flowing", are very rounded and "fancy" - maybe, that was the Dwarvish script preference?

The letters really are what is written down under the doors in the final drawing, "ennyn durin aran moria" - break - "pedo mellon a minno", and underneath "im narvi hain echant: celebrimbor o eregion teithant i thiw hin".

Tolkien put a little bit of "personalization" of the doors' creators on them: the hard "c" for Celebrimbor is upper-left, and the "n" for Narvi is upper-right! No small signature when these guys signed their work - oversized initials and that "statement of authenticity" advertised their artistry to the world!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!"


drogo
Lorien


Mar 21 2007, 2:59pm

Post #4 of 14 (95 views)
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Tolkien the designer and Tolkien the linguist [In reply to] Can't Post

What fascinates me about these "illustrations" is how they combine Tolkien's design aesthetic--and as we noted in squire's discussion, Tolkien is perhaps at his best when doing abstract design motifs to accent his pages, etc--with his love of invented script. Language and visual representation are one for Tolkien, and this door is a perfect example of how he loves to play with both. The other great example from this part of FORT are color leaves of the Book of Marzabul (which sadly only made it into the 50th Anniversary Eds.).

I only wish Tolkien had included more of these designs/illustrations in his work. Yes, the exigencies of post-war British publication and all. Still, it would have been cool if Tolkien's designs for the dust jackets had made it, at least! But at least we got the Eye of Sauron/One Ring/Ring verse versus Narya design on the first British edition (see my avatar).


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)

(This post was edited by drogo on Mar 21 2007, 3:01pm)


a.s.
Valinor


Mar 21 2007, 3:18pm

Post #5 of 14 (108 views)
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darn those ellipses anyway... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Interesting that H&S say that Tolkien wanted that on these doors, since what's written there in all sketches is neither the Ring inscription, nor the exact same tengwar script (for example, tehtar are used only in the lower inscription, and only for certain vowels).



I used them in my quote from H&S to cut out the references to the volumes where those things (the Ring inscription, the runes on Balin's tomb) were printed. H&S meant the OTHER examples of where Tolkien included runes/script, not that the Ring inscription was on the door illustration.

Sorry for the confusion!!!

Blush

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Some say once you're gone, you're gone forever, and some say you're gonna come back.
Some say you rest in the arms of the Savior if sinful ways you lack.
Some say that they're coming back in a garden, bunch of carrots and little sweet peas.
I think I'll just let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 21 2007, 3:47pm

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*phew* [In reply to] Can't Post

My apologies too Crazy - I'd just re-read that section of Hammond & Scull, and had gotten the wrong impression from it, I'd thought they were referring to the Doors!

(The Moria-type, not the Morrison-type...)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Confusticate and bebother these dwarves!"


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 21 2007, 5:27pm

Post #7 of 14 (127 views)
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I'm not a fan of those quasi-Greek columns. [In reply to] Can't Post

First of all, I'm not even sure they are straight. Doesn't the one on the right look like it is leaning to the right in the final version? And the one on the left may be leaning to the left, although not quite as much? I suppose the tapering is meant to give the illusion of size, but I'm not sure it is worth it if it also makes the columns look like they are leaning and asymmetric.

But even if they were straight and symmetric, they are too Greek, especially those Ionic capitals at the top. There are many ways to draw or construct columns and capitals to columns -- why choose something that seems so Greek? The Ionic capital is so distinctive that it seems out of place.

I like the rest of the design, though, and particularly the script, which obviously was a labor of love. The script is so beautiful and original that it makes the rest of the design -- even the trees -- look a bit slapdash and plain by comparison. Note that the original two drawings focused just on the script. Then Tolkien decided to add the columns and trees, and made them gradually bigger, but left them rather plain. The focal point remains the script, and even though I like the trees I would have been just as happy with the original design, in which the arch rest on pedestals instead of grand columns.

Note that the doors are the work of a dwarf, but the drawing is the work of an elf. Therefore this drawing does not really reflect on Dwarven culture, but rather on Elven culture. I find the classical reference intriguing. We don't see this in Rivendell and Lothlorien (except perhaps when Anduril is reforged), but the text also refers to Celebrimbor and his Noldor elves as builders in stone and craftsmen in metal and jewels who shared many characteristics with dwarves.

In this design we glimpse the heirs of the builders of Gondolin and Tirion, and the builders of the towers on Weathertop and the Tower Hills. And here, of course, we see the culture which also made the Great Rings. It's just a glimpse, like a lone Greek column may be a glimpse of a once-great classical culture, but Tolkien makes a clear distinction between the elves of Hollin in the Second Age and the elves of Rivendell and Lothlorien in the Third Age. If only he could have avoided the Ionic capitals! But maybe he considered it a subtle reference to the ancient Greeks, and liked the allusion.


Morwen
Rohan


Mar 21 2007, 7:03pm

Post #8 of 14 (90 views)
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Columns [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you're right about the asymmetry, although in the finished version I had to look hard to see it. Tolkien may have intended a subtle Greek reference, or he may have used that style because the curlicues on top of the columns are similar to the curving branches of the trees.

I rather like the slightly lopsided, freehand look of the piece. It makes the drawing look ancient and a bit mysterious, like an old sketch rather than an architecural rendering. I remember going back and forth from the drawing to the appendices, trying to decipher the beautiful elvish letters.

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Curious
Half-elven

Mar 21 2007, 8:12pm

Post #9 of 14 (89 views)
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We can pretend Frodo drew it from memory. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


paleostone
Bree

Mar 22 2007, 2:33am

Post #10 of 14 (80 views)
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a couple of thing [In reply to] Can't Post

as to the Greek columns -- as much of what occurs in Tolkien is medieval in format and he is protraying in the doors work was left from the Eldar days, the elder days to medieval Europe would have been ancient Greece.

I am intrigued by the increasing grace of the evolving drawings. It goes from a short stumpy door maybe tall enough for dwarves to a tall elegant elvish design. In each step of the design process the elegance increases.

The trees also interest me. They go from being little buds to tall elegant trees. They go from behind the columns to finially wrapping around then. I would assume this is an increasing elvish presence in the drawing. Maybe this represents a transition in Tolkien's mind of Moria from strictly a dwarf realm to a city that was visited often by elves ie the comment -- there was much coming and going between elves and dwarves in those days . they were happier times --(or something to that effect) In everthing I have read (which is not more that the Silmarilian, LOTR and Hobbit) this is the only place where there is any mention of dwarves and elves doing more than tolerating each other (with the exception of Gimli and Legolas of course)


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 22 2007, 10:41am

Post #11 of 14 (73 views)
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In the Sil the Noldor got along well with dwarves, [In reply to] Can't Post

but also had little need of them, since they did their own stonework, smithing, etc. It was the Sindar and Nandor who had a tense relationship with the dwarves, and indeed they also had a tense relationship with the Noldor, with the exception of Galadriel. But Thingol, unlike the Noldor, needed the dwarves, and employed them, despite their tense relationship.

In LotR, of course, Celebrimbor may have needed the dwarves of Moria not for their skills, but for their mithril. And of course these were not the dwarves who had killed Thingol.

I agree with you about the significance of the Greek columns. I still think the Ionic capitals are too obviously Greek.

Perhaps the last design is more elegant, but it makes the script that much smaller, and for me the script is by far the best part of the design. It was always Elvish script, though, which leads me to believe that it was always intended to be an Elvish design. I think Tolkien just started with the most important part of the design -- the script -- and then decided that the arch alone was not elegant enough for an Elvish design. But the trees and columns, although elegant, still strike me as rather plain compared to the script, and something of an afterthought.


Advising Elf
Rohan


Mar 22 2007, 4:15pm

Post #12 of 14 (89 views)
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I think Covalent capitals would have been much better. [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

;o)

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Curious
Half-elven

Mar 22 2007, 4:43pm

Post #13 of 14 (79 views)
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How about Times New Roman capitals? [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Apr 4 2007, 1:02am

Post #14 of 14 (101 views)
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Runes add air of believability [In reply to] Can't Post

2. Is Tolkien a different artist-in-action than a writer-in-action
3. Does this development speak to the Dwarven culture that the Doors of Durin represent?

I think it was a give and take kind of thing in this situation with the doors going back and forth in the editing process, but the door had to match the text. I think he used the text to work out the doors, then the pictures of the doors to work out ideas for the text to make sure it worked visually.

I like the final version the best, though I do think the columns don't seem mix well with the Elvish nature of the rest of the design…but that just might fit in with the theme of Elves and Dwarves working in harmony.


4. And this is where I drop in a throwaway line about Elvish text (and stylized English text) as illustration – but you, of course, know that it’s not really throwaway at all, and just might have something to add to it.

I would add to what a.s. says. About the letter being beautiful to look at and her Tolkien quote "… because the letters were unusual and interesting…" — I think they add the air of believability, particularly because there is a entire appendix devoted to it the languages.

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