When I first launched this site, I intended to make Tolkien-inspired art one of the key themes. I’m no visual artist myself (writer and musician here), but there are so many for whom Tolkien’s fiction is a huge inspiration. I think this would have made him happy, especially considering what he wrote in the Waldman letter:
“The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.”
So on that note, my Tolkien Artist-of-the-Month for August 2016 is rysowAnia. Every Monday this month, I’ll be featuring one of her works here, as well as a little bit about what I like about it. Follow the links to check out the rest of her work, and while you’re at it, tell her what you like about it in the comments.
This week, I’m featuring the piece “Ainulindalë.” I’ve used this one several times before, and it might just be my absolute favorite attempt to visually represent Ainulindalë (though previous artist-of-the-month Evan Palmer is some pretty stiff competition in that department). By its very nature, music is a difficult thing to depict visually. In the case of “Ainulindalë”, it helps that we don’t really have music but words, but in another sense, that might make it even MORE difficult to capture the music in the Music of the Ainur. This piece is untamed, from the heart (notice how it all centers around the bright area on the right, almost like one arm of galaxy). It’s swirling with light and creativity, and captures the spiritual essence of music. Then again, there’s just enough darkness and chaos to emphasize that Melkor was doing his best to keep things from getting too bright and care free. Now that I think about it, I wonder if Melkor is the large figure in the bottom left hand corner?
Tune in next Monday when I’ll feature another one of rysowAnia’s pieces. In the meantime, hop on over to her DeviantArt gallery and check out the rest of her work.
“Melkor wants to possess the jewels in such a way that prevents others from possessing them. This is Melkor’s chief flaw from before the foundations of Arda: for him, love means possession and domination, the need to hoard and to guard a treasure as one’s own. In fact, in “Ainulindalë”, we learn that Melkor seeks to increase his own power and glory when he is already the most powerful and glorious of created beings. It seems that his own greatness leaves him jealous of the potential of others, with a need to see others always as a threat to his own glory. Thus, he must possess the Silmarils lest someone else do the same instead of him.”
“Ainulindalë” begins with the creation of the Ainur by Ilúvatar. These Ainur, the “Holy Ones”, are the offspring of his thought. To each of the Ainur he propounds a theme. Each of the Ainur sings before Ilúvatar, or, in some a cases, a few together.
Ilúvatar is the originator of both theme and Ainur. The themes themselves are not persons, but the Ainur are. Why is it necessary for there to be persons to propound these themes? Why is it not possible for Ilúvatar simply to propound them himself?
We are not told how many are created, but we are told that after the Ainur sing individually for some time (with the rest of the group listening), Ilúvatar propounds to them a “mighty” theme that astonishes the Ainur. Based on this theme, Ilúvatar wills that they make a great music together. At this point we begin to see why he created the Ainur in addition to the themes themselves: he wills that they might adorn the themes with their own “thoughts and devices.” Thus, we receive our first glimpse of the idea of subcreation, that Tolkienian doctrine wherein the greatness and beauty of reality is increased by the embellishment of spirits endowed with free will. There are echoes of the “effoliation and multiple enrichment of creation” that Tolkien speaks of in On Fairy-stories. Through the voices of each individual Ainu, some new thing will be achieved. While this new thing is grounded in Ilúvatar’s original theme, it is nevertheless a result of the individual freedom bestowed on the Ainu by its maker.
Yes, Tolkien concerns himself not with seeing things as they are but instead as they are meant to be seen. His friend imagines stars to be gigantic balls of super-hot gas, and really, nothing more. Yet for Tolkien, he imagines stars in their origin and in their potential.
This is the same mind, of course, that gives us “Ainulindalë” (an ancient song!), the idea that the entirety of the cosmos begins with music. It is also the same mind that says the brightest star in the sky is a transfigured swan-ship with a holy jewel set upon its bow. Yes, these are imaginings, but for Tolkien, they are hints of a greater reality as well.
Yet this begs a question…how do we know how we are supposed to see these things? The short answer is that we don’t, at least not exactly. When we are children, we rely upon our elders to tell us how to see the world. So it is for WE the Children of Ilúvatar – we need to be taught. Yet in our time, we’ve lost touch with the means of being taught. The teachers of our time mainly concern themselves with seeing things merely as they are. While this has its place, it suffers from a spiritual anemia.
Hey there fellow travelers! Welcome to The Tolkien Road, a long walk through the works and philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien. On this episode, we interview Josh Sosa, probably well-known to our regular listeners as “super fan Josh.” By the way, if you haven’t already, please leave The Tolkien Road a rating and feedback on iTunes. We’d love to know what you think of the podcast. Enjoy the show!