Mystical Realms Newsletter for June, 2008
Welcome to my newsletter for June, 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:
http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of new
paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
It's humid, and in the 90s (the mid-30s for folks who favour Celsius
over Fahrenheit). There's no breeze. It's too early for cicadas, but
otherwise I'd guess we were in August rather than June. Hills are hazy
in the heat, and nothing twitches at high noon save flitting flies.
These are summer days in Georgia; when air is thick and breathing
My old high school once had a summer work program that allowed poorer
students (or those who just wanted extra pocket money) to earn some
summer change. There were paint crews that refreshed dingy dormitory
rooms, cleaning crews that stripped floors and washed windows. Pretty
much anyone could get one of these jobs, even overweight bookworms
such as myself.
I was in high school during the 70s, when the liberalism of the 1960s
was coming home to roost. From age 13 to 18, many of us found
ourselves in a culture that was retooling social, political, and
sexual mores, and "do your own thing" was the guiding principle. We
were cast adrift in a sea of hormones at a time when no one believed
in solid land.
J.R.R. Tolkien himself had just passed away, and on a hot, Georgia
summer's day, on a wooded high-school campus that evoked images of the
Shire, I first opened the pages of The Fellowship of the Ring.
What I encountered there was startling. This was not a simple story of
good guys versus bad guys, but a nuanced tale that stressed values
that perplexed me: values like the deep truth of human dignity, the
need for restraint, honour, and courage. Like the ghosts in C.S.
Lewis' The Great Divorce, I read for the "fun stuff," but tried to
studiously ignore those things that went against all the rules of the
Nevertheless, the seeds were planted.
Over the ensuing years, I lived out the itinerary of casual sex,
gluttony, deceit, envy, jealousy, and acquisitiveness that were all
part and parcel of the "if it feels good, do it" protocol. And if the
lessons of Middle-earth didn't prevent this, they certainly provided a
canvas against which the depravity of our generation could be more
clearly discerned. Like so many teenagers in the 1970s USA, I was
never given the grounding in goodness that might have guided me more
gracefully through those tough years. Like so many teenagers then as
now, I was taught _not_ to believe in the seven deadly sins, and as a
result, I sampled them all.
But Middle-earth always beckoned. And the stories of the Shire, as the
stories of Arthur and the Round Table, would whisper to me on muggy
summer days from the depths of deep green forests. Here Elves, like
all noble creatures, continued to walk the open glens, well beyond the
reach of the house-of-cards zeitgeist of the scoffing seventies.
In The Return of the King, Eowyn says to Aragorn, "Too often have I
heard of duty .may I not now spend my life as I will? "
To which Aragorn replies, "Few may do that with honour."
Today, with so many of us, I see no belief in honour; I just see a
continuation of the insanity of the seventies. True virtue is hardly
ever modeled for young folk in our society, unless they are fortunate
enough to be raised in a deeply religious home. And even these men and
maidens are struck on all sides by a culture that seems to have
collected the worst aspects of the 1960s and 1970s and made them into
a commodity; corrosive "truths" that are pushed from every TV set,
every radio speaker, and every movie screen.
Eventually, I can put it no more plainly that to say that Someone led
me back to the Shire. And J.R.R. Tolkien became, for me, that human
being whom I respected enough to listen to, even if my "listening" was
to his letters, written decades before to folk I would never know.
Those things that he treasured, I was eventually able to see as sound;
those things that he found unworthy, I became willing to discard.
And now, on sultry summer days, I can intensely sense the presence of
something greater, something more stable, something richer just past
those oak trees, and deep within the pooling shadows of the woods of
summer. I can sense that True Middle-earth trying to tease all of us
away from the porn sites and the shopping malls and back into an
adventure that can only be unlocked through virtue, patience,
sacrifice and prayer.
Take a walk in these summer woods. Breathe the ripeness of earth
growing and mysteries milling. Model nobility, honour, courage, and
restraint for those around you; and I promise you that, some day,
you'll find that you, too, will have found your way home to Middle-earth.
Nai Eru lye mánata (may God bless you)
- I will be attending the upcoming Tolkien celebration, "A
Long-Expected Party" (ALEP) in Kentucky, on September 25th 28th,
2008. I was also delighted to have been asked to develop some of the
images that will be used for the event. You can see one of these on my
. The official website for ALEP (and registration info) can be found
at: http://www.alongexpectedparty.org/ . Some other ALEP-themed images
o The Party Tree -
o Outlandish Folk -
- Although I will not be able to attent this year's Oxonmoot in
England (September 25th-28th see
http://www.tolkiensociety.org/oxon/2008/Info.html ), I will have
prints and perhaps some original works included in this year's art
show. These will be provided courtesy of ADC Books www.adcbooks.co.uk..
- Divining Divinity, the first book of verse by Joseph Pearce, is now
available from www.Amazon.com. Joseph is a world-renowned biographer
of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Shakespeare, and many
others, in addition to being editor of the St. Austin Review (StAR). I
was privileged to have worked with him to develop illustrations for
each of his poems, and Leslie Kaufmann did a magnificent job of
pulling our efforts together into a sparkling jewel of a book. This is
the book that I highlighted in my talk at "Castles in the Mist", and
it is now available. If you'd like a copy signed by me, please drop me
- ADC Books now has an online catalog featuring Tolkien-themed
original paintings and prints from Ted Nasmith, Ruth Lacon, Peter
Pracownik, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items and
rare books featured in the ADC Books catalog. Please take a look at
- The latest (May/June 2008) issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR)
will focus on 20th Century authors, and it includes a number of new
sketches, plus one of my Lord of the Rings paintings ("The Bridge of
Khazad-Dum") on the cover (see
). Sample articles and cover image can be seen at
It's a great read, perhaps despite my input
- I've revised the thumbnails of each painting on my website to
reflect whether the original is available for sale or not. If you
check any of my online galleries (see http://www.JefMurray.com ),
you'll now see the word "SOLD" in the bottom right-hand corner of the
thumbnail image of any original work that is no longer available for
purchase. All paintings remain available as prints however: prints of
Tolkien-inspired works can be purchased through www.adcbooks.co.uk ,
and all other prints can be ordered directly from my website.
- I have added a new button to my website for a "Newest Works"
gallery. On it you can view the last 16 paintings I've completed,
regardless of the gallery in which they reside. You can reach the
"Newest Works" gallery by clicking the following: