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Orcs, trees, elf and umbellifers

Re-reading The Lord of the Rings is like going on holiday to a place you know really well. You might not find anything completely new, but you can still have a lot of fun enjoying the scenery, and sometimes you are lucky and notice something that you've never really looked at properly before.

On this occasion I was struck by the description of Merry and Pippin entering Fangorn forest:

"He led the way in under the huge branches of the trees.  Old beyond guessing they seemed.  Great trailing beards of lichen hung from them, blowing and swaying in the breeze.  Out of the shadows the hobbits peeped, gazing back down the slope: little furtive figures that in the dim light looked like elf-children in the deeps of time peering out of the Wild Wood in wonder at their first Dawn."

you may need to click to embiggen to spot the hobbits.)

    They are looking back from the banks of the Entwash river towards the East, where the sun is rising over the last stand of the Orcs against the Rohirrim, so the sunrise is just glancing on the river and the trees.  
"The Sun's limb was lifted, an arc of fire, above the margins of the world.  Then with a great cry the Riders charged from the east: the red light gleamed on mail and spear.  The Orcs yelled and shot all the arrows that remained to them. The hobbits saw several horsemen fall; but their line held on up the hill and over it and wheeled round and charged again. Most of the raiders that were left alive then broke and fled, this way and that, pursued one by one to the death.  But one band, holding together in a black wedge, drove forward resolutely in the direction of the forest. Straight up the slope they charged towards the watchers." 

Composition of this could do with some work : in retrospect, it might have made a stronger image to draw the charge rather than the massacre, but I was rather taken with the opportunity to draw fleeing orcs being slaughtered. Probably it also needs to be a bigger picture than an a4 pencil drawing with a bit of colour too, so there is more room to put in corpses without it looking messy.   Maybe I should try painting the charge in acrylics... 

Finally, and for no particular reason, I decided to draw Luthien in charcoal.  This is of course a very famous scene (I'm sure I've drawn it a few times myself) but most of the versions I've seen tend to leave out the hemlocks, and since they are mentioned three times in the poem, I think they are important. 

"The leaves were long, the grass was green / the hemlock-umbels tall and fair 
and in the glade a light was seen / Of stars in shadow shimmering. 
Tinuviel was dancing there / To music of a pipe unseen
And light of stars was in her hair / And in her raiment glimmering. 

There Beren came from mountains cold / And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled / He walked alone and sorrowing. 
He peered between the hemlock leaves / And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves / and her hair like shadow following."


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
28th Dec, 2011 19:04 (UTC)
What a lovely post!

I particularly like Fangorn, with the Hobbits peering out of the Wild Wood -- it's very in keeping with both Tolkien's and Alan Lee's visions. I also love the finish the charcoal has given you on the Luthien drawing, and the prominent way you've used the hemlock.
30th Dec, 2011 09:51 (UTC)
I love that sense you get in LOTR of Fangorn as both place and person. I'm not sure I got the beards of lichen quite right though, but I think that is partly drawing in HB pencil not really designed for the job. Hmmmm (or possbly, hoom!)
28th Dec, 2011 20:55 (UTC)
These days I tend to listen to the CD's as I fall asleep [last I was at Parth Galen!] but I'm no longer surprised at what new images still come to mind that I've either forgotten or never really paid attention to before. I wish I had your skill to record them though. Luthien is especially good and you're so right about the hemlocks.
30th Dec, 2011 10:08 (UTC)
I darkly suspect that some artists are not clear what hemlock-umbels *are* ...
28th Dec, 2011 20:57 (UTC)
Ooh, nice work. I like the sparing and effective way you used color in Fangorn.

And good point about the hemlock! Which is lovely as a foreground, btw. =)
30th Dec, 2011 10:11 (UTC)
I wasn't sure about that use of colour, so glad you liked it!
29th Dec, 2011 17:32 (UTC)
I love the first. I may steal it and use as a screensaver...
30th Dec, 2011 10:13 (UTC)
Please feel free, am glad you liked!
31st Dec, 2011 18:38 (UTC)
Lovely - and always nice to see convincing botany in Tolkien illustrations (you are quite right, some artists don't seem all that clear as to what hemlock really looks like)!

As well as the top-class umbels, I love the textures in the first picture - a proper tangly ancient wildwood - and the wonderful backlighting in the second, and the way those sword- and spear-points look so very very sharp. No escape for the Orcs...

Every time I go back to LotR I find at least one lovely little detail that I could swear I've never seen before. I'm sure they grow in there while I'm not looking!
3rd Jan, 2012 14:50 (UTC)
LOTR is like Sutcliff in that respect I think - so many little details that you had forgotten were there!
3rd Jan, 2012 11:22 (UTC)
When I was very young, I embarked upon a gargantuan mission to illustrate the Lord of the Rings, one illustration per page.

I think i gave up at page 5, and the results won't ever be shown to the world...
3rd Jan, 2012 14:52 (UTC)
Now THERE's a life's project! One per page, goodness!

At university I was part of a project to read it aloud onto tape, and that was enough of a mammoth task - it took us I think about three years to complete, doing it one evening a week.
3rd Jan, 2012 14:58 (UTC)
I was very young and very silly.

I also embarked on a project to paint Glorfindel and Asfaloth fleeing the Nine at the Ford of Bruinen in guache on an A1 sheet of paper.

What the hell was I thinking of????

That sounds an monumental project that you were involved with - but at least you saw it through to the end!!

Did you ever hear the Radio Four version? That's what set me off to begin with...
3rd Jan, 2012 15:43 (UTC)
Hmm - not sure. We do have a professional version on cassette (though I'm not sure we have anything that will actually play cassette tapes now...) but I'm not sure if that was the same one. (Our university version was more tapes, though admittedly not as well produced!)
3rd Jan, 2012 16:07 (UTC)
It was wonderful!!!

Michael Hordern as Gandalf, Ian Holm as Frodo, Bill Nighy as Sam, Robert Stephens as Aragorn (sigh!), and John le Mesurier as Bilbo. Brian Sibley did the screenplay (I think he did the screenplay for the Jackson films, too, and I know Jackson was heavily influenced by the Radio 4 version).

It's available on CD - it was one of the first things I bought when I started a real job. Cost me almost a hundred quid at the time, too - shows how much I LOVED it!!!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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