Welcome to my newsletter for March, 2008! Please feel free to forward
this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me. To
receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or
subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com
) or at:
. Notices of new
paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
I've been thinking a lot lately about mythmaking. This all started
when I was recently given a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's translation of
the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Fate would have it that I
was simultaneously reading The Story of a Soul, the autobiography of
St. Therese of Lisieux, and I was startled to see that that St.
Therese cherished chivalric tales when she was a child. I don't know
if she ever read the story of Sir Gawain, but I reckon she would have
been passing familiar with many of the other adventures of the Knights
of the Round Table.
I wonder if we don't all have a lot of personal legends that we keep
buried deep inside us, stories we are told as children that tint tales
from our earliest years to yield yarns with the flavour of myth. When
I was very young, we lived for a time in Asmara, Ethiopia. I was in
nursery school, but there are sepia-toned snapshots from those times
that still play themselves out in my head: such as when I saw Santa
Claus ride into the military base on a camel, or when troupes of
howling, bare-fanged baboons threatened our car on the trip up the
7000 foot high mountains.
I remember being given the role of one of the three Wise Men in the
kindergarten nativity play because the child who was supposed to play
the part had contracted encephalitis. Suffering and death mixed with
the story of Christ's birth irrevocably for me after that, and a fear
of encephalitis was something that I remember sensing in the grown-ups
around me. Anxiety in adults was a new thing, a mysterious thing.
I reckon for all of us, the older our memories, the more they
masquerade as myth. And we all seem to extend this process of
mythmaking back farther and farther, past family tales to legends of
local places, of historic events, then to happenings of which we're
not certain, but which we cling to as shared knowledge. Thus my
grandmother's tale of camp meetings in the country resonates with
Valley Forge, or with the Canterbury Tales, or the Exodus, or the
Odyssey. We all have shared "memories" of Atlantis, or of some other
great culture that was drowned to staunch its descent into damnation.
So, mythmaking is an ongoing process
it never ceases.
St. Therese of Lisieux perhaps read once of Atlantis. And perhaps she
wondered at the wickedness of that peoples, and repented, for them, of
their wickedness. And perhaps she clove to the paths of good because
of what the tales of chivalry taught her. Sir Gawain may have spoken
to her of being faithful, not only on the battlefield, but also in
places and situations where one is tempted to make small compromises.
It's in these latter situations that most of us will distinguish
ourselves, choosing the "Little Way" of truth, of goodness, and of
beauty rather than in performing heroic deeds.
And, as I ponder St. Therese, it seems curious that someone who has
since become the stuff of legend and myth herself might have begun her
journey by treasuring the tales that were handed down to her.
Perhaps Sam Gamgee was right. Perhaps we are all part of one grand
story that goes on and on. Perhaps it is ever our task not only to
learn from the legends and tales that are told us, but also to fix
some small new episode into that greater tapestry. Ours might be the
thinnest thread in the whole, but knowing that the whole exists and is
worth the telling ennobles each of us.
Nai Eru lye mánata (may God bless you)
---- I have posted several new paintings on my website
. These include:
- One new spiritual painting entitled "Nativity":
- One new "Narnia" image entitled "Lucy and the Spellbook":
- One new dragon "wildlife silhouette" entitled "Cerulean Dragon":
- A New LoTR painting, "Woody End":
- Another New LoTR painting, "The Choices of Master Gandalf":
- And a painting from the First Age, "Alqualonde":
I hope you enjoy these! Do let me know what you think of them!!!
---- Castles in the Mist - A spectacular Tolkien celebration will
be held in Morton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire on April 4-7, 2008. This
gathering will feature an exhibit of original paintings by Ted
Nasmith, Roger Garland, Ruth Lacon, and myself. The event is free, and
will also feature books, music, costumes, prizes, etc. I am deeply
honoured to have been asked to participate in this event (Domine, non
sum dignus!), and hope to meet many of you there! Lorraine and I will
both attend for the duration of the weekend.
---- The latest issue of Mallorn, the journal of the Tolkien
Society, has just been published. This issue, number 45, features the
first change in cover design in literally years. Previously, the cover
image was a black and white sketch of a mallorn tree by renowned
illustrator Pauline Baynes. The latest issue, under the editorship of
Henry Gee, features one of my paintings (see
) on the cover. Future issues will feature the work of other artists.
---- I will be a guest at the upcoming Tolkien celebration, "A
Long-Expected Party" (ALEP) in Kentucky in September, 2008. I was also
asked to develop one of the logos used for the event. You can see it
on my website at:
. The official website for ALEP (and registration info) can be found