And welcome to my newsletter for April, 2011! 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: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms
. Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
Tolkien biographer Joseph Pearce and I have collaborated on a new EWTN TV special on J.R.R. Tolkien that will be broadcast this week!. The production will include dozens of my illustrations of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and it will focus on the Catholicity of Tolkien's magnum opus. Air dates for the show, which should be accessible worldwide over EWTN and online, are Wednesday, April 6 at 10pm EST, Friday, April 8 at 1pm EST, and Saturday, April 9 at 5am EST. For more information, see http://www.ewtn.com/tv/index.asp
Where now the horse and the rider? where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harp-string, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
These lines and more were chanted by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, and were attributed to a long lost poet of Rohan, the realm of the horse lords from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.
In my own imaginings, I've been roaming through Rohan in recent days. Like a keening heard across a great rolling plain, there is something about the Lenten season, coupled with the tales of Eorl the Young and his people, that pierces my heart. The Lenten desert begets reflection on the power, the pride, and the pain of the Rohirrim; for they, of all of Tolkien's feigned tribes, are the most mortal. And it is their aching mortality that infects my musings.
Rohan is, of course, a sort of lens offered us with which to see our own world more clearly. When we look into this glass, we may believe we are seeing a sub-created realm of proud and ancient warriors, but in fact, we are descrying ourselves from an unusual vantage point. This is what G.K. Chesterton described in his tale from Orthodoxy, wherein he posits a traveler leaving England to seek distant shores. In that tale, and unbeknownst to the traveler himself, he lands once again in England, and is only thus able to see his own world afresh.
Rohan illustrates what it means to be caught without shelter in the storms of time, without refuge and without any certain hope in anything beyond our five senses. The people of Rohan were like the Greek Stoics, who had no faith in anything transcendental, but who nevertheless held to a high and noble code of right and wrong. And the warriors of Rohan tried to find a way for noble deeds alone to bring them a sort of fleeting immortality, a way of being remembered by future generations in tales and in song, even after life, and labor, and love had all lapsed away.
I suspect we all, at times, ponder what we will leave behind us on this Middle-earth once we are gone. When I paint the windswept plains of Rohan, I am reminded that most of the original seven wonders of the ancient world are no more
where they once stood is now as barren as the grasslands that surrounded Edoras, or as empty as the outskirts of Greytown in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. What became of all those who toiled to erect the Lighthouse of Alexandria? Or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Does anyone remember their names, or the stories they once shared? Was there any point to their efforts, now that even their greatest works are but rumors on a fickle wind?
And yet Theoden, the king of Rohan who came to the aid of a besieged Gondor, was not entirely without hope and faith. For, in his final words, he affirmed his belief that he could now rest in honor with this forefathers, since he had proven himself trustworthy and valiant in battle and in the great ongoing struggle against evil.
Rohan existed in a pre-Christian era: in a time when the final resting place of Elves was known by the Wise, but when the fate of men, once they perished, was yet a mystery. Eru Iluvatar had not disclosed His plans for mankind, not even to the Valar, during the long ages when the Rohirrim bred their steeds in the grassy plains of the Mark.
As a result, the days of King Theoden were like the dark time of Lent
a time of trouble, of doubt, and of turbulence. In such times we can, in our own age, take comfort in the coming of Eastertide; but for the Rohirrim, the coming of Christ was yet to be. Nothing in their lore assured them of what they might find once they crossed the threshold from life into death.
But they desperately desired that their deeds not be forgotten. They enjoyed the good things that they found on this earth: they raised their families; they defended the innocent; they fought against slavery and exploitation; they welcomed aid and wisdom where they found it. They knew not that one day a Savior would come, yet they lived each day desperately hoping that, when all ceased to be, there would yet be something remaining to mark their passage, something that the winds of time could not entirely erase. Surely all of the goodness of life could not just vanish with their final breath; surely there was something more than just this earthly realm
C.S. Lewis once said "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."
I believe the witness of Rohan, and of all noble civilizations, is that we were made for another world. There is a reason why we seek after truth, goodness, and beauty, even when it appears that these will never entirely be within our grasp; and that reason, that yearning, does not cease when darkness falls. Nay, in truth, it is only then that we may come to know how grand and glorious a tale it is that we have been a part of all along.
I wish for you and yours a soul-nourishing Lenten season. I pray that these forty days might strengthen your love of what is good and noble, and that you might awaken on Easter morning to the certainty that all of the good that you do on this earth is not in vain, and that the darkness will never prevail.
Nai Eru lye mánata
The first ever Jef Murray/ALEP2 Fantasy Calendar will soon be available! This 2012 calendar is loaded with my painting images, primarily of scenes from Middle-earth, and it is being published in support of the upcoming ALEP2 (A Long Expected Party 2) gathering of Tolkien fans in Kentucky in September (see www.alep2.us). Look for an announcement in the next few days on how to order your copy!
In conjunction with the Atlanta Tolkien Fans meetup group's April gathering, We will be hosting a studio tour this coming Sunday, April 17, at 3pm at our home in Decatur, GA. I will have many Tolkien-themed works, as well as other fantasy images inspired by the writings of C.S. Lewis and others. After the tour, we will all be adjourning to the Marlay House pub in Decatur. If you would like to join us, please contact me for directions. All are welcome!
Arwen of Middle-earth News (see http://www.middleearthnews.net/)
recently conducted a two part interview with me that is now posted online. For those unfamiliar with Arwen's work, it's definitely worth taking a look
her website provides great coverage of Tolkien-themed events and news, plus interviews and updates on Tolkien folk worldwide.
Many of you joined the good folks at Dunedain Radio (http://www.thedunedain.net/)
and the Middle Earth Network (http://middleearthnetwork.com/)
for the kickoff of this Tolkien and fantasy-themed streaming radio station and news network. I am delighted to be a supporter of these folks, and look forward to working with them to create a great place for Tolkien fans to "gather" online in the coming months!
The Return of the Ring 2012 (see http://www.returnofthering.org/)
will be a huge Tolkien-themed conference and gathering at Loughborough University on 16-20th August, 2012. I am delighted to have been invited to appear as a guest of honour at the event and am looking forward not only to sharing my paintings and sketches, but also to participating in panels and presentations. You can book reservations now online.
For folks interested in my original paintings and sketches, please take a look at the ADC Art and Books online catalog at www.adcbooks.co.uk. It features Tolkien-themed works by Ted Nasmith, Peter Pracownik, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items (e.g. Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien) and rare books featured in the catalog and on the website. Additional works can also be found at my own website at www.JefMurray.com .