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LotR

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Trenches of the Black Land.

The descriptions of battle scenes in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ seem lifted from the grim memories of the trenches: the relentless artillery bombardment, the whiff of mustard gas, the bodies of dead soldiers discovered in craters of mud. In the Siege of Gondor, hateful orcs are ‘digging, digging lines of deep trenches in a huge ring,’ while others maneuver ‘great engines for the casting of missiles.'”

In the NYT, author and historian Joseph Loconte writes on the impact of the Battle of the Somme on young J.R.R. Tolkien. “When the Somme offensive was finally called off in November 1916, a total of about 1.5 million soldiers were dead or wounded.” (Among the deceased: my great-grandfather, Alfred Amory Sullivan.)

A Hobbit Will Rise.

Also in this year’s Comic-Con cache, a few posters and the teaser for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. Eh…I dunno. As y’all know, I’ve been a big booster of PJ’s Middle Earth from jump street, and I thought well of the first Hobbit, tho’ the second showed signs of strain.

But this looks tonally off to me — The Hobbit just isn’t Return of the King, and, while I know the Battle of the Five Armies is the bulk of the material remaining to be covered, I’m still going to be depressed if two-thirds of the running time here is Pelennor Fields II: Prequel Boogaloo. Fingers crossed.

The Shadow from Ekkaia.

“Outerra…is a ‘3D planetary engine’ that purports to be able to render a world in full detail, from space all the way down to pebbles on the surface. Meanwhile, Steve Edwards and Carl Lingard created the ME-DEM (Middle-earth Digital Elevation Model) Project in 2006, with the ultimate goal of rendering the entirety of Middle-earth in open-source data. Last year, they exported their data into the Outerra engine.”

Also in world-building news from Wired, Middle Earth as seen from space. As another Wired writer aptly noted on Twitter, Mordor looks like it was probably an impact crater.

Counsel of the Council.

“If You Like It, Don’t Put a Ring on It.” By way of Hal at Blivet, a decently funny collection of Middle Earth PSA and propaganda posters.

Mithrandir Falls.

“Understand, Frodo, I would use this Ring from the desire to do good. But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.” Frodo wasn’t the only one who failed: Artist Benjamin Collison imagines a Gandalf the Black, in thrall to the One Ring. Rather than a simple wraith, I think he’d be more of his own unique evil, a la Fritz Lang’s Galadriel. But to each his own.

Rah Rah Like a Dungeon Dragon.


“We’ve been blind. And in our blindness, our Enemy has returned.” The full trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is now online. A bit worried about all the Legolasity in here, but I’ll trust PJ. He’s earned it thus far.

The Eyes of the White Tower.

“Consider the basic premise of Tolkien’s trilogy: a small group of dedicated subversives willing to sacrifice their lives slips in under the surveillance system of a great power, blends in with an alien population, and delivers a devastating blow to the heart of its empire, leaving its security forces in disarray and its populace terrified. Even a tower or two crumbles to dust.”

You know of what I speak, Snowden…a Great Eye, lidless, wreathed in flame. From the bookmarks, academics David Rosen and Aaron Santesso employ Tolkien to explain the modern surveillance state. “[I]n Sauron, Tolkien is able to imagine a figure of godlike power and seemingly infinite resources, but crippling interpretive fallibility.”

A bit overwrought, perhaps, but food for thought. And they neglected to mention another telling similarity: The hearts of Men are easily corrupted.

The Incident with the Dragon.


Almost that time again: Part the Second of Bilbo Baggins’ Great Adventure gets a trailer in this first look at Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Lots of Legolas and Thranduil (Lee Pace) here, as well as our first looks at Bard (Luke Burns), Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), Beorn (in CGI-form), and even the Great Wyrm, tho’ he does not speak (perhaps because he sounds a mite like…”John Harrison.”)

Mighty Ray Young.

Harryhausen’s fascination with animated models began when he first saw Willis O’Brien’s creations in KING KONG with his boyhood friend, the author Ray Bradbury in 1933, and he made his first foray into filmmaking in 1935 with home-movies that featured his youthful attempts at model animation.”

“Ray has been a great inspiration to us all in special visual industry. The art of his earlier films, which most of us grew up on, inspired us so much.” “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no STAR WARS” — George Lucas.

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS is my ‘Ray Harryhausen movie.’ Without his life-long love of his wondrous images and storytelling it would never have been made – not by me at least.” — Peter Jackson

“What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” — Terry Gilliam.

“I think all of us who are practioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.” — James Cameron

The Master stops motion: R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen, 1920-2013.

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