Rest in Peace, Christopher Tolkien

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien died on 16 January 2020, at the age of 95, in Draguignan, Var, France.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s third son Christopher passed on an year ago today.  He was his father’s literary executor and spent countless hours sorting, deciphering, interpreting, editing and publishing his father’s mountains of unpublished literary output.  With him, the person who was most closely connected with and most knowledgeable about his father’s work from an early age on left Middle Earth and sailed into the West.  Don’t even know where to start expressing our gratitude…  Maybe best to keep it simple:

Rest in Peace, Mr. Tolkien.  Thank you for all the work you have done.

In this video, published in 1992, Christopher Tolkien comes alive again.  Among others, you will also meet his father again, two of Christopher’s siblings (one of whom is still alive), and well-known scholars interested in the world of J.R.R.T. such as Tom Shippey.

(Neo-) Classical Sunday: Rohan and Gondor Themes

The Lord of the Rings film series consists of three epic fantasy adventure films directed by Peter Jackson, based on the novel written by J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are subtitled just like the books as The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003).

Compilation of Rohan and Gondor Themes

“Few movies out there have a soundtrack that is as awe-inspiring and jaw dropping as the score for the Lord of the Rings.”

(Neo-) Classical Sunday: Clamavi De Profundis’ Song of Durin

J.R.R. Tolkien intended his sub-creation to be inspiring for other artists. And so it is!

Song of Durin – Clamavi De Profundis

Clamavi De Profundis have a rather interesting selection of uploaded videos, among them a good many Middle-Earth-themed ones. On their About page on YouTube, they say: “We are a family that loves to sing together and record inspiring and uplifting music. Our music is influenced by classical and fantasy literature as well as cinematic, traditional, religious, and classical music.”

Lyrics:

The world was young, the mountains green,
No stain yet on the Moon was seen,
No words were laid on stream or stone
When Durin woke and walked alone.
He named the nameless hills and dells;
He drank from yet untasted wells;
He stooped and looked in Mirrormere,
And saw a crown of stars appear,
As gems upon a silver thread,
Above the shadows of his head.

The world was fair, the mountains tall,
In Elder Days before the fall
Of mighty kings in Nargothrond
And Gondolin, who now beyond
The Western Seas have passed away:
The world was fair in Durin’s Day.

A king he was on carven throne
In many-pillared halls of stone
With golden roof and silver floor,
And runes of power upon the door.
The light of sun and star and moon
In shining lamps of crystal hewn
Undimmed by cloud or shade of night
There shone for ever fair and bright.

There hammer on the anvil smote,
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes’ mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.

Unwearied then were Durin’s folk;
Beneath the mountains music woke:
The harpers harped, the minstrels sang,
And at the gates the trumpets rang.

The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge’s fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin’s halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dûm.
But still the sunken stars appear
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep.

J.R.R. Tolkien

R.I.P J.R.R.T.

There is The Bard, and then there is The Professor.

Today 47 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien sailed into the West.  We hope that on the Blessed Shore, he is raising a glass today with his son Christopher, looking back at their handiwork, hopefully satisfied with the gift they have given to us who remain behind on the Hither Shore.

JRR and Christopher

Requiescat in Pace, Professor.

beren and luthien donato

Featured Image by Alan Lee, above painting by Donato Giancola.

Cultured Wednesday: Giancola’s Tolkien

“Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”

J.R.R. Tolkien appears to have viewed his sub-creation as a world that others can and probably should add to.

Surely plenty of artists have tried their hand on themes from The Professor’s stories: Names such as Alan Lee, John Howe and Ted Nasmith come to mind.  Today, we were introduced to another contemporary painter who appears to love Middle-Earth: Donato Giancola.  Here is an example of his art:

The Hobbit Donato Giancola

One of the things I like particularly about Giancola’s work is that the characters from Tolkien’s books do not look like the actors that portray them in Peter Jackson’s movies.  Precisely because they have all done a terrific job portraying all those wonderful Tolkien’ian characters, they have made it quite hard to sever one’s imagination from their faces and voices.  Mr. Giancola does not seem to have this problem and I am very thankful for it.  Look at this example of Gandalf and Frodo:

Frodo and Gandalf

Now, I am no expert, so don’t take my word for anything concerning art, ask John Howe!  Here’s what he says, quoted from Mr. Giancola’s website:

“There’s more to Donato Giancola’s art than just a pretty face. Underneath the incredibly meticulous surface of his paintings is concealed a love of perspective and form, an intimate understanding of the human body, a historian’s knowledge of costume and armour, an infallible sense of implicit narrative, visual storytelling and mythical history. It’s just that you’re so rapt gazing at all the mind-blowingly pretty bits that you tend to miss it. Look again. There’s a lot more to see.”

-John Howe, concept designer, artist, historian

One last example, this time not from Tolkien’s world but from the Magic: The Gathering game cards.  It is titled ‘Amber Prison”:

amberprison

 

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Niggle’s Parish

The Tree, the Mountains, and beyond.

Niggle and Parish, who shows up in this beautiful landscape just after Niggle realizes that he needs him, set about developing the country around Niggle’s Tree together.

One day Niggle was busy planting a quickset hedge, and Parish was lying on the grass near by, looking attentively at a beautiful and shapely little yellow flower growing in the green turf.  Niggle had put a lot of them among the roots of his Tree long ago.  Suddenly Parish looked up: his face was glistening in the sun, and he was smiling.
‘This is grand!’ he said.  ‘I oughtn’t to be here, really.  Thank you for putting in a word for me,’
‘Nonsense,’ said Niggle.  ‘I don’t remember what I said, but anyway it was not nearly enough.’
‘Oh yes, it was,’ said Parish.  ‘It got me out a lot sooner.  That Second Voice, you know: he had me sent here; he said you had asked to see me.  I owe it to you.’
‘No.  You owe it to the Second Voice,’ said Niggle.  We both do.’

(…)

The time came when the house in the hollow, the garden, the grass, the forest, the lake, and all the country was nearly complete, in its own proper fashion.  The Great Tree was in full blossom.
‘We shall finish this evening,’ said Parish one day.  ‘After that we will go for a really long walk.’
They set out the next day, and they walked until they came right through the distances to the Edge.  (…)  They saw a man, he looked like a shepherd; he was walking towards them, down the grass slopes that led up the Mountains.
(…)  ‘Are you a guide,’ Parish asked.  ‘Could you tell me the name of this country?’
‘Don’t you know?’ said the man.  ‘It is Niggle Country.  It is Niggle’s picture, or most of it: a little of it is now Parish’s Garden.’
‘Niggle’s Picture!’ said Parish in astonishment.  Did YOU think of all this, Niggle?  I never knew you were so clever.’

(…)

‘It is proving very useful indeed,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘As a holiday, and a refreshment.  It is splendid for convalescence; and not only for that, for many it is the best introduction to the Mountains.  It works wonders in some cases.  I am sending more and more there.  They seldom have to come back.’
‘No, that is so,’ said the First Voice.  ‘I think we shall have to give the region a name.  What do you propose?’
‘The Porter settled that some time ago,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘TRAIN FOR NIGGLE’S PARISH IN THE BAY: He has shouted that for a long while now.  Niggle’s Parish.  I sent a message to both of them to tell them.’
‘What did they say?’
‘They both laughed.  Laughed – the Mountains rang with it!’

Happy Easter, one and all.  All’s well that ends well.

leaf tree

 

Illustrations by Alan Lee

 

Our Own Dear John Ronald: It’s a Gift

On to the next stage…

Niggle pushed open the gate, jumped on the bicycle, and went bowling downhill in the spring sunshine.  Before long he found that the path on which he had started had disappeared, and the bicycle was rolling along over a marvellous turf.  It was green and close; and yet he could see every blade distinctly.  He seemed to remember having seen or dreamed of that sweep of grass somewhere or other.  The curves of the land were familiar somehow.  Yes: the ground was becoming level. as it should, and now, of course, it was beginning to rise again.  A great green shadow came between him and the sun.  Niggle looked up, and fell off his bicycle.
Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished.  If you could say that of a Tree that was alive, its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle so often felt or guessed, and had so often failed to catch.  He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide.
‘It’s a gift!’ he said.  He was referring to his art, and also to the result; but he was using the word quite literally. (…)
Niggle walked about, but he was not merely pottering.  He was looking round carefully.  The Tree was finished, though not finished with – ‘Just the other way about to what it used to be,’ he thought.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle

leaf tree

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Voices

How will you measure up?

‘Now the Niggle case,’ said a Voice, a severe voice, more severe than the doctor’s.
‘What was the matter with him?’ said a Second Voice, a voice that you might have called gentle, though it was not soft – it was a voice of authority, and sounded at once hopeful and sad. ‘What was the matter with Niggle?  His heart was in the right place.’
‘Yes, but it did not function properly,’ said the First Voice.  ‘And his head was no screwed on tight enough: he hardly ever thought at all.  Look at the time he wasted, not even amusing himself!  He never got ready for his journey.  He was moderately well off, and yet he arrived here almost destitute, and had to be put in the paupers’ wing.  A bad case, I’m afraid.  I think he should stay some time yet.’
‘It would not do him any harm, perhaps,’ said the Second Voice.  ‘But, of course, he is only a little man.  He was never meant to be anything very much; and he was never very strong.  Let us look at the Records.  Yes.  There are some favorable points, you know.’
‘Perhaps,’ said the First Voice; ‘but very few that will really bear examination. (…)  It is your task, of course, to put the best interpretation on the facts.  Sometimes they will bear it.  What do you propose?’
‘I think it is a case for a little gentle treatment now,’ said the Second Voice.
Niggle thought that he had never heard anything so generous as that Voice.  It made Gentle Treatment sound like a load of rich gifts, and a summons to a King’s feast.  Then suddenly Niggle felt ashamed.  To hear that he was considered a case for Gentle Treatment overwhelmed him, and made him blush in the dark. (…)  Niggle hid his blushes in the rough blanket.
There was a silence.  (…)
‘Well, I agree,’ Niggle heard the First Voice say in the distance.  ‘Let him go on to the next stage.  Tomorrow, if you like.’

~ J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle

 

leaf tree

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Our Own Dear John Ronald: The New Normal

Bread rather than jam.

At any rate, Niggle got no pleasure out of life, not what he had been used to call pleasure.  He was certainly not amused.  But it could not be denied that he began to have a feeling of – well satisfaction: bread rather than jam.  He could take up a task the moment one bell rang, and lay it aside promptly the moment the next one went, all tidy and ready to be continued at the right time.  He got through quite a lot in a day, now; he finished small things off neatly.  He had no ‘time of his own’ (except alone in his bed-cell), and yet he was becoming master of his time; he began to know just what he could do with it.  There was no sense of rush.  He was quieter inside now, and at resting time he could really rest.

~J.R.R. Tolkien: Leaf by Niggle

leaf tree

The above quote finds Niggle in Purgatory.  He has been there for some time already, and now, after getting over all his ‘I wish I had’-s and ‘I should have’-s and ‘I should not have’-s, after worrying enough about things he could not change anymore, he begins to concern himself with the tasks he has been given in this new place where he now resides, the Workhouse.

It is a passage that deserves a bit of pondering, besides the obvious connection with Tolkien’s own much-discussed issue of keeping deadlines and getting distracted by too many things.  If you will, just take the first three sentences and think about them, particularly in connection with what’s going on in the world right now and how life has changed, quite possibly for good.  In every situation, there is also an opportunity.  One can learn much from Niggle.

At any rate, Niggle got no pleasure out of life, not what he had been used to call pleasure.  He was certainly not amused.  But it could not be denied that he began to have a feeling of – well satisfaction: bread rather than jam.

Illustrations by Alan Lee

Our Own Dear John Ronald: Undone

‘There is plenty of material here: canvas, wood, waterproof paint.’ – ‘My picture!’ exclaimed Niggle.

‘There now!’ said the Inspector.  ‘You’ll have to go; but it’s a bad way to start on your journey, leaving your jobs undone.  Still, we can at least make some use of this canvas now.’

‘Oh dear!’ said poor Niggle, beginning to weep.

~ J.R.R. Tolkien

When you go, how will the jobs be taken care of that you did not finish?  For Niggle, his beloved tree ends up in bits and pieces as shingles for his neighbor’s leaky roof.

Although for Tolkien unfinished jobs were also quite a literal problem, learning from Niggle’s experience is useful for spiritual jobs, if you will, as well.  Focus helps.  There are things to tackle.  It’s a bad way to start on your journey, leaving your jobs undone.

leaf tree

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