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

squire
Valinor


Feb 20 2007, 6:15am

Post #1 of 20 (3055 views)
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**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – Mirkwood** Can't Post

The Dwarves and the Hobbit, equipped by Beorn but abandoned by Gandalf, enter the great forest of Mirkwood, which they must pass through to get to the Lonely Mountain.

From The Hobbit, Chapter VIII, ‘Flies and Spiders’:
By the afternoon they had reached the eaves of Mirkwood, and were resting almost beneath the great overhanging boughs of its outer trees. Their trunks were huge and gnarled, their branches twisted, their leaves were dark and long. Ivy grew on them and trailed along the ground.



88. Mirkwood (published first British edition only)
Click here for a larger view.



Tolkien’s illustration of Mirkwood was in black and white, but done with washes, which required a half-tone glossy plate. It was the only plate in the first British edition; all the other illustrations were the pen-and-ink black-and-whites, including the black-and-white version of Hobbiton.

For the simultaneous and better-funded American publishers’ edition, to prevent their using their own illustrator, Tolkien prepared color paintings (we’ve already looked at Hobbiton, Rivendell and the Eagle) over the 1937 summer vacation. The British publisher, seeing their first edition sell out and with Christmas coming, grabbed these also for their pricier second edition; but they dropped the Mirkwood plate, which thus only appears in the first British edition.

Do you think this picture should have been kept in The Hobbit?

How closely does the illustration match Tolkien’s writing about Mirkwood? What is right or wrong about it?

How does Tolkien use line vs. tone to get the effect he wants?

If you were buying a Hobbit for a young reader, would you seek out one of the facsimile editions with Tolkien’s illustrations, or would you go for one of the more modern ones, say Alan Lee’s?


They walked in single file. The entrance to the path was like a sort of arch leading into a gloomy tunnel made by two great trees that leant together, too old and strangled with ivy and hung with lichen to bear more than a few blackened leaves. The path itself was narrow and wound in and out among the trunks. Soon the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listened. As theft eyes became used to the dimness they could see a little way to either side in a sort of darkened green glimmer. Occasionally a slender beam of sun that had the luck to slip in through some opening in the leaves far above, and still more luck in not being caught in the tangled boughs and matted twigs beneath, stabbed down thin and bright before them. But this was seldom, and it soon ceased altogether.



”88A”. Mirkwood (American rendering from Tolkien’s illustration)
Click here for a larger view.



Once the Americans had chosen four of Tolkien’s colorful paintings for the plates, they had another artist redraw the Mirkwood wash painting, substituting pen-and-ink hatching for the half-tones, which allowed it to be printed on the regular pages like the other black-and-white illustrations. However, in more recent postwar reprints of the American The Hobbit, even the black-and-white Mirkwood is omitted.
Hammond and Scull do not show the American ink-line version, but I own it and scanned it at one point for a Letters discussion, so we can look at it too.

Any noticeable differences? How did the American illustrator achieve so close a copy?

Which is the superior work of art?

Where is the spider?

There were queer noises too, grunts, scufflings, and hurryings in the undergrowth, and among the leaves that lay piled endlessly thick in places on the forest-floor; but what made the noises he could not see. The nastiest things they saw were the cobwebs: dark dense cobwebs with threads extraordinarily thick, often stretched from tree to tree, or tangled in the lower branches on either side of them.
. . .
But they had to go on and on, long after they were sick for a sight of the sun and of the sky, and longed for the feel of wind on their faces. There was no movement of air down under the forest-roof, and it was everlastingly still and dark and stuffy.



54. Tur-na-fúin (published only in 1974 Tolkien calendar as Fangorn.)
Click here for a larger view.



Finally, at the risk of treading on Saelind’s toes, I’ll throw in the “earlier version” of Mirkwood. “Earlier” in quotes, because it is also the “later version”!

Tolkien had painted this one in 1928 to illustrate a scene from a Silmarillion adventure, where Túrin rescues the Elf Flinding (later Gwindor) in the First Age version of Mirkwood, which in Elvish is Taur-na-Fúin. You can see Túrin on the ground at lower left, but it’s hard to see Flinding lying under the right-hand root of the big center tree. Tolkien offered this as a colored plate for The Hobbit, though he admitted the presence of the two heroes complicated things – and in the end he redrew it in ink and wash, as above. But much later at the end of his life he agreed to let it stand for Fangorn Forest in the first J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar for 1974.

From The Children of Hurin:
There greyly loomed of girth unguessed
In growth of ages the topless trunks
Of trees enchanted


From The Tale of Turambar:
[Taur-na-Fuin is] a dark and perilous region so thick with pines of giant growth that none but the goblins might find a track, having eyes that pierced the deepest gloom.


From The Two Towers (on Fangorn Forest):
'Yes, it is all very dim, and stuffy, in here,' said Pippin. . . . Look at all those weeping, trailing, beards and whiskers of lichen! And most of the trees seem to be half covered with ragged dry leaves that have never fallen. Untidy. I can't imagine what spring would look like here, if it ever comes; still less a spring-cleaning.'
'But the Sun at any rate must peep in sometimes.' said Merry. 'It does not look or feel at all like Bilbo's description of Mirkwood. That was all dark and black, and the home of dark black things. This is just dim, and frightfully tree-ish. You can't imagine "animals" living here at all, or staying for long.'


What changes did Tolkien make in adapting this for his Mirkwood illustration for The Hobbit?

Does the addition of figures give you a satisfactory sense of scale?

Does this painting work best for Taur-na-Fuin, Mirkwood, or Fangorn? How?

Since Tolkien says explicitly that Fangorn does not feel like Mirkwood, why would he allow essentially the same picture to stand for both?





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


(This post was edited by squire on Feb 20 2007, 6:18am)


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 20 2007, 11:46am

Post #2 of 20 (912 views)
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mushroom people [In reply to] Can't Post

Does the addition of figures give you a satisfactory sense of scale?


Hmmmm. In the first picture, the black and white English ed one, are those toadstools or figures under that tree on the right? It's interesting that my mind is making them out to be the dwarves with Bilbo, and yet they are the same size as some of the other mushrooms. So they must be mushrooms.

But some of the mushrooms are half as big as the figure lying under the tree in the last picture. So either they are gigantic mushrooms, a very tiny person, or something is wrong with the scale.

(Or something is wrong with my mind! I HEARD THAT!)

Is that vague shape with some appendages on the bottom right of the first two pictures the spider?

As to the editions, I would buy one with the author's pictures. Maybe they are or aren't "good art", I really don't know, but they add very much to the feel of "The Hobbit". I own an edition I can't even remember getting. It has a bookplate I added marked "ex libris" with my married name, so I know I couldn't have owned it prior to 1978. It appears to be a fascimile edition or reprint, copyrighted 1966 by "JRR Tolkien", printed by HMco. In a green leather cover with a green box. The page ends are speckled green, and all the "black and white" illustrations in the book are printed with a green background (they are green and black, instead of white and black). It includes the color illustrations by Tolkien (Smaug, the barrels, etc). Since I rarely read the Hobbit, I can't compare it to any other edition sentimentally speaking. I know it's not the edition I read in childhood (which would have been from the library) but it's the one I like best.

I like the pictures better than the story, actually, but that's another topic!

a.s.



"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


drogo
Lorien


Feb 20 2007, 12:09pm

Post #3 of 20 (903 views)
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Mirkwood, Fangorn, Taur-na-Fuin, it's all trees [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, just kidding!

I like the original plate from the British edition, more incentive for me to get one of those things! The American redrawing is a bit cruder, to my eye, and the cross-hatching is more irritating than anything.

Because I first saw the color painting as Fangorn, and it appeared on the first paperback copy of the Two Towers I ever read, it is always linked to that forest in my mind.

A few thoughts, though. First, it is not oppressive or mossy enough. Mirkwood needs to be stifling, oppressive, and closed, but the stars shining through the trees in all the images makes the forest appear much more airy and open than the text would have us believe. There are also no leaves on those trees, though perhaps that has to do with the perspective (squire, you must comment on Tolkien's use of perspective now that you have opened the floodgates! And to stress that, I will throw a smiley at you! Wink). The spindly trunks look very thin, almost like an Aspen forest in New Mexico, but the effect is not quite what Tolkien aims for in his Mirkwood description, nor in his descriptions of Fangorn or Taur-na-Fuin earlier. I know absolutely nothing of British tree varieties, so those images could be accurate, but they don't look like the gnarled monster trees that could eat Hobbits or go to war.

This is another one of those iconic images for me along with the Hobbiton painting (the FOTR paperback cover) and the base of Barad-dur (ROTK). But it is perhaps too abstract, too sterile, an image of a forest in comparison to the lush, overgrown, dense forests depicted in Tolkien's prose.


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)

(This post was edited by drogo on Feb 20 2007, 12:14pm)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 20 2007, 5:19pm

Post #4 of 20 (897 views)
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Tolkien prefers the stylized [In reply to] Can't Post

image again here, it seems. Instead of showing what he describes in words - overhanging boughs, twisted branches - he shows just smooth, straight "stems" of trees, with their tops unseen. This gives a nice sense of the hobbit's-eye-view, and the sinister feel of the description comes across in those writhing, almost alive-looking roots. The image is striking, but not realistic in tone or intent, I think, and not literally faithful to the text either.


Draupne
Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 20 2007, 7:43pm

Post #5 of 20 (849 views)
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Aren't the trees in Mirkwood quite huge? [In reply to] Can't Post

Then those mushrooms are slightly bigger than what's normal here. Don't think you'd need a lot of them to make a meal.


Your post reminded me of some of my notes from marine acoustics. I think the lecturer was talking about hydrophones. Or possibly cods burping. My notes consisted of a drawing of a enourmous mushroom and a very small person trying to pick it.


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Feb 21 2007, 3:11am

Post #6 of 20 (854 views)
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nice trees [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with drogo and FarFromHome that the forest in Tolkien's illustration doesn't match the text. They are too tidy and slender and there is way too much light in the picture. The American version is a little darker and I prefer it for that reason, but it still doesn't look like Mirkwood to me. It could be the Woody End for all I can tell. The figures and spider are insignificant to the point of being unnoticeable. That being said, I do like pictures of trees. My "Hobbit" that I grew up with was a paperback without any illustrations at all (except the cover). I'd like to see other illustrators' versions of Mirkwood.
*goes off to Google*

Where's Frodo?


Ainu Laire
Tol Eressea


Feb 21 2007, 5:58am

Post #7 of 20 (878 views)
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It really doesn't match my vision of Mirkwood [In reply to] Can't Post

I imagine that these are more of normal-looking woods, like Chetwood at night or something.

When it comes to representations of Mirkwood, Alan Lee just blows everyone else out of the water (from the few artists I have seen, at least). I love Lee's representation of it. It is completely how I imagined it when I first read the book.

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Aerin
Grey Havens


Feb 21 2007, 6:12am

Post #8 of 20 (820 views)
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Totally agree about Lee. [In reply to] Can't Post

He's definitely got a way with woods.


a.s.
Valinor


Feb 21 2007, 10:57am

Post #9 of 20 (871 views)
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so the mushrooms really are big? [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm trying to work out whether imagining the trees as bigger than usual makes the pictured mushrooms bigger or smaller. This is kind of like those SAT questions that show a 3-D figure and then the same 3-D figure rotated, and then another 3-D figure with three choices and asking you: This is to this, and this is to?

I am not too good at spatial orientation questions...(where's the "scratching head" smilie?)

but anyway, given the scale of the person in the last picture, the mushrooms are larger than the ordinary. Right?

Now: I hate to say this in front of the whole RR, but I don't understand your statement:


Quote
I think the lecturer was talking about hydrophones. Or possibly cods burping. My notes consisted of a drawing of a enourmous mushroom and a very small person trying to pick it.



I am sure there's a word play in there somewhere...right? Or a reference to Alice and her mushroom eating experiences? Kind of bored, were you, and thinking you had drifted into an alternate universe where cods burp?

Help!

Wink {I just realized that if you hold your cursor over the smilies on the left, their little tags appear in a javascript message on the bottom of the screen to tell you which smilie is which. This one is labeled ;)...}

a.s.

"an seileachan"

The Lost Mod Power: An Elegy (with apologies to Wordsworth)

What though the mod power which was once so bright
Be now FOREVER taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the stats, of glory in the power,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.


drogo
Lorien


Feb 21 2007, 11:08am

Post #10 of 20 (833 views)
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Lee's forest [In reply to] Can't Post

is more overgrown and Gothic -- the kind of forest I envisioned reading about Mirkwood (or the other ancient forests in Tolkien).


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


drogo
Lorien


Feb 21 2007, 12:14pm

Post #11 of 20 (851 views)
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Hmmm, those big mushrooms [In reply to] Can't Post

Bilbo must have brought them back to the Shire, and then the more enterprising members of the Sackville-Baggins clan started selling Mirkwood Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches in their family dining tavern in Michel Delving, "TEI-Highday's."* When Elven delicacies like tofu, hummus, and bean sprouts were introduced in the Fourth Age, the first Hobbit vegetarian restaurant was born.







----------------
*"Thank Eru It's Highday" (see Appendix D on the Hobbit calendar)


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Draupne
Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 21 2007, 8:48pm

Post #12 of 20 (831 views)
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Cods burp [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, in the mating season the cods make so much noise they confuse the sonars etc. of submarines. So the lecturer could very well have been talking about cods and possibly about the noises they make. I can't have been paying much attention since I just drew a big mushroom.


There's some very interesting mushrooms growing in the university park though. Could take you on a quite interesting trip if you ate them.


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Feb 21 2007, 8:49pm

Post #13 of 20 (843 views)
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twisty vines and branches [In reply to] Can't Post

Q: Do you think this picture should have been kept in The Hobbit?

A: I understand the choice to leave it out. It would be inconsistent to have a B&W in a book with all color images. But that does not mean I don’t miss it.

Q: How closely does the illustration match Tolkien’s writing about Mirkwood? What is right or wrong about it? How does Tolkien use line vs. tone to get the effect he wants?
A: The tone of the image matches very well the tone of the story about Mirkwood. However, I imagine more twisty vines and branches. The trees seem too straight up an down.
As a stand-alone image, it works for me: the texture, the line, the rhythm an pattern of it appeals to me. It has a graphic feel to it.

Q: Any noticeable differences? How did the American illustrator achieve so close a copy?
A: very few, it is slightly more detailed which shows in the ground. I suppose he traced the original. How did they get away with that?!?@

Q: Where is the spider?
A: lower right corner. Msut be a baby.

Q: What changes did Tolkien make in adapting this for his Mirkwood illustration for The Hobbit?
A: the ground is more even, and the darker tones make it creepier.

Q: Does the addition of figures give you a satisfactory sense of scale?
A: yes and no. they are so tiny that I do get what he had in mind but it does not seem realistic.

Q: Does this painting work best for Taur-na-Fuin, Mirkwood, or Fangorn? How?
A: Taur-na-Fuin

Q: Since Tolkien says explicitly that Fangorn does not feel like Mirkwood, why would he allow essentially the same picture to stand for both?
A: it was easier, perhaps time constraints. Perhaps he learned to let go a little.

Websites Directory, my drawings,Aloha & Mahalo


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


Beren IV
Gondor


Feb 22 2007, 12:50am

Post #14 of 20 (835 views)
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Those three are the same image! [In reply to] Can't Post

Notice that all of the trees are in the same place in all three images, including the Fangorn one, only with different colors and patterns. Also notice that the starry opening is a tree and ends in roots...

These trees look too straight for my vision of Mirkwood. I had envisioned twisted gnarled trees, as described in the Hobbit, rather than these straight trees. Of course, straight trees are more realistic if the forest really is dense. Generally, it's atmospheric, not realistic. But I don't think that Tolkien's own artwork describes his own descriptions.


Curious
Half-elven

Feb 22 2007, 2:31am

Post #15 of 20 (836 views)
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Tolkien didn't know much about real forests, I would guess. [In reply to] Can't Post

There are very few forests in England, and those that exist are tended like gardens. Furthermore at that time I don't think controlled burns were used to clear forests of underbrush, nor did people realize the vital importance of forest fires in the life of a forest. Ironically, the forest fires that did take place despite every effort to prevent them often were devastating precisely because of those efforts; the dead tinder had collected for a hundred years instead of ten! The Germans tried clearing the Black Forest of underbrush by hand, I believe, only to learn that the lack of rotting wood also harmed the forest.

In the case of Tolkien's forests, how could any young trees possibly grow where the sunlight never showed below the level of the highest trees? These forests are dying for a good forest fire, or at least for a few large specimens to fall over and clear out some space below. How could deer live in a forest where there are no grassy clearings? How could a forest live without animals?

Tolkien may not have been a forestry expert, but he did know a good metaphor.

"Snow-white! Snow-white! O Lady clear!
O Queen beyond the Western Seas!
O Light to us that wander here
Amid the world of woven trees!"

So the elves sang to Elbereth, the Lady of the Stars. Like Dante before him, Tolkien liked the image of his hero lost in an endless dark wood, a "world of woven trees," even though healthy forests cannot exist in perpetual darkness. So in these pictures we do not even see the leaves above, but only the trunks below, like vast pillars in an endless great hall.


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Feb 22 2007, 4:27am

Post #16 of 20 (822 views)
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I had thought the "stars" [In reply to] Can't Post

were the shining eyes that surrounded their camp at night:

"The nights were the worst. It then became pitch-dark -- not what you call pitch-dark, but really pitch; so black that you really could see nothing. Bilbo tried flapping his hand in front of his nose, but he could not see it at all. Well, perhaps it is not true to say that they could see nothing: they could see eyes. They slept all closely huddled together, and took it in turns to watch; and when it was Bilbo's turn he would see gleams in the darkness round them, and sometimes pairs of yellow or red or green eyes would stare at him from a little distance, and then slowly fade and disappear and slowly shine out again in another place."

So those lights would have to be in pairs in order to be eyes, wouldn't they. But how can the points of light be stars - that goes against his text! But then, as nice as this drawing is, you're right, for Mirkwood it's just not oppressive enough, it just does not fit his text.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Still 'round the corner there may wait
A new road, or a secret gate...


FarFromHome
Valinor


Feb 22 2007, 11:03am

Post #17 of 20 (837 views)
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I suspect he didn't care much [In reply to] Can't Post

about real forests either. He seems to be interested mainly in the *idea* of forests, which he portrays as dark and forbidding places with a hint of strange secrets hidden within them. What he draws, like what he writes, isn't aiming for realism, I think. Instead he tries to evoke the sense of the ur-forest that seems to go back to the dawn of human imagining.


squire
Valinor


Dec 28 2007, 11:43pm

Post #18 of 20 (721 views)
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"I do not care" - from an author secure in his authority [In reply to] Can't Post

Since Tolkien says explicitly that Fangorn does not feel like Mirkwood, why would he allow essentially the same picture to stand for both?

Christopher Tolkien commented on this question in his foreword to The Hobbit Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of 1987, which I had never seen. However, it is excerpted in the Preface to the new edition of The Hobbit that accompanies John Rateliff's History of The Hobbit, which I have just obtained.

This 'attraction' exerted by 'the matter of the Elder Days' is shown also in his paintings and drawings from those years. A notable example is the pencil and ink picture of Mirkwood in Chapter VIII, Flies and Spiders, which is restored to The Hobbit in this edition: it appeared in the first British and American editions but was then dropped. This was redrawn from, and closely modelled on, an earlier painting, depicting a still more evil forest, Taur-na-fuin: it illustrated a story from The Silmarillion, the tale of Túrin, and showed the encounter of the Elves Beleg and Gwindor, small figures among the roots of the great tree in the centre. In the Mirkwood version the Elves are gone, and instead there is a large spider (and a larger number of mushrooms). (In this case my father was prepared, long after, to give even a third application to the scene: writing on the painting the caption Fangorn Forest [Treebeard's forest in The Lord of the Rings] he let it be used as an illustration in the J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar 1974, and with this caption it is reproduced in the book J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator, no. 54. The Elves Beleg and Gwindor were now to be interpreted as the hobbits, Pippin and Merry, lost in Fangorn: but Beleg has his great sword - and is wearing shoes! My father presumably hoped that this would not be noticed, since the figures are very small - or else did not mind if it was).


Another example of the Tolkienian “I do not care”, as FarFromHome had so presciently guessed. I also see that I misidentified the two figures in the original Silmarillion version of the painting. Two points to those who can say why these two are Beleg and Gwindor, and not Turin and Flinding, as I had thought?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'.
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


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Dec 29 2007, 3:57am

Post #19 of 20 (672 views)
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Túrin never rescues Gwindor in Taur-nu-Fuin. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
...illustrates a scene from a Silmarillion adventure, where Túrin rescues the Elf Flinding (later Gwindor) in the First Age version of Mirkwood, which in Elvish is Taur-na-Fúin.



I received Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien as a gift when I was only ten, so I've long known "Fangorn Forest" as "Beleg finds Gwindor in Taur-nu-Fuin" -- this was even before I'd read The Silmarillion. So it was from the Pictures text (by Christopher Tolkien) that I first learned that Gwindor of Nargothrond, after escaping from Angband with a lamp (and a Santa hat? even on the print in Pictures, which is about 8"x10", it's hard to make out that detail) is found by Beleg Strongbow of Doriath. CT doesn't explain that Beleg is tracking the orcs who hold Túrin captive, though he does say that the sword Beleg bears was "afterwards reforged for Túrin".

After Túrin kills Beleg, he loses his mind for a while, and has to be led by Gwindor through the forest.

Congratulations on getting HoBE. I myself received three Tolkien books as Christmas gifts: The Plants of Middle-earth, by Dinah Hazel; The Company They Keep, by Diana Pavlac Glyer; and Journeys of Frodo, by Barbara Strachey (though the last is an older work, I had never seen it).

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Lord of the Rings in the Reading Room, Oct. 15, 2007 - Mar. 22, 2009!

We're on hiatus Dec. 24-Jan. 6 for the holidays.
Join us Jan. 7-13 for "Strider".


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 29 2007, 4:13am

Post #20 of 20 (1079 views)
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Two points to NEB. [In reply to] Can't Post

(This is one of the most fascinating features of these new Boards!)

Enjoy your new books, we'll all be expecting reports! Laugh I've got to get a start on HoTH...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915

 
 

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