From my book Tolkien’s Requiem…
“Of Beren and Lúthien” takes place in a fallen world, a world that has lost the great light of the Two Trees of Valinor, Telperion the Silver and Laurelin the Gold. The very title The Silmarillion comes from the story of the great elf-lord Fëanor, the “fiery spirit”, who crafts three unbreakable jewels and fills them with the glorious light of these Two Trees. His creations are the marvels of all, though they receive such attention that Fëanor quickly becomes suspicious of admirers and seeks to hide them away from all except his closest kin in an effort to protect them. When the dark lord Melkor (known in the story of Beren and Lúthien as Morgoth) and the hideous spider-demon Ungoliant poison Telperion and Laurelin, the Silmarils are all that remain of their light, and the only hope of restoring them. Nevertheless, Fëanor refuses to surrender the Silmarils to the great powers (the Valar, quasi-angelic beings) of Valinor, and when Melkor murders his father and steals the three Silmarils, Fëanor and his sons swear an unbreakable oath that none shall ever possess the Silmarils except for them. Fëanor and his kin (the Noldor) depart Valinor in anger and pride, murdering their weaker kinsmen and stealing their ships. In sum, centuries of war and sorrow are set off by these three great dyscatastrophes: the poisoning of the Two Trees, the theft of the Silmarils, and the Kinslaying. These are not the first falls in the long history of Middle-earth, though they are perhaps the most significant for the purposes of the tale of Beren and Lúthien.
“The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.”
rysowAnia is my Tolkien Artist of the Month. Last week, I considered “Looking into the Stone“, her depiction of Denethor under the spell of his precious Palantír. This week, I consider “Two Trees of Valinor“, which depicts Yavanna among her two most magnificent creations, Laurelin and Telperion.
I really love rysowAnia’s impressionistic style when it comes to the Valar and the things of their mythology. The thing is, the Two Trees are not depicted here in terms of Tolkien’s own description, at least not in a realist sort of manner. Instead, we see their difference in terms of their shape, and in a way, they even seem each to foreshadow one of the two races of the Children of Ilúvatar. Silver Telperion, with his long, falling and fading light, seems a visual depiction of the Elves. Golden Laurelin, with her small, fruitful clusters of flame, reflects the brief burst of life that is the race of Men.
Furthermore, the impressionistic nature of the work causes them to blend into one another in branch and root, with both emanating at the root from Yavanna herself. They are an outpouring of her nature, a blending of her very being with the Earth, and she sings to them in order to nourish them. There are surely more literal interpretations of the Trees, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a visual depiction that gets closer to their spiritual heart.
Tune in next week 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.