The idea to depict them in old age was motivated primarily (if I'm being honest) by not feeling quite up to the task of depicting Luthien in her prime but also because it seemed a really good place in their story (namely the end) from which to view the story as a whole; their timeless, perfect love, their unparalleled feats, their overcoming of fate and death (or perhaps they were simply fated to do exactly as they did; it is after all by their union that a strain of divinity enters into the human race, which stands to inherit the earth one day) and their life upon returning from the Halls of Mandos, lived out in a kind of heaven-on-earth, isolated and content in their love and seemingly retired from the troubles of elves and men (robin williams' and anabella sciora's happy home in the hereafter in "what dreams may come" is basically what I think of for Dor-firn-i-Chuinar)
I wanted both of them, and especially Luthien, to actually look old (you know, not like a twenty five year old beauty queen in old-age makeup, like you see far too often in the last scenes of those decade-spanning movies) in some ways the image (the one in my head, not necessarily the one I was able to put down on paper) of the most beautiful of all the children of Illuvatar, born to live forever, growing old and dying, but happy and in the arms of her beloved is both impossibly sad but also joyous, like the Lay of Leithian itself; the loss of Luthien is a sore one from which the elves and seemingly the earth itself will never entirely recover, but she was lost of her own decision, and did so, as per the lay's closing line, without sorrow. I could imagine the two of them leaving the world like this, to be found where they lie by Dior shortly thereafter.
Part of the Weekly Tolkien Sketchblog. Special thanks to John Howe for the bramble leaves (I never get tired of ripping those off)
As I read The Silmarillion I imagined them how they grow old together.. you captured this so well..
I think, that portraing them like this, shows how deep their love was... I don't know...
This is simply stunning! It somehow reminds me of Alan Lee's style (which I love )
yeah, i agree, somehow the fact that they actually do grow old together gives their love a greater, deeper legitimacy than if it were one of those classic, all-consuming "young loves" like romeo and juliet, ending in their untimely deaths to spare them having to realize that they actually don't have all that much in common
(although i guess beren and luthien actually do die young, romeo and juliet style, tolkien likes to have his cake and eat it too )
And Beren is great. I can see the resemblance to Tolkien himself.
so far my attemps at luthien - this one and another where i've drawn her tiny and from behind - have been mostly motivated by not quite feeling up to depicting the "fairest of all the children of illuvatar" in her prime, but i'm sure the day will come.
thanks for the lovely comment!
Concerning the younger Luthien it's my opinion that you should do your best to ignore her beauty when designing a depiction of her and instead focus on evoking the rest of her character instead; from what we can gather she's fearless to the point of bearding both The Enemy AND his heir in their own dens, charming to the point of that very charisma being something of a disadvantage at times and thoroughly devoted to those whom she loves (but not blindly; she seems to follow her own ideas of what is the right thing to do, even in the face of her father and seems self-willed to the utmost degree).
I would also suggest that her solitary dancing in the wilds of Dorthonion might not only be a reflection of her security or her self-confidence, but a certain desire for the peace and quiet denied her by virtue of her beauty, her charisma and her rank drawing those seeking to court either her hand in marriage or just her goodwill.
I'll add a final, peculiar idea that occurred to me on contemplating this most charming lady; she reminds me just a little of a Hobbit.
Think about it, a youthful and boundlessly self-confident individual raised in a blissful, well-guarded realm by watchful guardians and quite possibly completely inexperienced when it comes to (albeit not quite ignorant of) the Darkness in the world, who proves herself unexpectedly tough and resourceful even after a decidedly comfortable prior existence. Perhaps memories of that blissful living even strengthened her against the despair that gave the Enemy so much of his power over the hearts of Hurin's Children?
Is it just me or is there a genuine parallel there? (admittedly this is partly based on my mental image of Luthien Tinuviel as being somewhat petite physically, a little birdlike and yet very elegant, very much not a professional ballerina yet with the physique of someone who practices her dancing for the joy of it - Ms. Audrey Hepburn is one of the influences that occurred to me, but not the only one and perhaps not even the best one).
The character on the right is Galadriel and she is saying something like : "Do I think your father is going to freak out ? Well... let's say it's quite big for a teddy bear".
I do feel sympathy for Thingol more often than not; he's no fool, but on the whole he pursues the course of wisdom even when that road veers perilously close to folly (it can't help that there really isn't anyone except his wife who can pull seniority on him and by all appearances the Lady Melian focuses on Otherworldly affairs, like keeping a Horde of Satanic monstrosities out of Doriath, leaving wordily policies to Thingol).
That WOULD give a somewhat different twist to 'the Lay of Luthien' - on the other hand any lady smart enough to sneak around Sauron until she's in a position to turn him into a chew-toy, sing rings around Morgoth AND keep Beren One-Hand alive while getting them both out of the immediate vicinity of Angbad is unlikely to be so foolish as to fall pregnant while heading headlong into Middle-Earth's Underworld.
If she can shatter the stones of an Evil Under-lord's stronghold with her power, she can probably avoid inconvenient conception.
I'm interested by your idea of depicting Doriath as more Celtic than the more Norse Noldor; out of curiosity would this visual motif apply to their costumes as well? (I must admit that the parallels between Melian the Maiar and Amaterasu-omikami continue to suggest themselves to me, which makes it hard to avoid working a few Japanese influences into designs for Doriath).
actually I sort of wondered why nobody had done a scene of them in old age, as it seems like a very important element of their story (that Luthien gives up her imortal life and they age and die together)
I'm glad you enjoy my work, and thank you for all your lovely, thoughtful comments!
I am obliged to criticize on a point of order, since Tolkien had inferred that Luthien had kept her Elven beauty to her days' end, which seemed to be shortened after Beren gave her the silmaril attached to the Nauglamir, that jewel of ill-fortune. It was as if the candle burned at two ends, so to speak, but no one seems to have complained about it. Least of all Beren, I suppose, for he understood the transcendent and all too temporary beauty of mortal life and passing time. That being said, I suspect Tolkien himself would have approved very much of your theme of his greatest hero & heroine grown old and happy together. It was something like he experienced with his own wife, and which he probably held as the ideal relationship. And the brambles looked just fine!
I imagine that she just died here cause before that the Silmaril was able to hide her aging, showing her so radiant that she looked stil in her prime, but Beren was able to see through it and in the same time not caring about it cause he was seeing her beyond the beauty of the Silmaril. And then they both died and every one could look at her beauty, like Hurin did with Morwen, without Feanor's tricks, and she was in the same time more natural and prettier : the finest grandmom in Beleriand with still the memory of the young Elve maiden.
Okay I stop here
(Your Beren remind me of your Denethor which is not bad cause Denethor got this really "Beorian" feeling. Still : be careful not to fall in an "only two types of old man" with the noble beorian old man -Beren and Denethor- and the fierce Hadorian -Helm and Hurin- )
Not representing Luthien in her prime is in the same time very modest and wise imo, even the representation gaven by Dolfen (probably one of her fairest take on ME and the one I'm according the most with) is quite "under-the-'reality' " of what should be Luthien's beauty. Powerful enough to submit a Vala !
Same for not showing the Silmaril (once again Dolfen did well but not enough).
Just to precise : except if I missed a part of the HoME on this controversial chapter, Dior couldn't found his parents himself cause he was already King of Doriath, an Elf just brought the Silmaril.
as for beren looking like denethor, I cannot say it was intentional, but while I dont see denethor as looking UNlike beren (he, aragorn and faramir probably all fit that genetic mold fairly close) I dont see beren as especially "noble." he is ofcourse, by birth and title, and being the heir of the house of beor he is actually the senior-most lord of the edain, but his house is destroyed leaving him nothing to inheret, and, unlike tuor or especially turin, he doesnt seem like some kind of mighty, predestined warrior and hero. He seems like the kind of guy who (in true Homer Simpson fashion) would consider his own greatest achievement scoring a woman far too good for him; more a lover than a fighter, and he is no real lord except in a "lord of his household" type way. He and luthien seem to live out in Tol galen this rather blissful, almost hobbitish existence (in the sense that we'd discussed hobbits before as representing this simple, agrarian lifestyle, and the good cheer and simple commonsense wisdom thereof) I was semi-conciously trying to make beren (and to a lesser but still present effect luthien) look a bit like tolkien and his wife; their story was, as is well known, very personal to tolkien. I'm surprised nobody's picked up on it so far (I would have thought the liver spots and noble english "jug-ear" would be a dead giveaway )
I had this feeling about Beren being a more "human-hero" type. Fulfilling a personnal quest instead of saving thourthens of people and kingdoms. Luthien is basically doing all the work during the quest of the Silmaril. But Beren is mentionned a lot, along Turin, as one of the "heroes of forgotten past" : he survied on his own to Sauron's patrol, find his way through Dagor-Guiliath (which no one has done before and after apparently), etc. He is certainly a hero with a great "H", Luthien is just even mightier. He is a very human character and a great hero in the same time. Probably "noble" in Aragorn's way : a nobility less visible than Faramir's (as Pippin described it) but deeper and greater. Some kind of "noble-heart", kind with beasts and men, courageous beyond any limit, but not seeking for power.
Mirranda Otto, even if she was a lot thiner, had this feeling of being an antic beauty.
Speaking about feminine beauty for Tolkien. Some people relate Tolkien's vision to the pre-raphaelite movement in England and there are similarities in their approach (re-enchanting a lost world) and some paintings of this movement does feel really Middle-Earthian :
Beren was never a polished-looking guy, and Tolkien stated that meeting Luthien actually restored some of the youth and bearing he had lost from his years as a hunted outlaw. As per Aragorn, his words and deeds would reveal the hidden majesty within. Melian saw him more clearly than Thingol, but the tale acknowledges that the king saw him with the eyes of a father regarding the scruffy ruffian of a boyfriend his dear little princess wants him to like.
For this reason I tend to picture Luthien (despite being atleast a few hundred years old by the time she meets beren) as quite young, somewhere around that "just on the verge of womanhood" age, like all the classic grimm brothers' (and later disney) princesses; rapunzel, snow white, or sleeping beauty ("Labyrinth"-era Jennifer Connelly comes to mind) Funny thing is, in that company, the tale of beren and luthien (like eowyn and the witchking) is surprisingly "girl power," luthien's age, lineage and abilities are far greater than her would-be prince charming, she saves beren's life more often than the other way around, she seems to be able to go into Carrie-mode and destroy castles, and we even get this gender reversed take on the myth of orpheus retrieving his wife from the underworld.
I like you're explanation of Beren as essentially the highschool boyfriend who luthien's dad doesnt think is nearly good enough for his daughter (and wouldnt you know it, the little fucker ends up getting her pregnant and killed, thingol should sit down for a beer with moustache-dad from 'twilight')
(In my naive ways )
I don't think I have words to describe this! It's so peaceful and drawn like striped away from a dream, a long forgotten memory, and you get the feeling that they're just resting, although it may be now or soon eternal, but that eternity can't part them and they will be forever together... but that's a wish that already came true.
And also you're the first to draw them old!