Saturday, September 5, 2015

Influence on Illustration

I was very interested in a question brought up at the very end of one of this week's classes. In the Valaquenta is a very short section dedicated entirely to the "bad guys" of The Silmarillion - Melkor, Sauron, balrogs, and deviant Maiar. It was pointed out that everybody seems to have a solid idea of what these characters/creatures look like, despite the fact that Tolkien includes little to no description of them.

I'm curious what it is people imagine when they read about these characters, and why they think those images come naturally to them.

4 comments:

Nienna said...

I wouldn't necessarily say the images of the "bad" creatures comes naturally to me. However, as much as I hate to admit it, my image of the balrogs and Sauron is heavily influenced by the movie version. The movies tend to have a strong influence on how we view certain characters, especially if we saw the movie version first. As for Melkor and the other beings, I think most tales with "bad" characters generally follow the same archetype. They are usually dark, scary, often associated with fire and misery etc. These views for me are influenced heavily by Christian mythology, specifically Satan and demons. I feel like we tend to reach back to archetypes we are familiar with in order to visually construct characters of all types within the story.

Ulmo said...

I agree, I find that my images of the characters and creatures are also heavily influenced by the the movies. As was mentioned in our class discussion too, a lot of this is due to the fact that Tolkien does not provide a whole lot of descriptive tools to help with imagery. I think that he does this to allow the reader to use ideology they're already familiar with to give truth to the myth. For me, this makes the myth more realistic but at the same time harder to read, because I group all of the evil characters into an evil mass. It's harder to distinguish between each of the bad guys because their characteristics are similar in my head.

Vairë said...

I'm a+ positive affected by the movies in this regard, but there are some reasons for this. Cold steel, deep shadow, and giant spider are all motifs of terror that come from children's tales. All of those images make up imaginings of Melkor, and later, Ungoliant. All three evoke terror, and I'm certain that they have some universality in image among all of us.

Yavanna said...

There's a great book called "The Myth of Pure Evil" and I believe that it has some answers to your question. Baumeister discusses that evil is this abstract idealization that distracts us from understanding true evil. It is a "wholly other" meaning that it stems from a malevolent individual upon innocent and good individuals for its own sake. It is this false dichotomy between good and evil, light and dark that influences and perpetuates itself in our culture.

So, of course, in our culture, creepy, ugly, shadowy, and dark things are our considerations of what evil is. Because true, pure evil is so "wholly other" we conjure up these images of monsters that lack empathy and are these societal monsters that we've conjured.