|chapter page for a fantasy RPG guidebook. |
watercolor and Gouache on paper
14" x 20"
the actual quest to destroy the Ring, for all it's importance, was the part of TTT and ROTK that I found the least enjoyable upon first reading; it's so stripped down and minimalist compared to the great musterings and battles taking place in the west; just centering on these three characters progressing at what feels like a snail's pace, and yet as time goes by, it's grown in my mind considerably. Their mission, and particularly during the long, torturous treck through Mordor, are where the religious aspects of the quest to destroy the Ring become the most pronounced; the whole sequence feels to me very much like Jesus' walk to Golgotha (Frodo even borrowing some lines from the passion). It is the act of self-sacrifice by which the world and God's children will be saved. This essentially holy task that Frodo is charged with ruins him in body and soul, beyond healing (at least in middle-earth) after the ring is destroyed he basically sits out the rest of the story, the other hobbits largely taking center stage; Merry and Pippin - now tall and lordly, sworn esquires of great kings of men - take the biggest part in the defeat of Saruman and the restoration of the shire, Sam (though torn as ever) can find love and family, and returns, more or less, to his life as a Gamgee of bagshot row, but following the destruction of the ring, despite the great uplift all around him (and despite his responsibility for this great thing) Frodo becomes this removed, melancholy figure. It seems like mostly what he wants to do is just see Bilbo again because, well, Bilbo gets it, he's been there. In the end there's really no other choice for both of them but to leave for Valinor; the company for that journey is a who's-who of the great ones who have worked and lost and sacrificed to deliver the world from Sauron's evil, and really none of them had to suffer more for it that those two humble - seemingly incongruous among such company - little creatures.
In the moment portrayed, Frodo has just thrown Gollum off of him, he commands him, with a surprising jolt of authority, to be gone, while Sam stands back, ever the witness. All three are worn down to their bones by the journey across gorgoroth, Frodo and Sam's clothes nothing more than blackened rags. Gollum, who at this point really seems beyond all hope, is an increasingly realistic and terrifying image of what Frodo could become, if Frodo has been so hurt by his long ordeal resisting the evil of the ring, gollum has long since lost that fight, and is this (barely) living example of the consequences. I love his acknowledgement to Sam of the seemingly simple truth that, when the Ring is destroyed, he'll die, not even necessarily in the tumult of Mount Doom, he'll just eventually die. It seems obvious, but then he's put off dying for hundreds of years, he doesn't want to die, he's afraid of dying, and one senses the death that he faces (and one that, on some level, he may know he faces) is what medieval catholics would call the "second death" or the "true death;" to die without redemption, to die evil and be shut out from God's grace. Gollum at this point is thoroughly doomed, he's come to the absolute end of his rope (an end already long postponed by his succumbing to evil, his life drawn out to vampiric length like the nazgul) and he does in fact - mere minutes later - plunge into the very literal fires of hell. I wanted him to look as Tolkien describes him; "barely a shadow of a living thing" practically ready to turn to dust and blow away on a strong wind.
I'm going to say (though I know it's "famous last words" at this point) that this one will one day be remade into a finished painting; i'm very happy with the composition, but considerably less so with that little preliminary gollum sketch popping out like a sprite in the bottom left (the price you pay for making sketches in pen )
part of the weekly tolkien sketchblog
my name is Turner. I live in the new york city area, and am looking for work as an illustrator/sculptor, I am educated and experienced in these fields, but am still fairly new to the professional art world.