The Bridge of Khazad-Dum: An Explanation

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[page 19] THE BRIDGE OF KHAZAD-DUM: AN EXPLANATION BY RICHARD P. L. GLASS What do we have here, what does a comic book adaption of Chapter five, Book II, of _The Fellowship of the Ring_ by J. R. R. Tolkien represent? To the purist Tolkien fans, it may represent a blasphemy, a degradation of sacred ground. To Houghton Mifflin Company and the author himself it may represent violation of the copyright code and grounds for a law suit. To an artist it may represent a poor attempt by an artist who has negligible understanding of the anatomy, drapery, perspective, or the medium used. What it represents to the artist who perpetrated it is twelve months of dead ends and inspiration, a challenge, the beginning of a dream, and a seed of promise for others. It is summarized in the words _too soon_ and _not enough_; too soon in that the artist has not had enough time to familiarize with the work or enough artistic training to tackle the challenge of illustrating a series of books so abundant in lyrical imagery and visual drama. It is one of the current dreams of the artist to be the E.C. Weyth of the Ring Trilogy when he gains the skill to attempt the task. The promise held in the work is that of perhaps the wider distribution of Tolkien's classics without the loss of their original beauty. Imagine what Hal Foster, to name one able cartoonist, could do with _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_ illustrating perhaps a chapter a month, or as a Sunday weekly similar to his _Prince Valiant_! The beauty of the works transformed to a colorful visual experience. What brought it about and how did it develop? From the start the project was filled with error. The urge to illustrate the Tolkien novels manifested itself one day in January of 1965 during the Dead Week before finals. The scene which remained the most vivid in the artist's mind was that of Gandalf Smiting the Bridge; however, not remembering enough detail to feel justified in doing that scene, he chose the battle at Balin's tomb. An 8½x11 ink drawing of a shaggy, hook-nosed orc dressed in short-sleeved, tattered shorts mail leaping over the tomb pinning a smartly dressed little man wearing tights, boots and a livery against the wall with his spear was the result. The artist sent the drawing to his brother who replied that the picture was totally inaccurate and supplied a quote of the paragraph in question and thumbnail descriptions of the characters involved taken from the council and departure at Rivendale. Feeling that the paragraph had too much action to be represented in one picture, he did a two page continuity in comic book style of the (supposed) death of Frodo. When the artist sent this off to his brother, he received surprizing praise and a request to illustrate the entire chapter for a friend who was publishing an amateur magazine devoted to Tolkien. The reaction to this request was a hearty, "Are you _kidding_?" but it was too late, the seed had been planted, the challenge given along with a Xeroxed copy of the chapter in question. Boromir, Aragorn, the basic Hobbit form from Frodo, and the orcs had been established in the two pages completed March 15th, but what of Gandalf, Legolas, and Gimli, let alone the cave trolls, Balrog, and locale backgrounds. The first page was laid out mainly as a character sketch of each of the major characters and to figure the method presenting the narration and dialogue, Aragorn was visualized as tall, heroic looking, long-haired forester-Robin Hood type yet noble. Boromir the blonde warrior with military cut in both hair and beard. Legolas was a problem in making him slight and bright like an elf without making him unmanly. Gimli--with only an axe and a shirt of chain mail to wrok @work@ from -- materialized as the dark, worn, miner cast small yet sturdy [page 20] enough to build the dwarf halls like Khazad-dum. Gandalf was a real worry, he had to have the age and wisdom of a wizard and say "wizard" when one looked at him without looking like Diney's Merlin; for this reason, I (mistakenly) discarded the pointed hat cliche for a robe of a monk type who studied magic for godly purpose. The first five pages were completed withing @within@ two weeks after the request had been received. Page six was penciled but not inked for some time as the artist felt that the entire thing should be penciled before inking and he was having trouble visualizing the next scene which is Gandalf's magical fight at the door. Page eight was a problem in that a panel establishing the new background of the Second Hall of the First Deep and its layout was a puzzlement. Tis @This@ was resolved during Easter vacation with conferences and preliminary sketches. Work was interrupted by finals followed by six weeks in a migrant labor camp which deadened enthusiasm for anything until the resumption of school. During the early fall semester pages nine and ten were produced as the problem of depicting the Balrog was surmounted. About this time the artist learned that dwarves sport large forked beards and that Gandalf has a waist length beard and a pointed hat -- the beard on Gimli was added, but the artist was not about to redraw the entire ten pages for the sake of Gandalf, who would "die" the following page. Again "Kh-D",as the artist called it, retired into dormancy until he read _Beowulf_ (Chas. W. Kennedy trans.) and discovered the reason for the dragon's wrath in the second part of the poem was very much like Bilbo in Smaug's lair. Having done a color version of Gandalf smiting the bridge, the rekindled fire was enough to solve the layout problem so that page eleven would end with that scene; the rest was down hill. Out of the almost 80 panels, the artist is satisfied with only four; the battle at the tomb (page 3), the panorama of the Second Hall of the First Deep (page 8), the first panel with the Blarog @Balrog@ (page 9), and Gandalf smiting the Bridge (page 11).

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