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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
JRRT Artist and Illustrator: Chap. 3: #3: The Mountains of the Moon

NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 13 2007, 11:27pm

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JRRT Artist and Illustrator: Chap. 3: #3: The Mountains of the Moon Can't Post

When Tolkien’s son Michael lost his little toy dog at the beach, Tolkien composed a story, “Roverandom,” to console Michael for the loss. Tolkien eventually provided five illustrations for “Roverandom.” Here are two: (;any, many thanks to those who’ve helped me with links to Tolkien’s illustrations; I confess freely that I’m technologically inept. Also, I’m just putting the pictures into my post -- if people would prefer that I just gave links, let me know. I’m not quite sure exactly what I am doing...)


First this one:


and then this one:


Both of these are lunar landscapes, for Roverandom in one of his adventures travels to the moon; with them probably belongs another, earlier drawing of a lunar landscape:


(N.b. the Earth on the horizon, with the Americas visible.)


In the earlier drawing the moon is depicted as settled: There are meadows and trees alongside of a river which runs through a valley between two mountain ranges. Although no village appears in the drawing, the trees appear to be purposefully planted (at least to me: disagreement?). In fact, were it not for the Earth on the horizon nothing would mark this as a “moonscape.” At best it would be a fantastic landscape -- of the sort which Hercules Seghers used to paint:



Q.#1: What do you think of Tolkien's first moonscape? Would it be more appropriate to depict the moon “realistically” -- i.e. as grey and barren? Or is it more appropriate in “fantasy” to imagine a strange, yet ultimately habitable surface -- much as Lewis did for, e.g., Venus = Perelandra?

Q.#2: Tolkien often drew such a valley -- Rivendell is perhaps the best known:




Anyone care to speculate on why Tolkien kept experimenting with this type of scene till he found just the right context for it?


Now to the two illustraions for “Roverandom.” In the first we see a wizard gazing through a telescope from behind a parapet of a high tower. Towards him flies Roverandom on a bird’s back.

Q.#3: How many connexions with the rest of Tolkien’s works can you spot? (My go: White Tower ≈ Minas Tirith; wizard has long beard and pointy hat ≈ Gandalf; wizard on tower ≈ Saruman; figure gazing into distance from tower ≈ Denethor; figure carried by bird ≈ Gandalf borne by eagle.)

In the second illustration for “Roverandom” we see a dragon flying round a high mountain and chasing Roverandom and the Moondog. In the lower right, just above the title is a giant spider.

Q,#4: Again, how many connexions to Tolkien’s later works can you spot? (My go: dragon ≈ Smaug; spider ≈ giant spiders of Mirkwood; mountain ≈ Lonely Mountain.)

Q.#5: Did Tolkien, ultimately, have a certain number of striking images in his mind which he spent his artistic life sorting out and placing into the right context?


Tolkien, by the way, used (according to Hammond & Scull) this illustration in a lecture he held for children on New Year’s Day 1938. The lecture was, apparently, a curious mixture of fantasy and scholarship, such as one migh expect from Tolkien: amongst many quaint remarks on dragons came e.g. references to Saxo Grammaticus’ *Gesta Danorum (History of the Danes).* However, Tolkien’s drawings of dragons (and hence his own stories) entered into the lecture also. To me, at least, it’s just one more example of how Tolkien the creative artist and Tolkien the scholar interacted.


Elizabeth
Valinor


Mar 14 2007, 4:43am

Post #2 of 17 (100 views)
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About those moonscapes... [In reply to] Can't Post

The second has a "full earth" in the sky, and is followed by two copies of the Seghers painting. Is there a third moonscape?

What I love about Tolkien's dragons is that most of them (like the White Dragon here) are charming, and not at all scary. Even Smaug, who was capable of doing a lot of damage, was beautiful and rather cute in Tolkien's painting, and was quite engaging in his conversation with Bilbo.

It's hard to find much charm in Glaurung, but then Tolkien didn't paint him, either, as far as I know. The basic difference must be that dragons in children's stories can be cute, but Glaurung was in an adult faerie tale.

Speaking of which, isn't Eldarion a bit young for Grimm? Or is he just too young to know just how terrifying those stories are?




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


Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 14 2007, 7:53am

Post #3 of 17 (117 views)
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Eeek! Technological ineptitude strikes again! [In reply to] Can't Post

As Elizabeth rightly points out, the Seghers painting appears twice... Instead of the first one, this moonscape of Tolkien's should be appearing:




*teach me to preview my posts*


NZ Strider
Rivendell

Mar 14 2007, 8:02am

Post #4 of 17 (96 views)
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Not sure about the Grimms... [In reply to] Can't Post

At the moment Timmy seems to be more interested in attempting to chew the binding while I read to him. I'm not sure about the violence -- as a child I never found these stories terrifying, though on first re-reading them as an adult I was horrified at just how, er, grim they could be.

I was also pre-reading various Beatrix Potter stories... "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" opens with Peter's mother telling her children not to play in Mr. MacGregor's garden: "Your father had an accident there. Mrs. McGregor put him into a pie." Yikes!


drogo
Lorien


Mar 14 2007, 11:43am

Post #5 of 17 (78 views)
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The lunar landscapes [In reply to] Can't Post

Remind me of some of his early images of Valinor/Taniquetil, though that could be the way Tolkien generally renders "Otherworlds" in his art.

They have a very stark, angular look to them, again reflecting his penchant for conical mountains. I am at a meeting in New Mexico right now, so I am looking for some Tolkienesque peaks in the mountain nearby (but not finding many!).


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 14 2007, 2:07pm

Post #6 of 17 (95 views)
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Perhaps Tolkien knew his limitations as an artist [In reply to] Can't Post

and practiced variations on certain drawings (dragons, English villages, that mountain valley he remembered from Switzerland) rather than always trying something new. My wife and I are not artists, but when we draw with or for our daughter we tend to fall into patterns that have existed since our childhood. It's what we know. Although Tolkien was a far better and more practiced artist that we are, it was still just one of many hobbies, and not even his primary hobby. So he had a certain repertoire that he fell back on.

What's interesting is that he also fell back on this repertoire when writing stories and inventing places. We've often noticed how he borrowed from The Sil and Beowulf, but he also may have borrowed from Roverandom or Father Christmas -- except that we are less familiar with those sources. But it is apparent from "On Fairy Stories" that Tolkien did not feel any reluctance to borrow from himself or from other sources, first because he liked that sense of a common soup filled with traditional elements for fairy tales, and second because he believed that the way the author put together the traditional elements made all the difference.

Furthermore he also had this idea that far back in mythological time one could find the ideal Mountain, Hill, Tower, River, City, Light, Jewel, Tree, Wizard, Elf, Man, etc. In The Sil those elements appear in Valinor, then reappear in diminished form in each succeeding Age. And even on the evil side Tolkien works the same way, with the ideal Dark Lord or Shadow, Dragon, Fire Demon, and Hellish Fortress all starting with Melkor, then reappearing in each succeeding Age. (Indeed Melkor himself reappears in a diminished form as Morgoth, then is succeeded by Sauron.) So Tolkien turned repetition into a virtue and a theory of literature, myth, and history -- but did it all start because of his limitations as an artist?

In the drawings you just showed us I can easily see the Lonely Mountain and Smaug, one of many towers that appear in Tolkien's tales, and one of many valleys that appear in his tales, including Rivendell and a couple of the valleys in Rohan. In this valley the view seems to be from on high, looking down, but I can easily imagine Tolkien remembering a different angle on the valley he visited in Switzerland.

To answer your remaining question, in Tolkien's time the world was rapidly filling in all the blank spaces on the maps, so the moon and Mars became the new unexplored territory. Now they are partially explored as well, and science fiction has moved to other star systems.

As to the Brothers Grimm, I read abridged versions to my daughter. And she was not at all phased by the reference to Peter Rabbit's father ending up in a pie. Death is not nearly as scary to her as costumed characters. She fears Chuck E. Cheese, but only stays out of the street because we tell her to do so.


drogo
Lorien


Mar 14 2007, 2:24pm

Post #7 of 17 (78 views)
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Repetition [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you're right that Tolkien saw repetitive patters in his own mythologies (ranging from the stand-alone stories such as Roverandum or even Farer Giles to the legendarium in its various incarnations). This also stems from the theories of myth at the time and, of course, the whole study of philology--work also associated most prominently in the 19th century with the Bros. Grimm in their various scholarly endeavors.

In his drawing and painting, though, I suspect he had a limited repertoire of objects he could comfortably depict, so that might account for the repetition in lunar mountain ranges, etc.!

Yes, Tolkien was not a first-rate artist, but in his day a great many amateurs did try their hand with the brush and pen, so it's not that unusual to see work such as his.


(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Morwen
Rohan


Mar 14 2007, 2:31pm

Post #8 of 17 (77 views)
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Two more connections [In reply to] Can't Post

The single star in the sky = the star Sam saw in Mordor (no books with me, or I'd include a quote).

The road halfway up the big mountain on the right (I think it's a road) = The road to the secret door in the Lonely Mountain

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I wish you could have been there
When she opened up the door
And looked me in the face
Like she never did before
I felt about as welcome
As a Wal-Mart Superstore--John Prine


Curious
Half-elven

Mar 14 2007, 5:36pm

Post #9 of 17 (75 views)
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The snapshot and the postcard [In reply to] Can't Post

had a negative effect on amateur drawing skills, which in the 19th century were taught to every educated child, and practiced by anyone who wanted a picture.


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Mar 14 2007, 6:16pm

Post #10 of 17 (75 views)
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Interesting about the effect [In reply to] Can't Post

on amateurs. I hadn't thought of that. Photography had a different affect on the carreer artists. It freed them up to be more inventive. Though they received a lot of criticism & backlash at first.

That offers some explanation why artists are now viewed as so lofty (uniquely talented), when really many are more like crafts-people for hire. The distance between artists and regular people seems to far apart compared to what it once was. It further explains why most people immediately say they have 'no talent' before having ever been taught the skill of drawing (or any other art), assuming that one has to be born with 'talent' . I have learned that everyone has some creative ability, they just haven't discovered it and probably never will because of the mis-beliefs and lack of training.

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Mar 14 2007, 6:25pm

Post #11 of 17 (57 views)
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you'll find some [In reply to] Can't Post

conical peaks of various sizes adn heights on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai‘i here in Hawai‘i. I think it the most beautiful place in the world, at least what I have seen of the world.

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 14 2007, 6:38pm

Post #12 of 17 (71 views)
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"Every child is an artist. [In reply to] Can't Post

The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Pablo Picasso


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Mar 14 2007, 8:10pm

Post #13 of 17 (71 views)
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I prefer the fantastical [In reply to] Can't Post

Q.#1: What do you think of Tolkien's first moonscape? Would it
be more appropriate to depict the moon “realistically” -- i.e. as grey and barren? Or is it more appropriate in “fantasy” to imagine a strange, yet ultimately habitable surface

I remember as a child (50's and 60's) that everyone imagined the moon's landscape as being "fantastic"…made of the stuff of fantasy. That is before Neil Armstrong: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

I am sure those images we saw that day didn't fit anyone's fantastical image in their heads as to what the moon like. I doubt it was ever as "grey and barren". I prefer the fantastical moonscape.


Q.#3: How many connexions with the rest of Tolkien’s works can you spot? (images one & two)

Bilbo riding with the eagles is riding over similar terrain…the image is almost a reverse of the scene of a cliff overlooking flatter lands with mountains in the background, and random odd smaller peaks across the land (minus the tower & crater).

The tower coming out a mountain like that Tower of Cirith Ungol or shear height of it reminds me of Barad-dûr. The wizard looking through a telescope out of a tower reminds me also of "The Eye" (Sauraon) as well as Saruman.

The first thing I thought of looking at the second one is the Nazgûl flying over tower city of Minus Tirith. Of course it is also reminiscent Smaug flying around the Lonely Mtn.

Giant Spider is reminiscent of Ungoliant scaling the Mountains of Valinor (name escapes me). Tolkien has spiders everywhere, even the Moon!!!

Q.#2: Anyone care to speculate on why Tolkien kept experimenting with this type of scene till he found just the right context for it?
Q.#5: Did Tolkien, ultimately, have a certain number of striking images in his mind which he spent his artistic life sorting out and placing into the right context?

Speaking for myself…I find it difficult to come up with creative ideas when my mind is cluttered with responsibilities. The right brain creative stuff rarely jells when I am so heavily tasking on the left brain activities…the kinds of things Tolkien had to do everyday.

But I also like the idea of him recycling his own work (artists do that btw) as part of his own history within his work. History itself is a repeater as we have bee told this repeatedly by repeating and multiple sources.

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


Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Mar 14 2007, 8:11pm

Post #14 of 17 (59 views)
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I like that, thanks / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

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


Wynnie
Rohan


Mar 15 2007, 4:43pm

Post #15 of 17 (61 views)
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painting of Glaurung [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It's hard to find much charm in Glaurung, but then Tolkien didn't paint him, either, as far as I know.


For a JRRT painting of Glaurung, see this post from one Saelind's recent discussions (Chapter 2). "Glorund" was an earlier variation of the dragon's name.

He does look a bit fiercer than Tolkien's other dragons, doesn't he?



Owlamoo
ink drawing by JRRT


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Mar 16 2007, 2:13am

Post #16 of 17 (53 views)
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It's an entirely different perspective [In reply to] Can't Post

when you're an adult reading these classics to a young child - you become far more aware of the "scary" elements, which you would hardly have thought twice about, before!

But take heart in the fact that Tolkien did not appreciate any watering-down of these stories, any "Disneyfication". He knew that children can handle a lot more than we think they can!


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


Beren IV
Gondor


Mar 16 2007, 11:37pm

Post #17 of 17 (147 views)
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My vision of the moon is too colored [In reply to] Can't Post

by what the real moon looks like - although I have a certain relish for an old rpg named Final Fantasy IV! Tongue The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen also does a very good moon.

As a result, I have a hard time seeing trees or water or anything like that on the moon, and the mountains in my mind are the (very large!) mountains in the background of the lunar rover missions of Apollo 15 and (I think) 16. The moon just isn't the right color...

 
 

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