Silmarillion Project Q&A

As promised, I’ve gone and compiled a short list of common questions of what exactly this project is all about!

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. 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. Additionally, all of Tolkien’s writings are presented as if they’re written from a limited and flawed historical perspective (LoTR and The Hobbit were “written” by Hobbits, etc). The position of my adaptation is to present what “actually” happened- the events upon which the flawed or biased history is based. Just like with real historians, the presence of women and people of color, and their achievements, are frequently ignored.

I’m never going to contradict what’s written, but I’m definitely going to use all of the tools at my disposal to emphasize the importance of those who don’t always get their rightful share of historical credit.

1 - The ears are going to be the only significant difference between humans and Elves. I can’t deviate too much, because the two races are often mistaken for one another at a distance, and they have to be physiologically similar enough to crossbreed.

2 - I’m probably not going to get into as much detail with the 2nd and 3rd Ages, but I have some ideas regarding how to flesh out those settings. It may be something as simple as having multiple paintings for the Numenor chapter instead of just one. We’ll see!

The eye paint for the Noldor is entirely my invention. It’s meant to represent the soot/dirt marks on their faces that occur while forging and wearing a protective mask. The Noldor are distinguished by their skills of craft and all that, and I thought a nice way to present their pridefulness in it would be to have a facial mark. 

I’ll definitely be adding in visuals that aren’t described in the books as I go. You have to, especially with a text like this.

I think I teased an image of Turin’s sword Gurthang a while back, but suffice it to say, the stylings of Eöl and all of his creations will be totally alien compared to other Elves. Even Eöl himself will be visually distinct from the other characters, as he’s basically the only “dark” Elf we see in the stories.

If you’ve only seen the movies, definitely go and read the Lord of the Rings books first. It’s almost a completely different experience, and really the official introduction to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. It’s filled with more lore than people can handle, actually.

After you get through those, then I’d recommend The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, but be warned that these don’t read as novels or stories. They’re more like history books and legendariums.

Probably not. The Silmarillion is already a history book of sorts, and to reduce it further removes a lot of the magic. It’s also way outside my jurisdiction. The illustrations here are kind of a companion to the book- I can’t officially publish anything because I don’t have permission.

I’d say go ahead and read it! Who knows how long it will take before I’m done with this? It’s only something I do when I have a small bit of free time, so it’ll be ages before it’s done. The Silmarillion is daunting with the first couple chapters, but I (obviously) think it’s worth the effort.

I hope those answers help, guys, and thanks for reading!

9 months ago