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Illustration and Middle Earth

Lady_of_Gondor

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One of the reasons I have always loved the Lord of the Rings is that it challenged my imagination. I have always had difficulty picturing in my mind's eye something I have never (nor ever could have) seen before. And through reading the Lord of the Rings more than once, I trained myself to be a more visual reader.

Needless to say, I do not think that illustration is necessary in a creation as imaginative as Middle Earth. Nevertheless, I have always been fascinated by the concept of adaptations. Clearly, Peter Jackson did something spectacular with this story by introducing BOTH a visual and a temporal element to it, and also changing the storyline at points (whether or not we agree with those changes, they come with the package of Adaptations). There have been plenty of discussions on this forum about the film adaptations, but I would like to concentrate in this discussion on another sort of adaptation: illustration.

I did a lesson with my ESL students last year involving Ted Nasmith's illustrations from the Silmarillion, which mostly all of them had NOT read. I had them create new stories based on the illustrations to start a discussion about how all texts are related, but each adaptation is indeed its own new creation, however closely or loosely it may be based off of the 'original'. Given a recent discussion about allegory I've been having on the "LOTR as a metaphor for our lives" thread, I am beginning to think that even Tolkien cannot be considered completely original, since his works draw on their own set of myths and a certain religious background.

So my questions for you all are as follows:
1. Do you enjoy illustrations of Tolkien's work?
2. If not, why not? If so, whom do you enjoy the most (Ted Nasmith, Alan Lee, etcetera)?
3. How do you judge the quality of a Tolkien illustrator (or any adaptor for that matter): on fidelity to the text, on aesthetic appeal, or on some other criteria?
4. Do you think generally think of adaptations of novels (and in particular, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion) as perversions of or additions to the text? (Again, Why?)

Feel free to answer all or some of the questions, and if the thread wanders a little that's obviously fine, but I hope we can at least continue to discuss the general theme of adaptation.

L_o_G
 

Úlairi

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Good topic L_o_G! It's in the vicinity of 3 a.m. here in Australia and I don't think I'll be web-surfing tomorrow so hopefully I can illustrate my opinion within the next few days...

Cheers,

Úlairi.
 

RangerStryder

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1. Do you enjoy illustrations of Tolkien's work?

Yeah, I enjoyed it. It really helps visualize Tolkien's world thus it helps me to understand and lead me more in appreciating it. If not for the illustrations on some chapters I might be bored already.

2. whom do you enjoy the most (Ted Nasmith, Alan Lee, etcetera)?

Actually all of them including lesser known artist and casual artist. I dont believe 1 artist can actually give you the essence of Middle Earth as Tolkien visualize.

For Allan Lee, I like the flow and lightedness in his drawing.
For Ted Nasmith, I like how he draws and paints landscape, and also his blending of lights.
John Howe remind me of Thomas Kinkade on his paints, and movements of his characters.

3. How do you judge the quality of a Tolkien illustrator (or any adaptor for that matter): on fidelity to the text, on aesthetic appeal, or on some other criteria?

Ans. is on no.2 question.
 

Tyelkormo

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I like Ted Nasmith's lighting a lot. I am ambiguous to Howe and Lee because I like some of their pictures and dislike some others. I'm not too sure about Nasmith, but I've caught Howe and Lee with not doing their homework on the text ;)

I also like Anke Eissmann, but I have to say that, otherwise I'm in trouble next time I see her ;) Seriously, she's a great pal, has done some sketches for me and compared research and I've used her illustrations to illustrate some of my presentations. Some of the folks she cooperates with are pretty good, too.

And then, of course, there's the illustrator of illustrators, a certain J.R.R. Tolkien. His illustration style might not be as complex and sophisticated as that of others, but I don't think anyone beats him in capturing what was on the author's mind ;)
 

RangerStryder

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Some more on Ted Nasmith's illustration in The Silmarillion.

I dont like him drawing characters, esp. in zoom and full details, particularly Ulmo pg 246, King Turgon holding the staff of doom pg.133 (I want to see the face of Turgon c'mon), Gwindor pg. 211(looks like a She-Elf to me.). I just think his character/people drawing is inferior compare to his backgrounds.

But when he blend his characters to the background, where the character is not taking the whole board then it become awesome. As if the illustrations speaks to you and you are there.
Ex: Tarn Aeluin pg 160, Luthein by Moonlight pg. 163 Luthein with Huan pg. 172, Up the rainy stair pg. 225
 

Lady_of_Gondor

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It's great to hear all of your thoughts on this! I'd agree that Nasmith's rendering of up-close characters leaves something to be desired. Personally, Alan Lee's drawings are most impressive to me, especially his architectural drawings.

Anyone care to take a stab at the fourth question: perversions of or additions to the text???

I'll hold off for the moment in hopes of getting a bite.
 

Bucky

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Having read Tolkien for more years than some of you, like Lady of Gondor for example, have been alive, my days of actively seeking out Middle-earth art are long behind me.

The last Tolkien calendar I have is from 1982. :rolleyes:

I must say that I too am the type of person that struggles with visualization though.

For example, I still cannot make heads or tails out of Helm's Deep even after seeing the movie 20 times: The Deeping Coomb, Helm's Gate, blah, blah, blah. I'm lost. :confused:

So, for me, regardless of whatever else PJ did to the story, he DID do an excellent job in the look of Middle-earth. He said himself in the commentaries that they wanted to get the look of everything from the uniforms to the landscapes to the builings & weapons down pat & I certainly think that one cannot find fault in PJ in that respect.

He really brought Middle-earth to life in a big way.




 

Tyelkormo

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So, for me, regardless of whatever else PJ did to the story, he DID do an excellent job in the look of Middle-earth. He said himself in the commentaries that they wanted to get the look of everything from the uniforms to the landscapes to the builings & weapons down pat & I certainly think that one cannot find fault in PJ in that respect.
I don't. John Howe suggested in an interview on the issue that there isn't a lot information on such topics in the texts. There's much more than he thinks, ESPECIALLY on the weapons. John Howe, however, is also a reenactor in the late medieval/early renaissance period. He often gets carried away with influence from that time. Where he believes there's a gap he fills in with what he knows. There is, however, plenty of information if one spends the time to go ofter the text with a fine comb and consider the implications of what is being said. And there is plenty of surprises if one compares the descriptions and the wordings with other material Tolkien worked on.

Not the least, though, the depictions in the movies suggest there's a 400-600 years technology gap between Rohan and Gondor. I like to say that whereas in the books, Rohan is equipped by the smiths of Gondor, in the movies, their equipment comes from the museum curators
 

RangerStryder

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Not the least, though, the depictions in the movies suggest there's a 400-600 years technology gap between Rohan and Gondor. I like to say that whereas in the books, Rohan is equipped by the smiths of Gondor, in the movies, their equipment comes from the museum curators
Well, I think the depiction in the movie re: Rohan is somewhat correct including their arms and armor down to how they lived and their lifestyle.

You cannot have "modern" weaponry, armour, arms like Gondor when your economy is dire and down on luck from continous raid by the enemy in your territories, trade with neighboring towns is slim, and your country is landlocked.
Even if Rohan is equipped by the smiths of Gondor when there's nothing to spend to sell or buy resources, then you will not have enough for Rohan army.
PJ's adaptation in the screen gives you a realistic look on how hard to be a Rohan, this is what I appreciate whenever I can find this in Illustration or in motion picture, because Tolkien's narrative is not enough...sometimes.
 

Tyelkormo

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Well, I think the depiction in the movie re: Rohan is somewhat correct including their arms and armor down to how they lived and their lifestyle.
I fully agree. I just don't agree with the depiction of Gondor

You cannot have "modern" weaponry, armour, arms like Gondor when your economy is dire and down on luck from continous raid by the enemy in your territories, trade with neighboring towns is slim, and your country is landlocked.
Even if Rohan is equipped by the smiths of Gondor when there's nothing to spend to sell or buy resources, then you will not have enough for Rohan army.
There's a couple of flaws in this argument. First of all, it's in the own best interest of Gondor that Rohan is equipped at its best. There's no use in a "wall of men" guarding one's northern border when they can't defend you. The key point in granting Calenardhon to the Eotheod was a typical Foederati scenario: If you can't defend an area, give it to a good friend who can. If you give it to a friend who can't, there's little point in the deal...

Continuous raids are precisely the point: When Rohan collapses, said raiders will raid Gondor instead and it would have to tackle yet one more frontline. Already being challenged from both the east and the south, the last thing Gondor needs is being attacked from the north as well.

Second, if you're making an economic argument, it would make no sense for Gondor setting time and effort aside to produce inferior armour in addition to the modern armour. It takes way too much time off something that is in fact productive. Plus, you can likely hammer a whole bunch of mass-produced cuirasses together in the time it takes to make one coat of mail. So not even cost is really the issue.
 

RangerStryder

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There's a couple of flaws in this argument. First of all, it's in the own best interest of Gondor that Rohan is equipped at its best.
I agree with you.

But the only thing that hinder all what you said is that ...both leader of Rohan and Gondor are influenced by Sauron one way or another ....thus they cannot cooperate like the way that you wanted.

If this is not the case they probably the West is not so desperate in the face of Evil running around in Middle Earth.
 

Tyelkormo

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I agree with you.

But the only thing that hinder all what you said is that ...both leader of Rohan and Gondor are influenced by Sauron one way or another ....thus they cannot cooperate like the way that you wanted.
This doesn't hinder the economic factor at all. Why should an armourer in Gondor take the time to knit a coat of mail together? There is no real reason to do so. Except if, as is the case in the book, coats of mail were actually the state of the art in Gondor.
 

RangerStryder

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This doesn't hinder the economic factor at all. Why should an armourer in Gondor take the time to knit a coat of mail together? There is no real reason to do so. Except if, as is the case in the book, coats of mail were actually the state of the art in Gondor.
Lets put this in real life perspective.

If your country is poor like Rohan, and constantly in war, and with not effective leader....this affect the way of life, mood of the people, threats to safety and slows the productivity to build anything.

With Gondor, until WotR still manage to secure its border east of Anduin, and lots of trade partner on its south-west territories, plus access on transportation by land and sea.
With a well armed army guarding its border, people are safer, mood is better, lifestyle is better, thus have time "knit a coat of mail".
 

Tyelkormo

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Lets put this in real life perspective.

If your country is poor like Rohan, and constantly in war, and with not effective leader....this affect the way of life, mood of the people, threats to safety and slows the productivity to build anything.

With Gondor, until WotR still manage to secure its border east of Anduin, and lots of trade partner on its south-west territories, plus access on transportation by land and sea.
With a well armed army guarding its border, people are safer, mood is better, lifestyle is better, thus have time "knit a coat of mail".
But there's no reason to. Not if you're already producing better items.
 

RangerStryder

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In Middle Earth and real life.....economic situation will dictate how an army can maintain their capabilities, and readiness.

Gondor might build an armour in high quality/state of the art but in time they will deteriorate, if they have less resources to maintain it.
Gondor in later years of the 3rd age is still a capable city. Their economy is still sound though they dont want to help or to be associated with their Rohan counterparts but this is due to the King of Rohan being influenced by Saruman...this is I believe contribute to the decline in Rohan economy, and thus contribute to Rohan military decline.

This I go back to your original comment in your post(no.8) why there is a disparity between Gondor and Rohan in PJ's adaptation for which I agreed that its almost as I see it.

(In real life, a country might have tons of armour, planes, state of the art arms...but if you cannot maintain it because your economy is down, you have a "puppet" leader, scared population, landlocked border -limit your movement, then everything will deteriorate...in time.) <--- This is whats happening to Rohan...imo.

Now...to go back on original topic.
 

Illuin

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I’m a real softie (maybe even a sucker) when it comes to illustrations and paintings. I personally like them all, though I do have my favorites.

This is my favorite of Morgoth. It's creepy and reveals just enough, but not too much:


I like this one of Barad-dûr. I can understand something that massive taking 600 years to complete:


I have always thought this really captured "the feel" of the Silmarillion. Very surreal:


This is my all time favorite. It just says "Middle-Earth" to me for some strange reason:
 

Lady_of_Gondor

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Thanks Illuin! Do you know who the artists are for those paintings. I think I recognize the 'surreal silmarillion' as a Ted Nasmith, but I am not sure.

In addition, do you think these works should be considered separately from the mythology of Tolkien (as merely inspired, separate works of art) or rather, as part of the ultimate creation of Middle Earth, which has been carried on by artists rather than by Tolkien himself?

BTW, I also think the painting of Barad-dûr is fascinating!
 

Bucky

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Illuin:

I went through a thread where folks were posting Sauron & Morgoth pictures on another site.......

Funny, as I said there, I didn't realize Sauron was a 20-something Goth guy on steroids. :rolleyes:

Morgoth, some of the artists don't read the text apparently. Many didn't have hammers & some had on heavily armoured shoes (how would Fingolfin wound him in the foot?).

The picture you provided is accurate but a bit too 'horny' for me.

The Dark Tower is a bit to white to be Dark too. :confused:


Back to the subject of artists not reading texts, I have a Tolkien calendar from 1981. The January picture is called 'The Battle of Sudden Flame' with a beautiful Golden Dragon flying into a battlement 150 years before flying dragons existed.......
 

Aisteru

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I think almost all the illustrations I have seen of Tolkien's work, I have liked. I think my two favorite would be Alan Lee and John Howe, but that might just be because I know the most about them and their work. I think it's fascinating that artists can conceptualize and put down in drawings what Tolkien so masterfully crafted with words. I would put pictures of my favorites, but I am awful at just choosing a few because I end up with way too many.
 

Mike

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Just to spice things up a bit, here's some Frank Frazetta illustrations from the Lord of the Rings. Frazetta was famous for illustrating Edgar Rice Burrough's books and, of course, Conan.

Eowyn vs. the Witch-King:
In this getup, I find it hard to believe anyone would mistake Eowyn for a man. That's my kind of Eowyn!





 

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