Welcome to my newsletter for March, 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
) or at:
. Notices of events
(lots this month!) are at the bottom of this email.
There are 4 new paintings posted on my website, all Tolkien-themed.
These include: "Bilbo's Toast", "The Black Rider", "A Conversation
with Smaug", and "Resurrection". You can see all of these by clicking:
I welcome your thoughts and comments on these new works!
With the advent of Lent, I resolved to stop listening to all of the
latest newscasts, to stop reading blogs about the unfolding financial
crisis, to stop listening to interviews with political pundits.
And the silence was, at first, frightening.
Activities that had sapped my energy and prevented me from paying
attention to the real world around me had accreted over months, and
once vanquished, I was startled by the macabre grandeur of the air
castles they represented. I'd gotten into my depraved state by
occasionally checking a Facebook page, but soon found myself wasting
hours. I'd tune in to a radio show for fun, and it rapidly became a
Where does all of this distraction come from? And why, in Heaven's
name, do we allow it such free rein for so long?
I'm reminded of a short story entitled "The Field of Terror" by Baron
Karl La Motte-Fouque, in which a woman and her new husband inherit
land that is haunted by demons. The man tries to work the field with
oxen and a plough, only to have the plough destroyed, one ox go mad
and dash off a cliff, and the other wound itself so badly that it had
to be slaughtered.
The husband does not give up, however, and proceeds to work the field
without help, relying on his own strength. Most importantly, he
refuses to acknowledge the shape-shifting devils who continually
attempt to frighten and divert him from his work.
The tale ends well, with the man finally confronting the chief demon
and dealing honorably but unflinchingly with him on behalf of his
family. And the result is that the field is exorcised and the family
But this has me thinking of the demons that now confront all of us.
Just as in "The Field of Terror", we are swarmed by spooks. These
don't materialize just at workplaces; they rule the radio and TV
airwaves, the newspaper headlines, the internet blogs. Our demons
craft speeches from the Oval Office and issue fatwas from Gaza. They
are far craftier than the ones in "The Field of Terror" and far more
difficult to ignore.
And yet, what might we not gain by turning our faces away from the
braying of Melkor's trumpets? What good might not come of silencing
the fuss and fume of Screwtape & Co.?
The Desert Fathers knew that demons would follow them into the
wilderness, but they also knew that they needed to clear out the noise
and nuisance of the cities before they could do battle. You must
_know_ your enemy before you can resist him.
I'm seeking silence so that I can know my Nemesis. I'm pursuing
peace so that I can be present to family and friends; and so as to
find a way forward that does not blame, that does not bully, that does
not bellow. But I'm also wary of the corrosive pits of "tolerance" and
"unity" that mask a blind adherence to political correctness and moral
relativism. I'm seeking to stymie the really _dangerous_ spooks
ones that declare themselves "enlightened," "progressive," and "here
to help you."
I reckon that truth, love, and hope don't shelter behind slogans. They
do not seek power through polemics, nor influence through fear. They
don't fill headlines with ad hominem attacks and claims of
bipartisanship that mask a cynical move toward economic thralldom.
They are no friends to Sauron nor to Saruman.
As J.R.R. Tolkien reminds us through the words of Aragorn, "Good and
ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among
Elves and Dwarves and another among men. It is a man's part to discern
them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house."
How, though, can we discern if we deny ourselves silence?
Truth, love, and hope abide in a happy and peace-filled home, in the
smile of children, in the hum of honeybees beginning their spring
rounds. Truth, love, and hope abide in resonant solitude, in deep
thought; in prayer. They abide in respect for those who hate us, but
in rejection of falsehood and corruption in all its silvered guises.
And with silence and prayer, we may yet come to see who among us is a
friend and who is a spook. We may, with God's grace, be able to shake
the hold of the demons on ourselves and on those we love. We may once
again see the stars that shine ever brightly, even above the very
plains of Mordor.
Nai Eru lye mánata (may God bless you)
- Chris Tolkien, Angie Gardner 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: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien", and to
sign copies of the book. The show is entitled "Lands of Enchantment",
and you can download the flyer at http://www.adcbooks.co.uk/.
also download and listen to the radio spot for the show on my website
. Lorraine and I will both be there, and
we're looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting many new ones!
- At the "Lands of Enchantment" exhibit, 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. There is a by-invitation-only reception and
preview party on Friday night, April 3 at 7:30pm. Please contact Andy
Compton at http://www.adcbooks.co.uk/
if you'd like to attend the
the rest of the weekend is free and open to all with no need
- I had the honour of having a gifted amateur video-maker create a
really lovely tribute video of some of my work and post to YouTube.
Please take a look at her site at http://www.youtube.com/megansspark
Scan down to find Megan's video entitled "Jef Murray". Alternatively,
you can just go to YouTube.com and search for "Jef Murray".
- The Tolkien Library (http://www.TolkienLibrary.com
) has posted an
extensive interview with me on the development of the illustrations
for "Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien".
You can read it and see a few of the illustrations from the book, at:
- The second issue of Silver Leaves, the journal of the White Tree
Fund (see http://www.whitetreefund.org
) is now out. It focuses on the
Inklings, and somewhat more specifically on C.S. Lewis than the other
members of that august society. The editors of the journal kindly used
several of my Narnia-inspired paintings to complement the other
illustrations in the issue. Please take a look!
- The St. Austin Review (StAR), now has a new, blog-based website at
. The new site includes more timely
info on current issues, plus a blog (The Ink Desk) that will include
writings by many of StAR's regular contributors. Please take a look!
The essays and observations posted will be changing
- To those of us in the fantasy art world, there was recent news of a
tragic loss. Bruno Torfs is a very talented artist based in Victoria,
Australia. His art and sculpture garden have been a tourist
destination for many years, and it was recently devastated by a local
brush fire. For more on this tragedy, and to see Bruno's work online,