More Paintings

Well, here we go. As Christmas presents for some friends here this year, I decided to get out the brushes and canvases again and attempt to create one-of-a-kind, personalized gifts. (Notice that I didn’t say “great artwork” anywhere in there!) It has been relaxing and therapeutic to paint after the big push to finish The Star Shard on time. (Not that I was particularly tired of writing — but deadlines help, and the swift approach of Christmas with its need for presents was another great motivator.)

I have to apologize in advance for the quality of what you’re about to see. For one thing, these three paintings would be better if an actual artist had painted them. For another, it’s much harder than you might think to get painted images into an electronic format and post them onto a blog! When I asked about professional scanning at a couple different places, there was a lot of inhaling through teeth (which means, “You’re asking something difficult; I really wish you weren’t asking me that”). The pros were worried about shadows created by irregularities in the painted surfaces, etc. The upshot was that it may or may not be possible, but it would certainly involve sending the paintings away to the lab; it would take a long time; and it would be very expensive. [I’d gone into the first place with the merry idea of having them scan the paintings while I waited and then ordering cheap posters for all my friends . . . um, no. Live and learn!]

I tried using my own flatbed scanner — which, of course, is not nearly big enough for the canvases. They are A3 size, and it can only handle A4. But I thought I might scan the paintings a quadrant at a time and have good, digital images of the details. Again, not. For some reason, even when I played with the brightness control and weighted down the scanner lid with a stack of books, the scanned images came out very dim. Hmm.

So I resorted to taking digital photos of the paintings with my camera. Again, Murphy’s Law was strictly enforced. For one thing, it is winter in the northern hemisphere. That means that the sun over Niigata will next show its face in . . . maybe May? If we’re blessed. So I had to use the gray daylight on the edge of my tiny verandah. As I was jockeying into position, icy rainwater dripping off the edge of the roof hit the back of my coat and neatly splashed over the canvas. Grrr! (No damage, since the paintings are protected by nice finishing varnish.) I took gray daylight shots, and then I tried another series indoors by electric lighting. You’ll see a combination of both.

Problem #2: My preference for varnish is high-gloss. Not just “gloss,” but “high-gloss.” It’s beautiful to look at, but a nightmare to photograph. It’s like pointing your camera at a mirror. FLASHHH! That’s why you’ll see these images at all sorts of odd angles. I’m standing on my head with the camera, trying everything I can think of to avoid reflections.

Okay, I think that’s my full battery of excuses. I’m not an artist, I’m not a photographer, I’m poor, I have no patience, I live in a perpetually-cloudy region, and I like high-gloss varnish. May all that serve to predispose you to look kindly and mercifully on these humble paintings!

"What a Lot of Things You Use 'Good Morning' For!"

So here’s Gandalf talking with Bilbo at the beginning of The Hobbit. (I’m clearly not in any danger of being commissioned to do a Tolkien calendar anytime soon!) Sorry about the framing — because of the odd angle, I had to crop like mad, so you can’t see to the edges of the canvas. [This is precisely why Marquee Movies will tell you: always go with letterbox format in your movie rentals and purchases — never settle for the “pan-and-scan,” full-screen versions. Unfortunately, these are pan-and-scan versions of my paintings.]

I do like the expressions on the faces of these two. And the Shire looks sort of inviting. (It looks MUCH more so on the actual canvas, where the colors are brighter and everything looks 40% prettier.)

I like Bilbo’s fat stomach! The influence of the Peter Jackson films is quite evident in the hairstyle, huh? For that teacup, I used a color called “English Lace,” and I didn’t even have to mix it. I like the moss effect on the stone porch-thing. See my signature there in the corner? I always do it in gold, an “F” and a “D” together.

This was the outdoor shot, with a big glare on the canvas. (I took several, and believe it or not, this was the best. Sigh!) No, I don’t think that’s the Party Tree in the background. It’s just a tree. I like the purplish stuff in the hedgerow, and I hope that on your computer it looks better than it does on mine. It’s nice in the original, as is the sunlight on the grassy slopes.

The Eternal Now

This is a picture of me and my two closest friends on this side of the Pacific. (Can you tell which one is me?) It represents both Heaven and those “moments of Heaven” we experience at times in this life.

This is by electric lighting. Of course in Heaven it will be midsummer all the time (heh, heh — Mr. Snowflake is away, so I can say anything I want!) — but maybe the cherry trees in Heaven bloom in the midsummer. The sakura blossoms themselves were easy to paint: I used a large, soft brush like the tuft on a lion’s tail, and when I had the paint mixed to the precise color I wanted (white with the tiniest touch of crimson), I just puffed the brush all over, above every trunk I’d painstakingly drawn first. I like how the most distant trees seem almost a mist. (Those trunks took forever!)

What’s “Heavenly” about this image is that there aren’t crowds of people. There’s the picnic, and then just trees, trees, and trees, as far as the eye can see — and friendly blue hills in the distance. There are no responsibilities. There is only a picnic, and close friends, and good books, and a baseball and ball gloves, and time that does not pass: the Eternal Now. A golden moment unending.

This picture allows you to see the two bicycles in the foreground. The thing about cherry trees is that they bloom for a very short time. It’s like about a week at the most — and if there’s rain or wind during that time, the petals can fall prematurely. For the sakura to look beautiful, a blue sky is required. So in most places, people are very fortunate if they have one or two good viewing days during cherry blossom season. That is a large part of their allure, I suppose. Like a human life, they are here for one shining moment, and then they are gone. A breath. A day and a night, and then Eternity.

The peak of the blooming is called mankai, when every blossom is open, and the boughs look positively heavy with flowers, and every tree is poised in that one breathless instant before the pink rain of falling petals begins. If you get a blue sky on the day of mankai, you have received a wonderful gift. For this painting, I chose the moment when the first few petals are falling — the threshold between the perfect beauty of mankai and the perfect beauty of the pink rain.

The Eternal Now

And now we return to Middle-earth:

The Bridge of Khazad-dum

The classic confrontation between Gandalf and the Balrog is a favorite of artists. But I have yet to see a rendition of this scene that doesn’t ignore Tolkien’s description that the Balrog’s limbs have the coiling property of serpents. Have you seen anyone else tackle that? I’ve attempted to show that here, and I think my design is plausible.

Flame of Udun

The Balrog should be a combination of shadow and flame. See my little orcs streaming down the stairways in the background?

The Balrog

You can pretty much tell that what I love the most about this scene is Moria itself. Moria is the place in Middle-earth that I’d most like to visit. I mean Khazad-dum in its heyday, of course, before it was full of orcs. The folk of Durin! The great city of Dwarrowdelf! (Is it an accident that there’s only one letter difference between “Durin” and “Durbin”?)

Fleeing Companions

Frodo doesn’t want to leave Gandalf. Sam isn’t about to leave Frodo. Aragorn is trying to get them both out of harm’s way. We see Legolas and Gimli here, and I guess the blond hobbit must be Pippin. (Merry wouldn’t be blond.)

In the actual, I love these colors of the stonework.

Nice chasm, huh? πŸ™‚

And there you have it. Once again: if your computer works anything like mine does, if you click on any painting, you can view a magnified version of it. Click again, and you zoom in further. I haven’t figured out how to “click back out” without shutting down the whole window, though . . .

In the previous post, I introduced a quotation from Tolstoy in War and Peace and invited reactions. Thank you to those who offered your thoughts! Here’s the quote once again, and then my two cents:

“Everything I know, I know because I love.”

To love is to step forth, to reach out, to emerge from one’s isolation. It is to sense and savor the world around us. It is to embrace the joy that comes from places, from objects, from activities, and especially from other people. To love is to take a risk — for only when we love do we have something to lose. When we love we are involved; we are invested. Triumph, awkwardness, anxiety, exultation, fear, anger, joy . . . all these emotions that mark us as human beings — are they not all traceable to our loves?

In the movie The Name of the Rose, Sean Connery’s character William of Baskerville says to his novice, “How simple life would be without love, Adsol — how safe, how tranquil . . . and how dull.”

“Everything I know, I know because I love.”

I think Tolstoy was right.

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29 Responses to “More Paintings”

  1. Daylily Says:

    Fred, thanks for sharing your paintings with commentary! I think that I would like to go live in “The Eternal Now” for a while. In contrast to the frigid snows of December, the painting is green and pink, warm and beautiful. I would like to picnic amid the lovely pink blossoms, with little to think about except the joy of being with friends. I also enjoyed your views of Middle-earth. I think I would like to walk back into those green hills of the Shire now, into the sunshine. I’ll see you blog-folk later; I have a couple of journeys to make here . . .

  2. tandemcat Says:

    You are right, Fred, to depict the Balrog as Tolkien describes it. As a result, what we have is a much more satisfying Balrog than any others I have seen. To me, the essence is that this monster is “out of the ballpark”–utterly beyond previous concepts of dreadfulness–beyond any hope of resistance. That is what makes Gandalf’s defiance so special.

    As for Tolstoy and love, I’ll never forget what my first college psychology professor said–to experience love, you have to open yourself up to get hurt. Or, as an article in Trailways magazine once said, love is a painful joy. But I have no regrets for taking all those chances, for I have certainly experienced love.

  3. morwenna Says:

    Fred, thank you for sharing your artwork. You noted that a photo of one of your paintings of Gandalf wound up with “a big glare” on it. There’s another way to look at this effect, however. The glare becomes a glow, for the top of Gandalf’s staff seems to be pouring out light. It’s perfect for this powerful wizard!

  4. Chris Says:

    Fred, as you noted there are “large format scanners”. However what you may wish to invest in is a set of lights for illumination and just using your camera. Your photos came out fine for the intarwebs, but if the color was in any way off to you, the way to go would be to talk to a photographer about lighting and photographing this sort of thing.

    Then if you have Photoshop you can play all you want with the color balance. I work with some semi pro photogs where I work and one of these guys actually adjusts color _pixel by pixel_ in some cases.

    So there are ways to get the art online. I would recommend the photo route since a scanner will be harder, especially if you are dealing with stretched canvas.

    Also, remember at high enough resolution on the photo you can print on any number of interesting materials these days using an inkjet printer.

    We make some large format printers that print directly on canvas which is stretchable and can be treated like a painting. In fact I took one of our photos of “dog beach” in Del Mar, CA, ran it through photoshop to make it look like a painting and printed it on canvas and had it stretched on wood frame and framed. It now hangs in our living room looking like “real” art!

    The wonders of digital printing these days is awesome!

  5. I see abundant silence Says:

    Here I take off for a bit, only to eagerly return 12 days hence, and … where in tarnation did everyone go? I ran into Scott from the blog back home and he said (wisely) “Everyone is taking a break for the holidays” which I should have expected.

    ANYWAY … Fred, I am really let down by your tie. I thought this was going to be a garish display of epic scale, but it hardly registers on the ‘ugly tie’ meter. Standards must be quite conservative in Nippon.

    I am now going to read every passage on Balrog’s, the Valaraukar, as I do not recall a description a you relate (but I do not deny it). I thought WETA did a fine job in the movie, even if the thing seemed more like a bull than a beast with a streaming mane like a lion. In particular I enjoyed the visual of the Balrog’s open-mouthed scream, where you could also feel the heat issuing from the demon.

    I wish someone would someday paint the battle of Glorfindel v. Balrog on the escape from the sack of Gondolin. Does anyone know if an attempt has been made/published?

    In other news, my Christmas wish has been denied again. To recap: I desire that PJ, WETA workshop, et al (But NOT NOT NOT Phillipa Boyens, who nearly ruined LOTR) devote the rest of their professional lives to the serialization of The Silmarillion (With Mr. Brown Snowflake payed $100k/yr to just hang around the set with full access). Drat.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Welcome back, Mr. Snowflake! Um . . . the only thing you have to say about my paintings is “I’ll look up descriptions of Balrogs”? Ouch! πŸ™‚ Okay, I know they’re not anything more than the output of a hobbyist — a talented junior-high art student could do much better — but because of the subject matter alone, I was expecting you to say at least a little more. Oh, well — I guess I’m lucky you’re not saying what you really think! Heh, heh!

      The one passage of Balrog description I would know would be the one in LOTR, in that scene itself — I’m pretty sure that’s where I read the part about coiling, serpent-like limbs, but I can’t swear to it, and I don’t have a copy of the book here. But that’s where I’d begin looking.

      Glad to hear you had a good trip! We’ve missed you around here!

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        By the way, I do remember a year, probably about 10 or so years ago now, when the annual Tolkien calendar featured paintings from The Silmarillion, and there WAS a picture of Fingolfin fighting Balrogs. I never throw Tolkien calendars away, so I have it somewhere — it would be buried in storage back home. Does anyone else keep the Tolkien calendar every year, and/or can anyone confirm my memory?

  6. jhagman Says:

    Fred, I think the painting you are refering to is of Fingolfin fighting Melkor The Morgoth. Melkor has his hammer “Grond”, and Fingolfin keeps on dodging his strikes, and hits him with his sword repeatedly, those wounds on Morgoth never heal. In my opinion, the best painting of a Balrog is from the “Brothers Hildebrandt” I think it was in their calendar in 1976.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Okay, help us out, Mr. Snowflake! Who was the High King of the Elves who was fighting Balrogs in a desperate battle, and he was doing well until Balrogs encircled him and overwhelmed him? I want to say Fingolfin, but this is all tenuous memory on my part, and you’re the expert on all things First Age.

      It’s amazing to consider the greatness, glory, and power of the elf-lords of old — Gandalf is evenly matched against one Balrog, but the High Kings of the Elves could only be outmatched when surrounded by the things!

      I love the work of the Brothers Hildebrandt, but I do have to disagree about their Balrog. I know the picture you mean — the Balrog is big, pale, and muscular, and there’s nothing of flame or shadow about it. But I’m not knocking Greg and Tim H. — I do truly love most of their work. They handle elves and hobbits very well! (Nor am I knocking you for having an opinion — well-said!)

      • I see abundant silence Says:

        I appreciate your vote of confidence re: an expert on the First Age! Hardly, but I know you meant it well.

        Tolkien (if I recall rightly) once said he was a hobbit (though I do know he fancied himself Beren and said Faramir was his favorite character outside of the Fellowship in LOTR). You, my friend, have always been, and always will be, a dwarf. You always loved spelunking (is that the right term?) on your vacations and were always entranced by the world under the stone. When I first read LOTR I thought of you when Gimli waxes poetic about the Caves of Aglarond. Yes, Khazad-dum in its heyday is where you belong, and you know well enough where my heart lies …

  7. jhagman Says:

    Fred,,,ahem,, In the LOTR, is not the Balrog’s whip flame? Is not the Balrog described as a large shadow? The only mass of Balrogs I remember is when they rescued Melkor from Ungoliant. Balrogs, Sauron and the Istari are all from the same order of Valar; the Maiar (I think). The Istari had limitations put on their power in Middle-Earth, they had to use primarily wisdom to convince the free peoples to make good choices. One other point, was not the Balrog in LOTR buried for many years at the “roots” of a mountain hiding? If you spend years underground in places like the Mines of Moria- you tend to get pale.

  8. I see abundant silence Says:

    Fingolfin fought Morgoth before the gates of Angband and wounded the Dark Lord with seven wounds (which never healed) with his sword, Ringil. Morgoth finally killed him by stepping on his throat, but Fingolfin hewed the foot with his last, despairing stroke. Morgoth took the body of the High King and broke it, and would have fed it to his wolves, but Thorondor, King of the Eagles (whose wingspan was said to be 30 meters!) swooped upon the Morgoth and marred his face before taking the body of Fingolfin away. Morgoth is said to have been “halt of foot from that day, for the wounds he received from the king never healed, and in his face was the scar that Thorondor had made.”

    FINGON (father of Erenion Gil-Galad and eldest son of Fingolfin β€” Turgon of Gondolin was his other son) was surrounded by Balrogs and killed during the Nirnaeth Arnediad (Unnumbered Tears) the Fifth Battle of Beleriand. He was separated from Turgon’s host “by a sea of foes” and surrounded by Balrogs, and a “great flame” issued from his broken helm, after which the Balrogs “trod his banners, silver and blue, into the mire of his blood.”

    As for the Hildebrandt painting is question: their Balrog is as Fred described β€” pale, muscular and quite lion-like above the shoulders. I always liked it, save for a lack of flame and smoke and darkness (the Balrogs were fallen Maiar and servants, as spoken by Gandalf β€” himself a Maiar β€” of ‘the dark fire’).

    As for the elf kings: Remember that they were “mighty among the Children of Iluvatar” and fresh-come (even after 400+ years in the case of Fingon) from Aman, the light of which “still shone in their faces.”) Even several thousand years later Gandalf would say, of Glorfindel (who is somehow living in LOTR and not dead at Gondolin) “you saw him as he is, an elf-lord from the uttermost West, and they have a great power over both the seen and unseen. Caught between fire and water, and seeing an elf-lord revealed in his wrath they were dismayed, and their horses filled with madness.” Gandalf would also say “living here still are some of his greatest enemies, elf-lords of the West, mighty among the Firstborn.”
    Remember that Sauron, though (like the Balrogs) a Maiar, barely overcame Finrod in a battle of “songs of power” and was humbled himself to the power of Luthien.

    More on the paintings (which I love) later. That should be enough for now …

  9. I see abundant silence Says:

    Fingolfin fought Morgoth before the gates of Angband and wounded the Dark Lord with seven wounds (which never healed) with his sword, Ringil. Morgoth finally killed him by stepping on his throat, but Fingolfin hewed the foot with his last, despairing stroke. Morgoth took the body of the High King and broke it, and would have fed it to his wolves, but Thorondor, King of the Eagles (whose wingspan was said to be 30 meters!) swooped upon the Morgoth and marred his face before taking the body of Fingolfin away. Morgoth is said to have been “halt of foot from that day, for the wounds he received from the king never healed, and in his face was the scar that Thorondor had made.”

    FINGON (father of Erenion Gil-Galad and eldest son of Fingolfin β€” Turgon of Gondolin was his other son) was surrounded by Balrogs and killed during the Nirnaeth Arnediad (Unnumbered Tears) the Fifth Battle of Beleriand. He was separated from Turgon’s host “by a sea of foes” and surrounded by Balrogs, and a “great flame” issued from his broken helm, after which the Balrogs “trod his banners, silver and blue, into the mire of his blood.”

    As for the Hildebrandt painting is question: their Balrog is as Fred described β€” pale, muscular and quite lion-like above the shoulders. I always liked it, save for a lack of flame and smoke and darkness (the Balrogs were fallen Maiar and servants, as spoken by Gandalf β€” himself a Maiar β€” of ‘the dark fire’).

    As for the elf kings: Remember that they were “mighty among the Children of Iluvatar” and fresh-come (even after 400+ years in the case of Fingon) from Aman, the light of which “still shone in their faces.”) Even several thousand years later Gandalf would say, of Glorfindel (who is somehow living in LOTR and not dead at Gondolin) “you saw him as he is, an elf-lord from the uttermost West, and they have a great power over both the seen and unseen. Caught between fire and water, and seeing an elf-lord revealed in his wrath they were dismayed, and their horses filled with madness.” Gandalf would also say “living here still are some of his greatest enemies, elf-lords of the West, mighty among the Firstborn.”
    Remember that Sauron, though (like the Balrogs) a Maiar, barely overcame Finrod in a battle of “songs of power” and was humbled himself to the power of Luthien.

    More on the paintings (which I love) later. That should be enough for now …

    p.s. β€” all these quotations from Tolkien are as I can best recall; I do not have a copies of his books here at work …

  10. jhagman Says:

    One other thought, I think Professor Tolkien would completely dig the fact that we are having Balrog debates!

  11. jhagman Says:

    Whaaat?? Mr. Brown Snowflake is quoting from memory!? And here I thought I was good!

  12. I see abundant silence Says:

    jhagman: I agree β€” Mr. Brown Snowflake is one arrogant S.O.B. to try and quote Tolkien without the source material at hand! Talk about being a self-assured gasbag! The snot even went so far as to double-enter his post just to make sure his p.s. was added …

  13. I see abundant silence Says:

    My dear Fred … I detect in your response to my first entry on this post a sadness that I had not commented on the paintings. The reason? I chose to “let them sit” if you will, for a day or two, so that I could look at them afresh and thus comment after multiple viewings (I liked them all from the start, of course).

    As for “Good Morning!” I love Bilbo’s waistcoat and the gold buttons. The Shire looks quite inviting, too. I particularly like the somewhat exasperated look on Mr. Baggins’ face and the stance and slightly askew glance of Gandalf, as if the wise wizard were sizing up our hero.

    “The Eternal Now” is beautiful. I want to be transported there, to stand under the falling blossoms, to smell the breeze and feel a sense of wonder at the beauty the Lord has graced our world with. Love the bikes and the bat and ball, too!

    “A Balrog! What an evil fortune! And I am already weary …”
    As for that Balrog: I think the shades of red you chose, especially in the outlining of his form, are fantastic, and I love the glare radiating from him as seen on the stone sides of your most excellent chasm. The sword is perfect, too. I also like your interpretation of the fleeing Fellowship in the moment before Aragorn (and Boromir, too β€” people often overlook his heroism) gets everyone away but simply cannot leave Gandalf “He cannot stand alone! Elendil! Elendil!”

    “A talented junior-high art student could do much better” pah!

  14. fsdthreshold Says:

    Oh, boy, now we’re talking! I do love a good high-level Tolkien discussion! Thank you both, Mr. Brown Snowflake and jhagman, for your most-welcome corrections to my Elvish history. Okay, so it was Fingon who was surrounded by Balrogs at the Nirnaeth Arnoediad (thank you! I knew when I wrote it that “Fingolfin” didn’t sound right) — and THAT’s a picture I know I’ve seen on a Tolkien calendar!

    Thank you, Mr. Snowflake, for your detailed comments on the paintings! That is exactly what I was hoping for — to hear what you and others like about them, and even any points that you don’t like — it’s all good discussion! In retrospect, I wish I’d made Bilbo a little rounder in the face. But oh, well! As Morwenna commented, the glare from the camera’s flash on the high-gloss varnish can almost be a good visual effect in some cases — the one I like is in my closeup, cropped version of the Fellowship fleeing, and the glare on the canvas above them actually looks like a shower of sparks raining down from the titanic battle taking place on the bridge!

    It’s true, I’m a Dwarf (in spirit if not in stature) — although there were Finrod’s people at Nargothrond — talk about the best of both worlds! — Elvendom and caverns! I have very Dwarvish hands: big square palms, built for opening jars, with stubby fingers around them. I have hands that look as if they were drawn by the Brothers Hildebrandt!

    As to Mr. B. Snowflake quoting from memory: jhagman, I tell you in all seriousness, Mr. B. Snowflake has the most fantastic memory of anyone I’ve ever met, particularly for the things he loves. Seriously. I don’t know anyone even close, and I’m no slouch, either.

    Mr. Snowflake: Thanks for the very kind words on The Eternal Now! You have actually met all three people depicted in it. As I said in the post, these three paintings were done as Christmas presents for my friends here. The two Tolkien paintings were done on both sides of a double-sided canvas board, and the recipient was the younger of the two friends; The Eternal Now was painted for the older, and I’m still trying to decide what to paint on the back of it (I’ve borrowed it back for the time being). [Everyone else — sorry to be so cryptic!]

    jhagman, I agree — Professor Tolkien probably would love to know that, more than a half-century after the publication of LOTR, some people are having a passionate debate about Balrogs!

    Well, even if you think a Balrog should be all shadow and no flame, it’s hard to think of the Hildebrandts’ Balrog as “a great dark shadow”! I like it as a picture, but not as an illustration of Tolkien’s Balrog. (Again, I like most of what the Hildebrandts did. In fact, having a shortage of calendars this year, I got out one of their old ones and hung it on my wall again, in order to enjoy the pictures month by month.) (I like to have a lot of calendars — I do, of course, have this year’s Tolkien calendar, which is the subject of another post entirely — it’s really, really interesting this year — by the Dutch artist Cor Blok.)

    Anyway, I ain’t buyin’ your argument that the Balrog should be pale because it spent so long buried in the Deep Earth. πŸ™‚ I don’t think a Balrog’s shadowy darkness comes from exposure to the sun.

    Again, it’s impossible to defend my position on Balrogs without a copy of LOTR here to refer to, but if a Balrog is a “flame of Udun,” it seems to me that it should have some flame to it — itself, not just its whip. And did anyone find the passage about how the limbs have the coiling property of serpents?

    Major teaser: about 24 hours from now, I’m hoping to post my two latest paintings. They’re my two favorites yet. (Alas, they’re not Tolkien-related, though — though they are fantasy. Stay tuned!)

  15. I see abundant silence Says:

    Fred: Thanks for the compliments! Now I have something I have to live up to! πŸ™‚

    I am happy to know I had correctly guessed the identities of those in The Eternal Now and am even happier they are the two who received the incredible gift of the paintings!

    I had intended to drag The Silmarillion and The Fellowship to work with me today to put Tolkien’s own words into the discussion. If my now-famous memory does not fail me, I will endeavour do so in my next posting. Hope I remember where I left them …

  16. I see abundant silence Says:

    OK β€” with copies in hand, here we go:

    First, selected from The Silmarillion:
    “scourges of fire” “And in Utumno he (Melkor/Morgoth) gathered his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terro went before them; and they had whips of flame.”

    Gothmog was called Lord of the Balrogs, slayer of Fingon and Etchelion of the Fountain, by whom he was himself slain. He wounded Feanor, “and there he (Feanor) would have died, had not his sons in that moment with force to his aid; and the Balrogs left him, and departed to Angband.”

    “At last Fingon stood alone with his guard dead about him; and he fought with Gothmog, until another Balrog came behind and cast a thong of fire about him. Then Gothmog hewed him with his black axe, and a white flame sprang up fromo the helm of Fingon as it was cloven. Thus fell the High King of the Noldor; and they beat him into the dust with their maces, and his banner, blue and silver, they trod into the mire of his blood.”
    ————————————–
    Finally, from The Fellowship of the Ring:

    Aragorn, speaking with Celeborn and Galadriel, calls the Balrog “both a shadow and a flame, strong and terrible.”

    “What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form, of man-shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and terror seemed to be in it, and to go before it.
    It came to the edge of the fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it. Then with a rush it leaped over the fissure. The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs.”

    “His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings. It raised the whip, and the thongs whined and cracked, Fire came from its nostrils.”

    “The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew. It stepped forward slowly onto the bridge, and suddenly drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall; but still Gandalf could be seen, glimmering in the gloom, and altogether alone: grey and bent, like a wizened tree before the onset of a storm.”
    ————————–

    And there we have it. There are more mentions of Balrogs, of course, but no visual descriptions that I am aware of beyond what is mentioned above. Interesting that Gothmog would be armed with an axe while others bore maces and swords. While Durin’s Bane is not specifically said to have a whip of flame others are, and I see no reason why it should be concluded that it was not also a flaming spanker.

    I think we can all agree: Balrogs, like birds of prey, are simply cool.

  17. Chris Says:

    This thread is absolutely amazing. I am always amazed at people who have so thoroughly studied JRRT, LotR and the Silmarillion. In case any of you are interested I can easily hook you up with a professor of Philosophy at a certain Illinois-based university who not only teaches a Philosophy and Tolkien but has, if memory serves, published various articles on the topic.

    On my break all I read was a supposedly “true” (but badly editted) ghost story and Dan Simmons “Song of Kali” (as usual, well written, but ultimately kind of a let down in the end, but I didn’t go into it expecting anything more.)

    The second item (“Song of Kali”) was my first experience with an e-reader…we bought an iPad and loaded ibooks and Kindle apps on it for the flights to and from New Zealand.

    Oh, speaking of LotR…I already passed this along to Fred but here’s a wonderful picture of the only LotR thing we saw in New Zealand (we explicitly avoided going to filming locations):

    The dreaded One InnerTube:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/ch.toles/WaitomoCavesToLakeTaupo#5553729687875616498

    “One innertube to rule them all, one innertube to find them. One innertube to bring them all and in the giftshop bind them.”

    (It was in the cafe at the Waitomo Caves)

  18. I see abundant silence Says:

    You were in New Zealand and “explicitly avoided going to filming locations”?!!!!?? What are you, some kind of atheist?

    • Chris Says:

      One trip to New Zealand and you’ll realize you don’t need to go anywhere explicitly. It is pretty much amazing from top to bottom.

      (NOTE: To be fair we also did not visit any sites where they filmed the Kiwi horror MASTERPIECE “Black Sheep” (not the Chris Farley movie, but another movie by the same name, only waaaay mortifyingly scary!)

      We also did not visit any Split Enz related or Flight of the Conchords related places, but we did have difficulty not calling the “Hippopotamus” restaurant in one hotel we stayed at “Hiphopapotamus”.

      So you see, we ended up not hitting the really important Kiwi cultural sites overall!

  19. fsdthreshold Says:

    Well, then, where does that “coiling property of serpents” description come from?! I wouldn’t make up a detail like that, because it’s so unusual. I am certain I’ve read it somewhere! If it’s not in LOTR itself, could it have been in one of the Tolkien “dictionaries” in the definition of “Balrog”? But even those have to be put together from things Tolkien himself wrote. (If it’s not right there in FOTR, though, it explains why more artists haven’t done it!) Again, I’m sure I didn’t imagine it. We really need to plumb the depths of Tolkien lore!

  20. fsdthreshold Says:

    Okay, here it is! This is from A Tolkien Bestiary, by David Day:

    “. . . Valaraukar, but in Middle-earth were called Balrogs, the ‘demons of might.’ Of all Melkor’s creatures, only Dragons were greater in power. Huge and hulking, the Balrogs were man-like demons with streaming manes of fire and nostrils that breathed flame. They seemed to move within clouds of black shadow and their limbs had the coiling power of serpents.”

    I found this in an on-line search, so I don’t have a copy of the book in front of me. If anyone out there has it, I hope you will look at the entry in question and tell us if Mr. Day cites a reference to a description in Tolkien’s writings where this information comes from! At least this is proof that I didn’t come up with it on my own!

    • I see abundant silence Says:

      I do not own Mr. Day’s tome but am inclined to disagree with his description and demand proof not that he is correct, but that I am wrong …

      “coiling power of serpents” is NOT “coiling property of serpents” β€” I take it to mean a great, grasping strength, not a serpentine form in and of itself. And he is FLAT WRONG in calling the Balrogs “Melkor’s creatures”, for Melkor forfeited the power to create; he could only mimic and mar; moreover, as Tolkien clearly states in The Silmarillion (see my prior post) they were Maiar spirits, β€œscourges of fire” β€œAnd in Utumno he (Melkor/Morgoth) gathered his demons about him, those spirits who first adhered to him in the days of his splendour, and became most like him in his corruption: their hearts were of fire, but they were cloaked in darkness, and terror went before them; and they had whips of flame.”

      One must be careful reading Tolkien. I saw a calendar paiting once where Glaurung is attacking the tower of Eithel Sirion and the great worm is depicted with wings. The artist heard “dragon” and assumed wings; but Tolkien is explicit in saying the winged dragons did not appear until the final battle of Beleriand (why else is Glaurung a ‘great worm’?)

      Chris: Wow! A reference to Split Enz! I thought I was the only person in the U.S. to own one of their LPs!

  21. Daylily Says:

    Fred: I find that the phrase β€œI’m not an artist” keeps floating back into my mind, so I need to say something about that! It is true that you do not paint for a living. But you have created 1) individual works, 2) with considerable skill 3) that speak to the audience and call forth thoughtful responses. You have created art works; therefore, you are an artist.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Daylily! Okay, I see your point. Yes, by definition, I guess I am an artist. An amateur artist, for sure — but an artist.

      I had to laugh at some spam that came in after I posted the paintings. It was an ad saying, “If you’d like to learn how to paint, buy our book at . . .” Isn’t that funny? Ouch! I’m sure it was a thing where that vendor trolls the Web (or just WordPress) for any blogs about art or painting and sends an ad to each one. But it’s funny, like a slap in the face, to post your paintings and then hear, “Hey, would you like to learn how to paint?” Truth be told, I would! I’d like to learn how to shade, how to use colors and perspectives, how to draw the human figure, how to achieve different effects . . . I’ll try to keep learning, little by little. Of course I don’t want to forget that writing is my main thing!

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