We got to ask Wizards of the Coast artist and art director Ovidio Cartagena about the new officially licensed The Lord of the Rings expansion cards for Magic: The Gathering.
Was there any particular aspect, creature, or perhaps landmark of Middle-earth that you haven’t seen from other artists, and have always wanted to bring to life through your own art? The Scouring of the Shire and the Battle of Bywater were very interesting to me. The whole plot involving Old Toby, and the discovery of trade between Saruman and the Shire, always caught my attention.
Naturally, the destruction of something so warm and innocent like the Shire appears to be, and the corruption of many hobbits, is something that I wanted to show in detail in Magic’s adaptation of the books.
Has Tolkien’s own artistic style been an influence for you in your work? Oh yes. We looked at Tolkien’s artwork during the development of The Lord of the Rings. I was very lucky to work with artists who were also influenced by these works. Tolkien’s work is incredibly clear and has a definitive shape language that is unmissable: you’ll know whose hand made it if you look at the work.
What other Tolkien artists inspire you? The Hildebrandts were very influential for me growing up. Their talent seemed endless, and I was a big fan of their work on the LoTR calendar and the Marvel Masterpieces cards from the ’90s. It’s incredible that I get to say that I’ve worked in a set that also features the art of the Hildebrandts. I remember making illustrations for a Lord of the Rings calendar of my own, back when I was 18, a college art project, so it’s fair to say that LoTR and many of the Tolkien artists were a pretty big influence to what I do.
How much freedom were you all given to work on these characters? We had a fair amount of freedom at the beginning. Interestingly, we didn’t have limitations placed before working on concept art. We had a lot of freedom to develop characters, environments, motifs and so on. At the end of the concept art process, we put together a guide that would help artists illustrate our vision for The Lord of the Rings, and Middle-earth Enterprises reviewed the guide and gave us their feedback. I was very nervous at first, but their reaction was positive and that began a great creative partnership between us. Most of the art you see in cards was based on that guide.
What was the process for the artist to submit work, to get to work on these cards? Artists were selected on their capacity to deliver on one or all of the four parameters I set for the set’s visual direction: Epic (scale and scope), Legendary (attention to lore), Storytelling (attention to characters and their relationships), Pastoral (what our heroes are fighting to protect). Ekaterina Burmak, Magali Villeneuve, Tyler Jacobson, Jesper Ejsing, and many other greats lent their enormous talents and unique styles to create Magic: The Gathering’s Lord of the Rings.
What pressures are there to depict Bilbo in a world where two actors defined the character so thoroughly? Bilbo is a very interesting character. And eccentric, too! I remember reading the Council of Elrond, and Bilbo initially volunteers to take the ring to Mount Doom… this is a true adventurer (who also happens to be attached to “his” ring) even after all these years. The design for the character was done in a card illustration by Anna Pavleeva, and we tried to put in his years of lived experiences, a bit of mischief and, of course, the confidence of a daring adventurer who wouldn’t shy away from an epic quest at 111!
How exciting is it to be in this new phase of Middle-earth adaptations? How do you consider your work alongside spheres of TV and new films? It is hard for me to speak of a “revival” of The Lord of the Rings, because it seems like something that has had relevance for most of my life. But it is fair to say we’re seeing an increased focus on LoTR in the mainstream. I am, however, very excited about seeing different takes in media for The Lord of the Rings. There are so many things to explore in Middle-earth! The work we did for the Magic: The Gathering set was an epic endeavor in itself, and I’m very proud of how it holds up to the literature and the adaptations done in other media. I got to live in the time and place of the War of the Ring for a while as I directed the set, and the project gave me a chance to keep coming back to the books I love so much.
We paid attention to a lot of details and there are more than a few easter eggs to consider! The whole team pitched in with lore knowledge, and the passion we poured into the project will definitely show in the card set!
How do you apply more modernized styles of art/composition to illustrate the works of a writer like Tolkien, who dealt mainly with antiquities? I think Tolkien’s work will endure a lot of cultural changes, way beyond our lifetimes. There have been modern crane shots and dutch angles in the interest of dramatizing the events in the War of the Ring. We’ve used the skills and tricks of illustration to bring ourselves inside Tolkien’s rich world, as if we had been there. One of my conceits at the beginning of this massive project was that every illustration was a frame or painting commissioned right after the War, to document the events therein. Since culture hasn’t stopped, and techniques have evolved along with widespread visual language resources, our approach is to let the worldbuilding draw the viewer in.
Who is your favorite Middle-earth character, and why? It is between Boromir and Denethor. It is easy to dislike these characters, but it is often missed that these were strong and great men with a great deal of knowledge. They’d been fighting and witnessing the rise of Sauron’s power, and were desperate to regain the greatness that Númenor once had. Denethor gave almost the air of a wizard due to his sharp intelligence, and wore chain mail under his elegant robe which meant he knew the importance of strength. It is interesting to speculate what Boromir would have achieved in better times – but he did not choose to be born at the edge of a Great War.
What’s your favorite piece for this new collection? It is very difficult for me to pick a favorite piece because every artist gave us great work. I’ll just give a couple of shoutouts to folks who added personal greats to their portfolios:
Gray Highsmith, who was one of the concept artists – they helped design the costuming and motifs of hobbits.
Tyler Jacobson, whose epic ambition and incredible abilities gave the world a Battle of the Pelennor Fields painting worthy of a castle wall. He was also the designer of our Sauron, a truly unique take!
Magali Villeneuve, whose massive talent embodied the soul of The Lord of the Rings, and her vision brought these awesome characters to life.
Alexander Mokhov, who really came into his own as a Magic illustrator with his work in this set.
About the new The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ arriving June 23, 2023
The Lord of the Rings has come to Magic: The Gathering, and it’s time to take familiar favorites on a whole new journey there and back again. In the upcoming set The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™, players have the chance to join the Fellowship in adventures filled with valor, courage, and second breakfast. Play your favorite moments of the third age or turn Middle-earth on its head and surrender to the temptation of the Precious. Either way; Middle-earth is in your hands.
The set has two primary launch windows—June 2023 and a holiday launch in November 2023—and is the first full set release as part of Universes Beyond, bringing the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien to life within the Magic frame. The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is modern legal and comprised of Draft, Set, Collector, and Jumpstart Boosters, four Commander decks, a Starter Kit, a Bundle and Gift Bundle, Scene Boxes, and Secret Lair drops. For more information on which specific products are coming in June 2023, check out this article on DailyMTG.
The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth will also come to Magic: The Gathering Arena with all of the same cards as the tabletop release. The set will be legal in Alchemy and Historic formats and receive the same support as a full release, including a preorder, Mastery Pass, and cosmetics.
If you’re looking for the perfect holiday gift for your favorite Tolkien fan, you’ve come to the right place! The staff of TheOneRing.net have put together a list of our favorite items of the year, with price points for every budget. And while it’s nice to know that 2-day shipping exists (thanks, Amazon!), shipping delays around the holidays are inevitable, so we recommend starting your gift shopping now. Not to mention that the perfect item you’ve been looking for could sell out!
From our Fellowship to yours, TheOneRing.net would like to wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday season.
Mini Epics: Witch-King of the Unseen Lands Limited Edition by Weta Workshop: $44.99
I’ve been a fan of Weta Workshop’s Mini Epics line since they started releasing them, but this might be my favorite one so far. The attention to detail on these little guys is so…epic! And like all Weta collectibles, they were designed by the same artists that worked on the films. “Peeking through the mortal veil, we glimpsed the mighty Witch-king’s true visage, immortalized now for all to fear in Mini Epic form.”
Not only is this Witch-King fear-inducing , he’s also kind of cute! Click HERE to pre-order.
Realm of Middle-earth Moonlit Throw by Oscha: £96.00
It’s no secret that I’ve always been a huge fan of Scottish company Oscha’s Middle-earth range. Their designs are so beautiful; you can choose a throw, shawl, mug, or bag, if you’re not in the market for a baby sling or baby blanket. (Though I have to say, the baby blankets make great wall hangings!) This year I’m highlighting their ‘Realm of Middle-earth’ pattern, on the ‘moonlit’ colour scheme throw. Who doesn’t like a good map from Tolkien’s world? This would look beautiful on any sofa or bed. Do yourself a favour and check out Oscha’s entire collection; you’ll be glad you did! Click HERE to order.
Hobbit Mini Gandalf Hat by Stansborough: $79
It’s great to know that small, family run businesses creating sustainable and ethical products (such as Oscha, above) can thrive; and as one of the best, I’m thrilled that Stansborough in New Zealand are still going strong. They are the folks who made the magical Elven cloaks for The Lord of the Rings movies, as well as Gandalf’s scarf in The Hobbit movies, and further fabrics for The Rings of Power! Once again, they have fabulous scarfs, throws, caps, etc. – and even Gandalf’s hat! My choice for the gift list is the mini Gandalf hat; I already said this in another homepage post, but I think it would be an adorable tree topper. Own a little piece of genuine New Zealand goodness; check out Stansborough’s website. Their treasures aren’t cheap – but the standard is so high, they’re worth every penny! Click HERE to order.
Collectibles from NZ Post: prices vary
NZ Post continue their celebration of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy with 20th anniversary collectibles for The Two Towers. Their products are beautiful, and would be treasured by any collector. I particularly love the Limited Edition stamp presentation pack, and this stunning art print. The new range of pins would be wonderful stocking stuffers! There are three, all great designs and very attractive presentation; again, very collectible. Choose from Eye of Sauron, Gollum, or Mount Doom.
The Fall of Númenor: And Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth by J.R.R Tolkien and edited by Brian Sibley: $34.99
My ‘must have’ this year is “The Fall of Numenor” edited by Brian Sibley, who expertly weaves together all the Second Age story strands into one, cohesive timeline custom-made for the fans of Tolkien who want to dig deeper into the lore, but without having to scour numerous other volumes. Add to this the glorious new watercolor and pencil drawings from Alan Lee, and this book becomes the perfect Holiday gift for new and existing Tolkien fans. Click HERE to order.
The Lord of the Rings Jewelry Collection by Enso Rings: starting at $44.99
Enso has a collection of silicone rings inspired by The Lord of the Rings. The Shire Leaf ring is perfect for anyone who dreams of the simple life. This ring celebrates the idyllic, peaceful home of the Hobbits with a leaf etching on Distressed Ashy Green and Black Pearl. Click HERE to see other designs and to order.
The Silmarillion (Illustrated Edition): Illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien: $39.00
For the first time ever, a very special edition of the forerunner to The Lord of the Rings, illustrated throughout in color by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and with the complete text printed in two colors. The Silmarillion fills in the background which lies behind the more popular work, and gives the earlier history of Middle-earth, introducing some of the key characters. Click HERE to order.
The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring 2000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle by Ravensburger: $44.99
Join the Fellowship in their quest through Middle Earth to rid the world of Sauron’s One Ring. Pursued by Ringwraiths, the Hobbits Frodo, Samwise, Merry and Pippin are aided by the Wizard Gandalf, the Ranger Aragorn, Legolas the elf, Gimli the dwarf and Boromir. The Watcher nearly prevents their perilous trek through the Mines of Moria, where Gandalf confronts a Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. Galadriel provides comfort, but Saruman’s Uruk-hai pursue. Will the Fellowship make it to Mordor? An immersive illustrated map of Middle Earth, this “The Fellowship of the Ring” puzzle is a Ravensburger exclusive, perfect for any Lord of the Rings fan! Click HERE to order the FotR puzzle, or HERE for their ‘Two Towers’ puzzle.
Wee Tanya recommends:
The Lord of the Rings Apparel and Accessories line by Her Universe: prices vary
I am a huge fan of costuming, but can’t always put on a full elf outfit at work. The brand Her Universe currently has a range of all-gender Lord of the Rings apparel, including cloaks, hoodies, leggings, t-shirts, and a fantastic blouse with Fellowship broach embroidery on the collar that can keep us Tolkiening along in a more subtle way. If you can’t find an specific item that you want, the Her Universe LOTR line is also sold at Hot Topic. Some of my favorite items include the Middle-earth map button-down in men’s sizes, the dress that is suitable for a Ren Faire or Hobbit dance party, and the Loungefly bag. Click HERE to order.
The awesome folks at Ravensburger Puzzles wanted us to let you know that right now, fans can snag two awesome puzzles, representing the first two films in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. These beautiful, 2000-piece puzzles are great pieces of art representing each film; The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers are available now at a variety of retailers.
The Return of the King puzzle is coming in 2023, so you won’t have long to wait to get that one as well. These puzzles would make great gifts for the Ringer in your life! We will also be giving you all a look at these puzzles in the future when we put together ours – so be on the lookout for that review.
Meanwhile, you can enter for a chance to win! One lucky winner, chosen at random, will receive both of these first two puzzles in the trilogy. Simply complete this form to be in with a chance to win. The giveaway runs until 11.59pm PT on Wednesday 7th December, and winner will be contacted after that. Sorry, only open to fans in the United States.
Stansborough is a name which will be familiar to many fans of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth. Their amazing wool made those magical Elven cloaks, gifted to the Fellowship in the first Lord of the Rings movie. Spun through with silver thread, the Stansborough weave appeared again as Gandalf’s scarf in The Hobbit trilogy; and their fabrics have even been used recently in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power!
Tolkien lovers who have made pilgrimages to New Zealand may have visited their mill, to see their sustainable fabrics being created; and many of us have purchased items from them over the years. We’re delighted that this family run business is still going, still making magic – and they have generously sent us some goodies to giveaway!
Staffers Madeye Gamgee and greendragon had the pleasure of opening the exciting package which travelled across the ocean to arrive in the US; take a look to see what was in the box:
Your chance to win
If YOU would like to be in with a chance to be one of the lucky winners who will receive one of the goodies from Stansborough, all you need to do is complete and submit this form. The contest is open within the USA only (sorry, folks elsewhere in the world!); you have until 11.59pm PT Monday 28th November to enter. On Tuesday 29th we’ll pick three winners at random, and send each one of those lucky folks one of the three items.
If you’re not in the US, or if you aren’t a winner, you can still treat yourself to something wonderful from Stansborough; just visit their website to see all the goodies available. I’ve got my eye on one of their mini Gandalf hats (as seen above) – the perfect tree topper…! (Hmm, perhaps for a tree decorated with flaming pine cones…?)
Big thanks to our good friends at Stansborough for their generosity.
One does not simply walk into Mordor, right? Well, now you can with this new fitness challenge app from The Conqueror. You can also run, cycle, or even swim your way to Mt Doom.
The Conqueror specializes in virtual fitness challenges that allow people to gamify exercise and map their progress to different virtual scenarios such as scaling Mt Fuji, or Mt Everest, or walking the Great Wall of China.
For their newest offering, they’ve teamed with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to give people the opportunity to virtually replicate Frodo and Sam’s mammoth trek all the way from Bag End in The Shire to the fires of Mt Doom.
There are five successive challenges in the new Lord of the Rings series, each unlocking the next as it’s logged and completed by participants on the app. The app uses a custom-made map of Middle-earthapp to track and display progress, taking participants on an immersive journey to destroy the One Ring.
Basically, if you’re looking for Lord of the Rings fun while getting healthier and more fit, this could be just the thing for you. It does cost money, but it also comes with some pretty sweet swag as well.
Bootnote: When some fans reached out to us with news of this new LOTR-based fitness app, we decided to take the step of confirming its authenticity and reached out to The Saul Zaentz Company, the current holders of The Lord of the Rings merchandising rights. They have assured us that this is an official product that is properly licensed via Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
Saul Zaentz Co., has filed two trademark applications covering a pair of phrases now associated with Amazon’s forthcoming TV series: “Rings of Power” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”.
The company is the current owner of 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. It also announced in early February that it was putting all those rights up for sale.
The trademark applications, which were filed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on April 5 through German intellectual property specialists Boehmert & Boehmert, cover a wide array merchandising for goods and services under different categories.
Closer examination of the two filings, however, reveal that the key crossover between the two seems to cover electronic downloadable and online games and trading cards under Nice categories #9 and #41.
Whether that indicates that a Rings of Power-associated video game might be in the works as part of some partnership with Amazon remains to be seen. But, since the Saul Zaentz Company holds in perpetuity the trademarks on all the characters and places in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it might have to be involved in merchandising deals.