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Old 07-11-2012, 12:25 PM   #13
Faramir Jones
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Silmaril A very interesting topic

You began a very interesting topic, Mithalwen. Certainly, we do have examples of jewellery, architecture, decorative art, heraldry, and a general pride in making practical objects lovely. But the idea that there is 'very little sculpture' in Middle-earth, apart from the examples you described, is quite wrong. Pippin, when he was about to meet Denethor in Minas Tirith, was very taken by the hall he had entered, which included a lot of sculpture:

It was lit by deep windows in the wide aisles at either side, beyond the rows of tall pillars that upheld the roof. Monoliths of black marble, they rose to great capitals carved in many strange figures of beasts and leaves; and far above in shadow the wide vaulting gleamed with dull gold, inset with flowing traceries of many colours. No hangings nor stored webs, nor any things of woven stuff or of wood, were to be seen in that long hall; but between the pillars stood a silent company of tall images graven in cold stone. (The Lord of the Rings, (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), pp. 737-8)

These images are explained as an 'avenue of kings long dead'.(Ibid.)

Inziladun, in a related question, you asked if elves and dwarves ever made complex statues. The answer is 'Yes' as far as the elves are concerned; because they appear to have a long and distinguised history of such work. One can go back to Valinor during the Elder Days to the great sculptress Nerdanel the Wise, whose work is described as follows:

She made images, some of the Valar in their forms visable, and many others of men and women of the Eldar, and these were so alike that their friends, if they knew not her art, would speak to them; but many things she wrought also of her own thought in shapes strong and strange but beautiful. (The History of Middle-earth: 10. Morgoth’s Ring, (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1994), p. 272.)

It makes me wish that they did exist in reality!

Galadriel55, you wondered if woodcarving had been mentioned yet. One of the earliest places we can start with that is the 'Narn' in Unfinished Tales, which talks of Túrin's friend ‘Sador the woodwright’, who at the time of the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, was working on a ‘great chair’ for ‘the lord [Húrin] to sit on in his hall’. (Unfinished Tales, (London: Unwin paperbacks, 1982), pp. 64-5) Later, when discussing what to do with the chair with Túrin, he

fingered the carving on the chair and signed. ‘I wasted my time,’ he said,
‘though the hours seemed pleasant. But all such things are short-lived; and the joy in the making is their only true end, I guess.’
(UT, p. 72)

I particularly like this passage, due to his acknowledgement that his work is perhaps more ephemeral than that of others, and that perhaps it is best just to take pleasure in creating it, and not worry if it will survive the ages. Is he saying this because he is a Man, I wonder?

In the Third Age, we find not only that Frodo wakes up in bed in Rivendell, and finds the ceiling had ‘dark beams richly carved'; (LotR, p. 213) the Gondorians also appear to have a strong tradition of woodcarving. When Frodo and Sam parted from Faramir and his men, the two were given, ‘two stout staves of polished wood, shod with iron, and with carven heads through which ran plaited leathern thongs'. Faramir explained that they were ‘made of the fair tree lebethron, beloved of the woodwrights of Gondor, and a virtue has been set upon them of finding and returning'. (Ibid., p. 679)

Later, on the day of Aragorn’s crowning, the crown was brought out in ‘a great casket of black lebethron bound with silver'. (Ibid., p. 945)

I particularly liked the discussion about paintings, and why we don't see any. I agree with the suggestion that Elves would think of them as too ephemeral for their taste. As Inziladun correctly asked, 'How enduring are the canvases and other surfaces on which the great masterworks we know of rest upon? Aren't they now kept under controlled environmental conditions with that in mind?' If you're a being who lives as long as Arda, creating such a work would be a waste of time. For that reason, those who made jewellery were seen as the top artists by their fellow elves, Fëanor being the greatest of all, due to jewellery being the most durable of artworks.

This can be seen in real life, when an Anglo-Saxon ring, about 1,300 years old, was found in 2001:

I recall watching the television programme on which the ring was shown; and it looked as good as ever.

While I can understand Elves, and some Men taking that attitude, I wonder about Hobbits, due to their interest in family trees. Do people think that, due to the Shire being based on a village in the English Midlands c.1897, hobbits who could afford it had their portraits painted? I can well imagine Bag End, let alone Brandy Hall or Great Smials, with a lot of family portraits on the walls. What do people think?

Last edited by Faramir Jones; 10-23-2012 at 06:19 AM.
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