Mystical Realms Newsletter for January, 2009
- Idhrin-eden 'elir (Happy New Year!)
Welcome to my newsletter for January, 2009! 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 )
http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of events are
at the bottom of this email.
There are 6 new paintings posted on my website, including one
Narnia-themed work, "After the Storm", and five Tolkien-themed
paintings; "The Children of Húrin", "The Mill", "Melkor", "Barrel
Rider", and "The Three Hunters".
You can see all of these by clicking:
I welcome your thoughts and comments on these new pieces!
"Has anyone ever published an illustrated edition of Tolkien's letters?"
Lorraine asked me this on a weekday morning in late August. I told her
I knew of none, although J.R.R. Tolkien's prose is rife with glorious
imagery, and his letters would be ideal candidates for such a treatment.
Later that very morning, I first I heard about "The Project" from
Angie Gardner. All Angie could tell me at the time was that it had to
do with unpublished letters to and by J.R.R. Tolkien. And Angie's
excitement, even given that she couldn't divulge much, was palpable.
We exchanged more emails, then Angie asked whether she could ring me
up for a chat.
This was the beginning, for me, of my journey into Black & White Ogre
Like most of us, I didn't know much about Hilary, J.R.R. Tolkien's
younger brother. And, although I was very excited to hear about the
discovery of unpublished letters by members of the Tolkien family,
Angie rightly guessed that I would be most intrigued by the small
notebook that she had found with them. In it, Hilary had written down
children's stories and memories from his earliest years.
"The stories have ogres in them," Angie told me, "and witches, too!"
For all the rest of 2008, Angie and I read through the notebook that
contained the stories that would become "Black & White Ogre Country".
And as we read, we understood more and more how much this realm must
have meant to Hilary and J.R.R.
"It wasn't just the places where the Tolkien brothers played," Angie
said. "It was the countryside as they'd have remembered it full of magic."
Trying to do illustrative justice to someone's stories, especially
when that someone is not there to help, is a daunting task. It's
rather like mining for gold without benefit of a flashlight, or of
hunting for some unnamed woodlands creature, the rumours of which
abound, but that no one has ever seen.
Angie and Neil Holford were there to help me with the specifics: the
type of helmet Hilary would have worn during the war; what sort of
buggy Mabel might have driven to Mass on Sunday mornings. But for the
real tough stuff, I needed that tow-headed boy that I sometimes
glimpsed running through the barley fields as I read over the stories
"Not like mining, _or_ like hunting" I found myself thinking. "It's
more like a game of tag with Hilary. I'm `IT', you see, and the only
way I'll know if I've caught up with him is by coming back and sharing
what I've seen."
So, each time I managed to find my way into Ogre Country, I'd bring
back a sketch. And I'd show it to Angie to see whether I'd suitably
rendered what I'd seen there. Angie provided my second pair of eyes,
and she was merciless in helping me see when I'd taken a wrong turn
down a Birmingham alleyway instead of finding my way to the White
Witch's Sweet Shop.
"It's not quite right, dear," Angie would tell me at times. And that,
reminiscent of C.S. Lewis' admonitions to J.R.R. Tolkien whenever his
Lord of the Rings prose went amiss, sparked our habit of calling each
other "Jack" and "Tollers" as the work progressed.
"Tollers old boy," Angie would say, "the sycamore is spot on. Don't
change a leaf."
At other times, we'd go back and forth with an image, and sometimes
we'd have to set it aside and wait for me to take another hesitant
trip back to the Black Witch's windmill so that I could get it right.
Hilary took me on some wild rides. We went deep into the Bumble
patches one day, then onto the battlefield the next. One moment we
watched swans chase Mr. Heaven, and the next saw us wading in Black
Ogre's stream, hoping that our shoes would still be there when we
returned. There was never a dull moment with Hilary.
The final image I brought back, which is now the back cover of "Black
& White Ogre Country", is of two boys walking home after a long
summer's day of derring-do. They tread barefoot past a willow tree and
toward the setting sun, and the younger boy looks exhausted from his
And although the sketch was ever intended to be of Hilary and his
older brother J.R.R., the fact is that I sometimes felt that I was
that little boy, exhausted, and that Hilary was the older one leading
me gently back home after one of our adventures together.
Black & White Ogre Country became very real for me during my trips
there. And it is my sincere hope that, in our zeal to introduce the
world to Hilary Tolkien's memories, both fanciful and factual, we
managed to keep the magic of his world alive. Should you read "Black &
White Ogre Country" for yourself, I pray that you'll find there the
same joy and wonder that greeted us when we first discovered these
marvelous and now no longer lost tales.
Nai Eru lye mánata (may God bless you)
- The new book "Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary
Tolkien" is being launched on January 30 in Stony Stratford, England
(see http://www.tolkiensociety.org/events/index.php ). The initial run
of the books will be hardback editions, and these are now available at
http://www.abe.com and directly from http://www.adcbooks.co.uk . This
book was a delight and an honour to work on, and I owe many thanks to
editor Angie Gardner, publisher Andy Compton, and especially to Chris
Tolkien for the opportunity to bring his grandfather's stories to life.
- Related to the above, Chris Tolkien, Angie and I will be in Moreton
in Marsh, England April 3-6 for an exhibit of many of the original
sketches for "Black & White Ogre Country", and to sign copies of the
book. There will also be new Tolkien-themed paintings by Ted Nasmith,
Ruth Lacon, Peter Prakownik and myself on display, along with
Tolkien-themed and fantasy weapons, clothing, jewelry, etc. Please see
http://www.adcbooks.co.uk for a flyer of the event.
- Angie has already been asked to discuss "Black & White Ogre Country"
at several additional venues in England, and she and I are both
anticipating and looking forward to requests for talks both in the UK
and in the USA. Please contact either of us if you would like more
information or would like to schedule a talk.
- 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