Tolkien Calendar 2011 Calendar – Aug 17 2010
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About the Author
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a major scholar of the English language, specializing in Old and Middle English. Twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford, he also wrote a number of stories, including most famously The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented version of the world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth.
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In the two page introduction Blok provides for the calendar he draws a distinction between "depicting" and "describing", and refers to his work as "accompanying" rather than "illustrating" The Lord of the Rings. His artwork focusses on the book's characters but only attempts to distinguish them through their weapons, hats, and size. Background detail is minimal to non-existent. Blok admits altering the story in favor of dramatic or artistic license, as in September's "The Slaying of the Nazgul", where Eowyn kills the Ringwraith with a spear rather than a sword so Blok could have the Ringwraith tower above the scene with Merry slipping in with his knife below. Blok's Gollum is especially odd, as Tolkien himself pointed out, appearing lizard-like with a tail rather than as a pitiful hobbit relative.
While it will take some getting used to, I believe I will enjoy this calendar in 2011. The paintings have a lot of energy and color, especially my favorites, August's "Battle of the Hornburg," May's "Ents Marching on Isengard" and the cover illustration of the Oliphaunt.
Cor Blok is someone not many are familiar with, even among the Tolkien core fans. I ran into his illustrations some years ago by pure accident. He visited Master Tolkien who liked his work and purchased two of them, in addition to the one he got from Blok as a present. Blok went on to produce the covers for the 1965 unified Dutch edition of Lord of the Rings, as well as the individual books edition that followed.
He created his Tolkien pieces at the time when a lot of artists went for plenty of colours and detail and he wanted to go opposite of this. He also wanted paintings that resembled the old art which influenced the way these were made, that account for the patina of a sorts that is apparent. His style is different for sure but open you mind and truly look. He goes deeper than the mere surface of the story, his paintings tell of the emotion underneath, that very same thing that got so many of us to love Tolkien's world in the first place. It is, in a way, Tolkien laid bare, and what a wonderful world it is. There is no need for all those additional colours or details when you are looking at essence of the books themselves captured in these illustrations.
As a bit of curiosity - 'The Stairs of Cirith Ungol' is Blok's favourite piece and I saw it for the first time here. I found it incredibly touching and it certainly captured the emotions of that moment in fullest - do we really need anything else?
In the end I would like to ask just for a bit of respect for the artist. I understand that people may not like the style, are used to something else, are even disappointed. There is still no need for off handed comments like some here.
Give it a chance. It is something different indeed but for me, a marvellous edition to Tolkien calendars and an honouring of a sorts, of a man whose work was appreciated and loved by Tolkien himself. So many people thought Tolkien's books were childish, out of the norm and not something to even give a chance to; let us not be like that. I hope you'll give a chance to this calendar and the wonderful illustrations within that may not be the 'norm' but are the essence of Tolkien instead and what more can we ask for?
Imploring note to Christopher T. & siblings: Please don't try this again! Stick with Naismith and Howe, et al!