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Old 12-09-2015, 09:00 AM   #3
Ghost Prince of Cardolan
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Well hopefully I can stimulate some public discussion first.

I finished reading the book today, and I quite recommend it, although some background knowledge of literary theory, Victorian literature and Anglo-Saxon poetry is useful for some of the chapters which presuppose more assumed knowledge on the part of the reader.

A couple of things stood out from the final two chapters, which I read today. One of them is by Ted Nasmith, one of the great Tolkien illustrators, who is of course responsible for my favourite representation of the Great Enemy in "Morgoth punishes Hśrin". (

Considering modern influences, he describes how his 1975 representation of Barad-dūr ( was influenced by the Douaumont Ossuary at Verdun. Nasmith states that "I remember thinking <Barad-dūr> ought to look bleak, cold and like a giant gravestone."
I think this image of the Dark Tower might work when considering the enduring foundations which stood in Mordor for most of the Third Age as they could not be destroyed, but I personally do not share this view of the tower as a whole. Personally I think Barad-dūr should seem a place of sinister activity: industry, armament and torment. It is, after all a "vast fortress. armoury, prison, furnace of great power." This image ( comes closest to my mental image of the Dark Tower: somewhat like the film version, but less stylised; more like a grotesque exaggeration of a medieval fortress built up to mountain-like proportions, blended with elements of a factory, a foundry, a barracks and a prison.

In that sense, perhaps Barad-dūr is a "modern" structure in that it evokes some of the immense fortifications which were used in the First World War, but I almost feel as if it is meant to be more like a modern industrial city crossed with a military fortress: innumerable dark buildings, smoke and heat and noise, soldiers training and slaves working, and above it all the "tower" proper from which Sauron broodingly studies the world. Personally I also imagine that Sauron's orders would only really be conveyed through lieutenants and intermediaries. Unlike Peter Jackson's "Hobbit", can you imagine an Orc ever being permitted into the presence of the Dark Lord himself? In that sense, as well, Sauron is the "modern" leader in the houses of parliament or the palace or what have you who leads only from the rear.

Another point comes from the final essay and is concerned with the desolation of so much of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings. This argues that "Sauron's hatred of life, especially free life, has led him to try to create conditions that depopulate Middle-earth and that isolate the populations it still has."

I wonder if this is another point of modern vs medieval. Is Middle-earth so sparsely populated because of a "modern" programmatic policy on the part of Sauron, or is it a "medieval" representation of the days when human society was less consistently spread and there simply was more wilderness, which perhaps would be something Professor Tolkien might favour?

I'll raise any other points of interest as I review the earlier chapters. I hope someone finds this stimulating.
"Since the evening of that day we have journeyed from the shadow of Tol Brandir."
"On foot?" cried Éomer.
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