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The Silmarillion, as reimagined by Aaron Diaz
January 21, 2014 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Aaron Diaz, author of Dresden Codak, re-imagines the Silmarillion as a 3-season animated series. Character sketches, 'chapter' summaries, details about his aesthetic choices (notably: Noldor have facemasks inspired by the soot of forging and craftsmanship).
posted by flibbertigibbet (49 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previous work of Diaz's that deals with Tolkien can be found on his other Tumblr. Especially useful is his guide to elves.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:27 PM on January 21


Those are some cute orcs and trolls. Mostly though this seems to be Glowering Elves: The Series.
posted by JHarris at 12:37 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Not really a fan of "Elfquest: The Silmarillioning".
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on January 21 [11 favorites]


Beaten to the punch! A pox on your house! But a minor pox. Maybe just an itch you can scratch.
Aaron Diaz previously.
posted by mfu at 12:51 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Bah, these are fun! I like the look of the Valar.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:51 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


Mostly though this seems to be Glowering Elves: The Series.

That's a pretty accurate description of The Children of Hurin.
posted by muddgirl at 12:55 PM on January 21 [13 favorites]


This is really cool. There's so much wonderful material in the Silmarillion just waiting to be given visual form.
posted by clockzero at 12:56 PM on January 21


I've never been fond of his style of art, but Aaron Diaz absolutely nails Sauron for me there. Just the perfect juxtaposition of evil and charm.
posted by Sternmeyer at 12:56 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I quite like these. Too bad there's no way they'll get the rights from Christopher.
posted by The Tensor at 12:57 PM on January 21


Did he somehow actually get the rights to do this, or are lawyers going to torpedo it halfway through? As I understand it, Christopher Tolkein is extremely protective of the rights to the Silmarillion, and after the popularity of the LOTR movies I can't imagine them being affordable for a project like this.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:57 PM on January 21


Did he somehow actually get the rights to do this

No it's a design study:
It’s a side project I do in my free time to create a painted illustration to accompany every chapter in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion, as well as provide supplementary illustrations to round out the characters and world in general.
posted by muddgirl at 1:00 PM on January 21


I don't think laywers can sue someone for using a book as inspiration for some paintings and posting them for free on the internet, but I've been wrong before.
posted by muddgirl at 1:01 PM on January 21


Ah. I had kind of assumed it was a design study for something that might actually exist at some point.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:02 PM on January 21


This would be amazing. I bought a paperback of the book decades and decades ago, and it MIGHT still be on a shelf somewhere, but I just never got into it, and this looks like a treatment which would really present it in an accessible way.
posted by mikelieman at 1:09 PM on January 21


"My motivation is to create a Middle-Earth visually unique from the style of the Peter Jackson films. I like the movies, but I miss the days when there was more diversity and interpretation to Tolkien illustrations.
A second motivation is to provide a greater representation of women and people of color in the narratives. While Tolkien made more than a few missteps regarding race and gender, the “everyone is white” trend in adaptations is a symptom of other people ignoring what’s in the texts."


Any depiction that pushes away from Generic Medieval European Fantasy #1 is great, especially when it's a body of work as seemingly sacrosanct and untouchable as Tolkien. Love the Zelda influence too, it's dripping from these.

Also: buff hammer-wielding young Galadriel? Hell yeah.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 1:11 PM on January 21 [6 favorites]


I do have to say that someone needs to talk to the Vanyar about those hats. They are driving people tojoin the Enemy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:13 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I hadn't previously realized that Melkor had a younger brother.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:35 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


I keep forgetting that I like Aaron Diaz as much as I do.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:39 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


His depictions of Yavanna and Aulë are especially great.

And that particular one of Melkor and Ungoliant on that overlook, looking at the Trees... *shiver*

(Kind of disappointing that he spent so little time on the very beginning, though. I mean, I understand, not many characters, no tragedy, no comedy, no exploration of the humanelven condition, so not that interesting to illustrate; but frankly, given Tolkien's creation myth, in my book all other creation myths are invalid.)
posted by seyirci at 1:51 PM on January 21 [4 favorites]


Fascinating.
posted by Atreides at 1:55 PM on January 21


I need to keep reminding myself that if HBO somehow coerced him to design the series, it would spell an end of Dresden Codak.
posted by hat_eater at 2:02 PM on January 21


But you wouldn't notice until the first season was already over.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:10 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


Oh, I'm also in love with Lackadaisy. I'm patient like a hibernating sloth.

Also, amongst all this beauty, why does the guy of Haleth house look like a sterotypical Cossack? And TROLL HAMMER TOO SMALL!
posted by hat_eater at 2:19 PM on January 21


but frankly, given Tolkien's creation myth, in my book all other creation myths are invalid.

I dunno, compared to being licked into existence out of the void by a cosmic cow, a bunch of singing is, well, kind of pedestrian.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:52 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


GenjiandProust: I suspect if I start talking about me, music, and my senses of awe and the divine here, there'll be a huge MeFi equivalent reaction of "ooookay, edging slowly away now," so I'll spare y'all that :). But... well, you get the idea.

(Licked into existence out of the void by a cosmic cow: Awesome in many aspects, true, and makes one pause. Sung and shaped into being by music, harmony, and marred by a literal discordant note: I'd ask for a theology department on Line 1, stat, except I get kind of tongue-tied when I think about it. Not saying it's not very idiosyncratic. Derail over.)
posted by seyirci at 3:06 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


Very much meh on this. The Two Trees are the biggest failure - pretty much the light of the Trees was the most magnificent thing ever, such that the glimmer of it in the Silmarils made them the most beautiful jewels in Arda. They are broad, flowering and radiant (not to mention the leaves are green on the outside). These little twigs are not the Two Trees.

The horned Valar and Maiar and the pointy eared elves just look silly. Artistic license is ok, but they don't capture the mythic tone at all.
posted by graymouser at 3:27 PM on January 21 [2 favorites]


I saw this a little while ago (I only just found Dresden Codak), but with the picture of Melkor looking down on the two trees... I hadn't read the caption. I thought it was Melkor, standing between two trees at the edge of a clearing in the forest, looking down on the trees. After reading the caption, I just now realized those aren't trees.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:55 PM on January 21 [5 favorites]


I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings twice, but couldn't get 20 pages into The Silmarillion. Am I just a moron, or does it generally take awhile for readers to get interested in the text?
posted by cell divide at 5:14 PM on January 21


Which mythology has the cosmic cow? I must know
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:16 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


The Norse Poetic Edda tells that the first man was uncovered from salt by the licking of a cosmic cow.
posted by micketymoc at 5:21 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


That brings a whole new angle to the backstory of Too Close For Comfort.
posted by JHarris at 5:28 PM on January 21 [3 favorites]


cell divide, obviously opinions differ on this, but I personally find the Silmarillion takes a while to get going. Ainulindalë, in particular, doesn't do much for me.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:56 PM on January 21


I agree. For me, the first section, with the choir, the singing, it's not much for me. It's pretty slow going at first, but it does count for later on (in the 'everything in the saga is echoes' theory that came up in the giant Tolkien thread), but once you get through it, things begin happening, and you're essentially reading the bible of middle earth. It's got genesis, exodus, elves, demons, forbidden love, all kinds of stuff.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:07 PM on January 21


If you can't get into the published Silmarillion, skip directly to "Of Beren and Lúthien" and read that. Then skip to "Of Túrin Turambar" and read that (there's also the longer The Children of Húrin). Those are the two most important stories in the legendarium. After that, if you want to read the whole story of the Valar and Morgoth and the Silmarils, go back to the beginning and read from there.
posted by graymouser at 6:08 PM on January 21


or does it generally take awhile for readers to get interested in the text?

I love Tolkien and have read LOTR pretty much every year since I was 12, but yes, The Silmarillion is *extreme* uphill sledding. It's like reading the Bible or mythology of a religion you have almost no cultural context with. But I have gotten through it once, and I found the deeper understanding I gained opened a whole new level when I re-read LOTR. (The lack of any deeper understanding of the world and themes beyond "and then a big battle happened!! is, incidentally, my major quarrel with the Jackson films. I think he and his co-writer would have been well-served to read The Silmarillion at least once. (I think I read somewhere that they had, but if that's true, they missed the point entirely.))

But yeah, it's a challenge.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:24 PM on January 21


Silmarillion a tough nut to crack? Try Unfinished Tales first. It doesn't cover much in the way of the creation of Arda, the destruction of The Trees or The Revolt of the Noldor BUT it does tell the stories of Tuor & Turin in a much better style and with greater emotional detail than what's presented in The Silmarillion. If those two stories hook you, then try The Silmarillion. You'll get a better feel for the events of the The Silmarillion that way. Unfinished Tales has actual characters, whereas The Silmarillion has historical figures.

The stuff on Numenor in The Second Age is deadly dull in either book, though.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:22 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]


I need to reread the Silmarillion, or re-re-re-reread it I should say, because it continues to impress.

I will also throw in my 2 cents for new readers looking to approach it: Skip the first chapter.

Yep, just skip it. Come back later if you like but think of it as skipping the first parts of Genesis in the Bible. You don't need to know who created what and when to know that [Bible Spoilers!] Adam and Eve did something *wrong* and to enjoy the telling of Cain and Able getting into it. That's basically the first chapter. If I recall correctly if you see the word song, singing, or anything early on referencing Eru Ilúvatar just give it a pass for now or you risk being very, very bored before getting to the meat and amazing potatoes.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:44 PM on January 21


Huh... and whilst digging around I found this quote on the existence, well in reference to at least, if tangentially, Tom Bombadil:

"I really do think you are being too serious, besides missing the point. [...] You rather remind me of a Protestant relation who to me objected to the (modern) Catholic habit of calling priests Father, because the name father belonged only to the First Person."

--Tolkien in a letter referencing someone objecting to his utilization of "He is." as a potential conflation of the Biblical line that says, of God, "I am that I am."

That is interesting in regard to the question I asked the other day. Food for thought.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:52 PM on January 21


I absolutely love this. As I recently admitted, The Silmarillion is my favorite book. I'd pay quite a bit for a graphic novel in this style. I'd love even more to see a television series made out of it.

If you enjoy this, I'd recommend checking out Evan Palmer's version of the Ainulindalë which was linked here by rewil in the "Silmarillion in Three Minutes" post from October 2013. It's not at all similar, but it reminds me more of Tolkien's style of illustration.

The Tensor: “I quite like these. Too bad there's no way they'll get the rights from Christopher.”
Mitrovarr: “Did he somehow actually get the rights to do this, or are lawyers going to torpedo it halfway through? As I understand it, Christopher Tolkein is extremely protective of the rights to the Silmarillion, and after the popularity of the LOTR movies I can't imagine them being affordable for a project like this.”
muddgirl: “I don't think laywers can sue someone for using a book as inspiration for some paintings and posting them for free on the internet, but I've been wrong before.”
I think if Christopher is loathe to option the rights to The Silmarillion, it's because of the experience of working with the Saul Zaentz Company.

The Saul Zaentz Company through its subsidiary Middle-earth Enterprises — formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises — "owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. We have produced and licensed films, stage productions and merchandise based on these Tolkien works for more than thirty-five years." I can't find a list of exactly which "proper names and short phrases" are held by ME, but SZC is pretty infamous for zealously guarding rights to the names of the characters or races from Tolkien's works.

Long story short, if SZC owns the rights to Manwë, Varda, etc. — which they might or might not I'm not sure — this doesn't seem likely to escape their attention.

In other news, Oscar-winning producer Saul Zaentz passed away on January 3rd, 2014.


ocular shenanigans: “Also: buff hammer-wielding young Galadriel? Hell yeah.”
Everybody remembers ethereal Galadriel with her magic mirror and gifts of strands of her hair. Many forget she was 6′4″, athletic, and prideful — her mother named her Nerwen, meaning "man-maiden." She spent 27 bitter, cold (Solar) years crossing the Helcaraxë with Fingolfin. She and her brother Finrod helped lead the Noldor across the ice.

She was angry.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:07 AM on January 22 [5 favorites]


Although… now I see that this project was linked in that post by Iridic. Which, who cares really? It's a cool thing and deserved its own post.

The cool part is that the different link for this from October led me to this nifty cosplay of a Noldor warrior based on Diaz's designs.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:26 AM on January 22


Diaz has also redesigned the X-Men and the Justice League (the latter being far superior to the New 52 IMO). I'd probably be a big fan of Dresden Kodak if I remembered to check for updates every now and then.

As for the Silmarillion, I never got into it because it always struck me as being kind of like Tolkien graduate school, and I found LotR tough enough slogging--I actually put it down about halfway through as a teenager, and never picked it up again until the movies. (I tend to agree with China Mieville about the movies vs. the books. )
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:09 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]


The way to read the Silmarillion is to read the first few books of the Bible first - to get you into the right frame of mind. Then you'll be blown away by how much better the Silmarillion is.
posted by moorooka at 1:05 PM on January 22


"Balrogs - Also called Valaraukar, Balrogs were fire spirits seduced into service under Morgoth."

Sure, leave out the part where Balrogs were Maiar, meaning (among other things) that Galdalf and the Balrog at Moria were, like, evenly matched.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:12 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


As mentioned in the other Tolkien thread, Maiar did not all have the same amount of power. In the event, the Balrog and Gandalf DID seem closely matched, but that isn't necessarily true for any two Maiar.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:03 PM on January 22


Another important thing to keep in mind about the Istari is that they had their "Power" capped as part of their volunteering to go to Middle Earth in physical human form. The other Maiar back in Middle Earth (Sauron & the Moria Balrog), while their Power had been corrupted, had not necessarily had their power diminished to the level that the Istari did when they arrived in Middle Earth. The Istari were not meant to fight Sauron (or a Balrog, for that matter) directly but were supposed to counsel and motivate the free people of Middle-Earth in the struggle against him. Gandalf's battle w/ The Balrog was not meant to kill the Balrog but to buy the rest of The Fellowship enough time to escape Moria. It was essentially a suicide mission on Gandalf's part (remember, he had no way of knowing that The Valar would allow his spirit to take human form again after his original body was killed).

Which now makes me realize something: If The Valar had sworn to no longer directly interfere in the affairs of Middle Earth, why did they resurrect Gandalf into a more powerful version of himself? THAT seems like a pretty much direct intervention.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:17 AM on January 23


Which now makes me realize something: If The Valar had sworn to no longer directly interfere in the affairs of Middle Earth, why did they resurrect Gandalf into a more powerful version of himself? THAT seems like a pretty much direct intervention.

They were just bumping him up to the premier spot in the Istari chain of excellence which had become vacant.
posted by Atreides at 10:53 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Atreides: "They were just bumping him up to the premier spot in the Istari chain of excellence which had become vacant."

The alternative? Radegast the White.

And we ALL know how he's going to accomplish the "white" part. (shudder)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:16 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


If The Valar had sworn to no longer directly interfere in the affairs of Middle Earth, why did they resurrect Gandalf into a more powerful version of himself? THAT seems like a pretty much direct intervention.

Well, sending the Istari apparently didn't constitute "direct interference," so sending an Istar back at cranked-up power didn't either. It's not like Manwë was striding through Arda in his full power.
posted by graymouser at 1:48 PM on January 23


Okay, not exactly evenly matched, then.
But calling Balrogs "fire spirits" and not mentioning the Maiar thing feels like it diminishes them, like if I said that the angel Michael was a pixie.

Goofy thing to get nitpicky about, I guess.

But when I read the Silmarillion the first time, I had to reassess the whole Lord of the Rings, and the Maiar thing made a lot of already big stuff in that story feel bigger.
Gandalf's sacrifice at the bridge isn't just a fight on the scale the hobbits can see; there's more happening there, and maybe Aragorn knows how intense that all is, but I feel sad, almost, for the other guys, there, that it's like they can't even see what's happening in front of them. They see something, but it's too big for them. But then, I guess that's what's tragic about the hobbits, is that the whole world is too big for them, and not just in the obvious ways.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:08 PM on January 23 [1 favorite]


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