Moonlight on a Wood-ICON

Tolkien created 'Moonlight on a Wood' in a spurt of artistic and literary creativity that burst forth in the late 1920's. As was seen in the previous post, Tolkien long had been drawing from life. He also had been making imaginative, non-realistic pictures, particularly in 1913-15, which illustrated his expanding secondary world. But he made few pictures in the years that followed, and, after 1922, none at all.

In 1927-28, however, his imagination exploded. His art work exploded along with his ideas for developing his secondary world. His style in illustration became more painterly, more confident, and, though he still favoured bright colours, more subtle. Perhaps the family holidays at Lyme-Regis in 1927-28 afforded him the opportunities he needed to express himself in art.

'Moonlight on a Wood' is a nearly unique piece in that Tolkien rendered the picture's trees in a Cubist manner. I don't know what Tolkien intended to convey though this experimentation in style, but I find the picture's angular starkness strongly evocative, beautiful but mysterious, chilly, eerie, even hallucinatory, as if I were a mortal entering the Perilous Realm.

Jan-u-wine's poem responds to the picture's stark mystery in its own way, using words rather than brush strokes. She said of the uniqueness of the picture, "It really is a mesmerizing piece, isn't it? So weird and yet so.....wonderful. I really would like to have known what was in his mind. This is surely...jazz from a man who was always a classicist....."


Moonlight on a Wood-RED

Moonlight on a Wood

The smell of them is

with winter
and blood-resin,

of cold, sharp

and lemon light,

the jagged

of their joining


slipped silver

moss'd green
upon the forest's

iced floor.

this resolute



a template of

the light-ice
of his fingers


a distanc'd

upon the crown-points
of snow-sleeping


Previous entry:

Foxglove Year-ICON ~ "Foxglove Year" by jan-u-wine for watercolour of the same name by Tolkien.

Other Links:
Nan's Reunion-ICON ~ All entries featuring jan-u-wine's poems.

From: [identity profile] shirebound.livejournal.com

the crown-points
of snow-sleeping


I wonder if Tom Bombadil would paint like this in an imaginative mood?

From: [identity profile] mechtild.livejournal.com

Ha ha! No, I can't picture Tom painting like this. Well, I guess I can't imagine him wanting to paint in the first place, he's so in thrall to what is real and right in front of him. I can't imagine him feeling the urge to try and capture nature through art anymore than he'd want to capture the Ring. If he did draw or paint I'd imagine his style would be more childlike, or at least more curvy and organic. :)

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

thank you, SB. I'm so glad you enjoyed!

what do you think? Do you think this could be signed "TB"?

From: [identity profile] shirebound.livejournal.com

Anything is possible, especially with a being who has lived for so long, and takes such joy in everything. :)

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

i don't know....when i look at this, i hear "Rhapsody in Blue" playing in my head. Which is a beautiful piece, don't get me wrong. But it (to me) celebrates the age of industry.

But you have raised a fascinating point: what, indeed, would TB paint (or draw) if he were so inclined?

Personally, i think i could see him making botanical drawings or perhaps anatomical drawings (a la Leonardo). But i am not sure about this.

I think....for me....i don't know enough about who Tom really is. For me, it would be interesting to explore who he is in poem form....

if Frodo would be so good as to guide me....

From: [identity profile] lavendertook.livejournal.com

Your musical analogies are perfect.

TB's choice of yellow boots and blue feather and his boisterousness make me think his tastes and style would be Van Gogh-ish. (-:

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

oh my goodness....i think you very well may have hit the Bombadill on the boots.

Or....perhaps he'd be Peter Max......

i still want to explore SB's thoughts on this, though....

now to squirrel away the time to do that.....


From: [identity profile] pearlette.livejournal.com

This is "...jazz from a man who was always a classicist....."

Definitely. :) Fascinating.

Great period in art, that, the early 1900s to 1930s. I'm fascinated by Surrealism in particular. Weird and often disturbing, but such originality and creativity. I went to a wonderful exhibition on Surrealism at the Victoria & Albert museum about 6 years ago. It all coincided with the new 'religion' of psychology and Jungian-ism, etc etc.

All vastly different from Tolkien's own creative sources and stream. But I like this one and only experiment with Cubism he did!

I didn't realise he had family hols at Lyme Regis (I should do, since I've read his biography, although many years ago now). My mother loves Lyme Regis - it's where she spent her summer holidays as a child, during WW2. It sounds like a peaceful holiday haven, even though the Germans were bombing Portland just up the coast! It's a lovely place - you've got the medieval Cobb, and the Jurassic Coast, and the literary associations with Jane Austen and 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'. ;)

Of course JRRT and Edith retired to Bournemouth in their old age.

Now here is a funny thought - my family were in Lyme Regis during the summer of 1973, when I was 11. It was a very hot summer. Tolkien died that year, in September. My brother was reading LotR during our holiday. I began reading it, but got scared by the Barrow Wight (and it was very long, even for an 11 year old bookworm). I was determined to return to it one day. I did, 10 years later!

From: [identity profile] mechtild.livejournal.com

Howdy, Pearl!

You have been to Lyme Regis? How lucky of you! I always associate Lyme Regis with the pertinent chapters in Jane Austen's 'Persuasion', my favourite of all her novels (if I had to choose).

Great period in art, that, the early 1900s to 1930s. (...) It all coincided with the new 'religion' of psychology and Jungian-ism, etc etc. All vastly different from Tolkien's own creative sources and stream.

Yes, vastly different. Yet in spite of the disparity Tolkien managed to make fine use of the Cubist style to make this arresting picture. I really do love it, more a picture of a perception of moonlit woods rather than of the woods themselves.

From: [identity profile] ambree40.livejournal.com

It was only after I had read Jan’s poem that I realized Tolkien had painted moonlight not just in any forest but in a pine forest. I love that early clue of “needles of scent” in the poem. Then, at the end, you realize that they are real pine needles on the forest floor and that the painting shows the structure of pine trees. Very interesting.

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

well, I have to admit that I do not see pine needles there.....but there has to be....unless, of course, the robots that i suspect are hiding off-screen have swept them all up.....

such a clean forest. In looking at it, i kept hearing the lines from Camelot, where Arthur is telling the soon-to-be-queen that the leaves are 'swept into neat little piles' "after sundown, of course". "of course"

This picture touches me in a way i had not expected it to. It's a very interesting piece indeed.

From: [identity profile] ambree40.livejournal.com

Must have been the botanist in me, suddenly "seeing" the pine trees in the painting and making up the rest. ;-)

From: [identity profile] mechtild.livejournal.com

I loved "needles of scent" too. It enhances all the sharp straight lines in the piece, the angled ones like lances, the verticals like racks or sprays of spears and arrows.

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

i do these things all unawares you know, and stand amazed when you point something like this out.

It's nice. I get to enjoy the poem just as if i did not write it.
Edited Date: 2013-07-05 11:26 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] lavendertook.livejournal.com

It's an interesting study in texture and perspectives. The thick light area under the moon looks more to me like it's a pedestal or trunk than moon beams, which makes me think this is of the first tree in Valinor. Together with his painting of Valinor that you posted on Ring Day, I'm wondering if he felt he needed to go abstract to picture the Blessed Realm.

Jan, your poem adds the curves and naturalism that fill in all the colors in the drawing and brings the stark lines to life for me. This poem's words build to a beautiful crescendo.
Edited Date: 2013-07-06 05:50 pm (UTC)

From: [identity profile] mechtild.livejournal.com

The thick light area under the moon looks more to me like it's a pedestal or trunk than moon beams, which makes me think this is of the first tree in Valinor.

WHAT an interesting thought. Yes, it does look quite treeish when I go back and have a look. Was the Telperion made first, do you remember, or were the two trees created simultaneously?

Jan, your poem adds the curves and naturalism that fill in all the colors in the drawing and brings the stark lines to life for me.

What an astute, delight-giving perception, Lavender! :)

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

Metchtild, i saw this comment only after I'd posted my own (which rather echoes yours...!)

Telpirion was created first. Lovely entry at Encyclopedia of Arda:


Such wonderful attention to detail, whether it be in drawing or writing......

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

youre welcome!

look at your lovely icon.....is that a boy Frodo, piping away?

From: [identity profile] mechtild.livejournal.com

Nope, lol, it's [Sophie?] Anderson's "Shepherd Piper", a detail, but I confess it made me think of little Sam or one of the Boffin boys when they were little (the brothers I made up for my fanfic, their family known for its fruit orchards and its sheep).


From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

well, i note that a lot of images i think would make swell Frodo's seem to be of the ......*fairer* sex. Gets you thinking about that 'fairer than most' thing.....

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

oh, sorry, i saw "Sophie" and got my brain confuzzled.

happens a lot lately......i be goin' ole folk home any day now.....

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

i'm putting the "Tol E" sign outside of my room. We'll see how many numpties ask what *that* means...

See? I'm cultivating my elderly grouchiness already.

"You Elf kids stay the Sammath Naur offa my lawn!"

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

Potter speak for 'idiots'

Apr 3, 2007 - Scotland's favourite word, according to a poll by BT Openreach, is numpty. Derived from "numps", an obsolete word for a stupid person

From: [identity profile] mechtild.livejournal.com

Thank you for the explanation! I had no idea. It's a very enjoyable word to look at and to say. :)
Edited Date: 2013-07-12 01:37 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

i agree. And oh so much nicer than say "you're an idiot" to an American's face (a Scotsman, of course, may be a numpty of a different color entirely)

From: [identity profile] diem-kieu94.livejournal.com


" I note that a lot of images i think would make swell Frodo's seem to be of the ......*fairer* sex. Gets you thinking about that 'fairer than most' thing....."

If Frodo is indeed of the "fairer sex"... Then I must be lesbian! HA HA HA HA HA!!! XD
Edited Date: 2013-07-11 05:18 am (UTC)

From: [identity profile] jan-u-wine.livejournal.com

wow, LT, now that is an interesting thought (that this might be the first tree)! I really thought it was light, tho perhaps NOT the light of the moon (perhaps the moon and sun are in the sky together, the sun not shown except by these 'thick' rays, perhaps it is the first day in the creation of the world, everything not in its place yet). Note, above the moon and to the left a little, what looks like a stairway, climbing upwards.

The stairway to the Sun?

Overall, to me, a fascinating but very.....mechanical looking piece. I expect someone to come wind it up at any moment, at which point "Rhapsody in Blue " will play and the moon will jerkily move about the 'sky', the pines bending together in a cog-driven wind.

did you notice how reminiscent of this piece TORN's "obey" tee is?


I tried to be as stark and linear as i could in the poem, but i really am a Samwise sort of girl. I read a bit of Ferlingetti and Ginsberg (can you WAIT to see that movie? I can't!!!!!!) to psych myself up, but i can't really write in that style. In any case, i am so very glad you enjoyed the post. I really am fascinated by this piece and wish i could write more to it, but the 'how' part has thus far escaped me.

well, ta for now!



mechtild: (Default)

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