Greetings Ringers – Today TheOneRing.net is proud to share a Tolkienian analysis from esteemed Y.A. author/editor Henry Herz who takes us closer to the Irish myths mined by Guillermo del Toro for Hellboy II and the remarkable connections to Fëanor himself.

Irish Influences

Astute observers of the film Hellboy II: The Golden Army will note multiple references to Irish mythology. The full name of Hellboy’s antagonist is Nuada Silverlance. The first king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods of Irish mythology, was Nuada Airgetlám (silver hand/arm). The Irish Nuada lost his limb fighting against the Fir Bolg at the first Battle of Mag Tuired. It was subsequently replaced with a silver one made by Dian Cecht, the god of healing, and a smithing god, either Creidhne or Goibniu (sources vary). Balor of the Evil Eye, a giant one-eyed Formorian leader kills the silver-handed Nuada twenty years later at the second Battle of Mag Tuired. In Hellboy II, Nuada’s Gaelic-speaking father is King Balor of Bethmoora in Northern Ireland.

On the one hand…

A lost hand like Nuada Airgetlám’s occurs more than once in myths, ancient and modern. The Professor himself was no stranger to tales of the Irish gods…nor the Norse. After all, the ferocious fettered Fenris Wolf takes off the god Tyr’s hand. Tolkien’s giant wolf Carcharoth similarly bites off Beren’s hand, and with it one of Fëanor’s treasured Silmarils.

“Tyr and Fenrir” by John Bauer (1911)

Hellboy II features three characters with missing hands. The main character, Hellboy, possesses an oversized, red stone Right Hand of Doom, grafted in place by his demon father, Duke Azzael. Although the movie does not emphasize the matter, King Balor’s left arm appears to be made of wood, ending in a silver hand—a clear wink at Irish mythology. Speaking of wink, the cave troll Wink wields a mechanical right hand that can be launched like a projectile and retrieved via a heavy chain—quite a handy feature.

But is there a more subtle linkage in play here? Did movie writer Mike Mignola and/or director Guillermo Del Toro derive inspiration from a more contemporary model for Nuada than Irish mythology? Was their fierce and tragic elf inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s character from The Silmarillion, Fëanor? The parallels are numerous and striking.

Copyright © 2008 Universal Pictures / Dark Horse Entertainment

Family Lost

Fëanor is a prince of the Noldor (deep elves), eldest son of King Finwë. His mother, Míriel, passes away after delivering so powerful a progeny, “consumed in spirit and body.” Finwë remarries and fathers two more sons, Fingolfin and Finarfin. Their father is murdered by Morgoth, the spark that will eventually set all Middle-earth aflame.

Like Fëanor, Nuada is an elven prince, the only son of King Balor of Bethmoora. Hellboy II makes no references to Nuada’s mother in either the action or its expository prologue. Her absence is as notable as Míriel’s. Nuada’s father is slain by his son’s own hand. Thus, both princes begin the tragic arc of their lives without mothers and later violently robbed of their immortal fathers.

The mighty sons of Finwë: Fëanor (red), Fingolfin (blue), Finarfin (yellow). Artist unknown.

Skills and Crafts

Fëanor is the most gifted smith in all Middle-earth and Valinor. He devises the Tengwar script used to write the Elven tongues Quenya, Telerin, and Sindarin. He crafts the palantíri, crystal spheres used for communicating over long distances. Fëanor’s greatest accomplishment was creating the three Silmarils, imperishable sacred jewels that captured the light of the Two Trees that illuminated the world. He is also credited with forging fell swords and tall helms with plumes of red. It is probably a safe assumption, then, that his sword would be of the highest quality and likely magical in nature. His prodigious fighting skills can be deduced from the fact that he battles multiple Balrogs without being pounded into elf-paste.

Fëanor faces Gothmog”: with permission of Turkish artist, Çağlayan Kaya Göksoy

Like Fëanor, Nuada is a fierce fighter. His superb sword play and athleticism is on full display in Hellboy II, thanks to actor Luke Goss. He demonstrates great skill with both swords and spear. The latter is magical, capable of lengthening at Nuada’s command, and if the tip of it is broken off in an enemy, it works its way toward the victim’s heart. He also evidences skill as a smith. We see him constructing a device to hold the seed of a forest elemental. And as one might expect of an elven smith, he seems impervious to heat when he recovers a metal cylinder from flames with his bare hand.

Copyright © 2008 Universal Pictures / Dark Horse Entertainment

Strife and Exile

His heart poisoned by Morgoth’s deceptions, Fëanor accuses his half-brother Fingolfin of plotting to usurp him as Finwë’s heir. The Valar (the gods) exile Fëanor to Formenos as punishment for threatening his brother’s life. There he stores the Silmarils with other treasure, and there Finwë joins him.

Fëanor threatens Fingolfin”: with permission of German artist, Jenny Dolfen

In the Hellboy II backstory, greedy humans wage war against the elves, goblins, trolls, and other magical creatures. A goblin master blacksmith offers to build King Balor an unstoppable mechanical army that can be controlled with a magical Golden Crown. Nuada persuades his father to accept the weapon and unleash the Golden Army against humanity. After widespread slaughter, a truce is reached. The horrified King Balor breaks the crown into three pieces so this ultimate weapon will not be used again. Enraged by his father’s decision not to finish off humanity, Nuada goes into self-imposed exile.

Rage and Kinslaying

With the giant spider Ungoliant’s aid, Morgoth mortally wounds the Two Trees that illumine the world. When the Valar ask to use the light trapped within the Silmarils to restore the stricken Trees, Fëanor refuses. “It may be that I can unlock my jewels, but never again shall I make their like; and if I must break them, I shall break my heart.” (Tolkien, 1977)

Morgoth murders Fëanor’s father at Formenos, steals the three priceless Silmarils, and flees to Middle-earth. Fëanor vows revenge, tinged with a racial element that Nuada echoes in Hellboy. “After Morgoth to the ends of the Earth! War shall he have and hatred undying. But when we have conquered and have regained the Silmarils that he stole, then behold! We, we alone, shall be the lords of the unsullied Light, and masters of the bliss and the beauty of Arda! No other race shall oust us!” (Tolkien, 1977)

Mad with grief and anger, Fëanor and his sons swear a terrible oath, leading many Noldor into exile from Valinor to pursue Morgoth and recover the Silmarils.

“They swore an oath which none shall break, and none should take, by the name even of Ilúvatar, calling the Everlasting Dark upon them if they kept it not…vowing to pursue with vengeance and hatred to the ends of the World Vala, Demon, Elf or Man as yet unborn or any creature, great or small, good or evil, that time should bring forth unto the end of days, whoso should hold or take or keep a Silmaril from their possession.” (Tolkien, 1977)

Fëanor”: with permission of Ukrainian artist
Bella Bergolts

When the seafaring Teleri refuse to lend the Noldor their ships for the journey to Middle-earth, Fëanor orders the vessels taken by force. Many Elven lives are lost in what came to be called the Kinslaying at Alqualondë.

Raging at human greed and the destruction they bring to the earth, Nuada vows to annihilate his enemy. He breaks his father’s treaty, murdering some humans to take possession of one of the three pieces of the Golden Crown. Nuada appears at his father’s court, demanding the other crown pieces from his sister and his father so he can order the Golden Army to wipe out humanity, saving the earth thereby. “I have returned from exile to wage war and reclaim our land, our birthright! And for that I will call upon the help of all my people and they will answer.”

But King Balor refuses, and when Nuada will not be dissuaded from his violent plans, Balor reluctantly orders his son killed. Instead, Nuada slays the royal guard and his father in the greatest sword fight scene in cinematic history. His sister flees with the final piece of the Golden Crown.

Copyright © 2008 Universal Pictures / Dark Horse Entertainment

Doom

Tragedy leads to more tragedy. The Valar lay a horrible curse, the Doom of Mandos, upon Fëanor and his followers for the Kinslaying. The Noldor must have shuddered to hear it.

“Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever.”

“Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained the land of Aman. For blood ye shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death’s shadow. For though Eru appointed to you to die not in Eä, and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you. And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken.” (Tolkien, 1977)

Shortly after arriving on the shores of Middle-earth, Fëanor’s army is assaulted by Morgoth’s. The Elves are triumphant, and still enraged, Fëanor presses on toward Morgoth’s fortress at Angbad. Ambushed by a force of Balrogs, Fëanor is mortally wounded. He is denied his vengeance and instead Elves, Humans, and Dwarves must endure centuries of death and destruction inflicted by Morgoth until he is finally overthrown by the Valar.

Like Fëanor, Nuada will stop at nothing to see his plan complete. In the end, even he recognizes the depths of his own madness. When Hellboy defeats Nuada for control of the Golden Army, Nuada responds, “Kill me. You must. For I will not stop. I cannot.” Hellboy will not murder the elf. When Nuada moves to strike Hellboy from behind, Nuada is slain by his selfless sister’s suicide, the twins being magically linked. Hellboy has Liz destroy the crown with fire, reminiscent of when another potent talisman, the One Ring, melts in the fires of Mt. Doom.

Copyright © 2008 Universal Pictures / Dark Horse Entertainment

Fading and Melancholy

In The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition, Samwise Gamgee observes Elves departing Middle-earth for Valinor, never to return. “It makes me sad. I don’t know why.” The Bethmooran elves are fading as well, as symbolized by the incongruously falling leaves inside Balor’s throne room. Nuada proclaims in the end, “We die, and the world will be poorer for it.” Whether or not Mignola and Del Toro modeled their Nuada on Tolkien’s Fëanor, they forged an entertaining and poignant movie in which, just as in The Silmarillion, we lament the passing of magic.

Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,
long years numberless as the wings of trees!

From Namárië (Galadriel's Lament)

*Learn much more about Henry Herz’ Y.A. and Children’s books (and also the delightful works co-authored with his two sons) here at www.henryherz.com

References:
Tolkien, J.R.R., 1977. The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”

Notes:
The John Bauer and Celtic knot images are public domain from Wikimedia Commons.

Brian Sibley and Pauline Baynes are names which will be instantly familiar to many Tolkien fans. Author, broadcaster and screenwriter Sibley scripted a radio version of The Lord of the Rings for the BBC, and his wonderful book The Maps of Middle-earth was illustrated by John Howe. Sibley also wrote The Making of the Movie Trilogy for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies, and the three ‘Official Guides’ for his Hobbit trilogy.

Photograph of writer Brian Sibley

Artist Pauline Baynes, who died in 2008, worked with Tolkien himself, creating maps and illustrations for his works. Many fans will have had her art work on their walls, as she illustrated Middle-earth posters in the early seventies. Her work adorned covers of various editions of the Professor’s works, and she first collaborated with Tolkien when she illustrated Farmer Giles of Ham back in 1949. She also illustrated all of C S Lewis’ Narnia books.

Photograph of artist Pauline Baynes

Baynes and Sibley were friends for many years, and together they created a tale of Osric the Extraordinary Owl. TORn’s good friend Jay Johnstone has finally been able to publish this wonderful work, in a limited edition of just 250 – with a foreword by none other than Tolkien scholar Wayne G. Hammond! Here’s what the official press release tell us:

Osric the Extraordinary Owl resulted from the collaboration of two friends: artist and illustrator Pauline Baynes and writer, dramatist and broadcaster Brian Sibley. It was a friendship spanning more than two-and-a-half decades, with many shared interests, among them the work of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis famously illustrated by Pauline and the subject of acclaimed dramatisations by Brian.

Sibley’s tale of a small grey owl in search of the courage to establish his individuality and ‘be himself’ (but which can be also be read as a ‘coming-out story’) was written in 1970 but had to wait until 2007 to find an artist at a time when Baynes was without any commissions and was wanting opportunities to keep drawing and painting. As a result she produced 22 delightful, double-page illustrations featuring not just Osric and his owl family but also an entire aviary of the most spectacular, colourful birds from black swans and peacocks to flamingos and toucans.

Baynes completed her pictures for Osric the year before her death in 2008 but ‘the extraordinary owl’ had to wait another decade to find a publisher. At the Tolkien Society’s 50th anniversary conference in 2019 noted Tolkien artist Jay Johnstone met Brian Sibley and another of Pauline’s friends, Wayne G. Hammond who, with his wife Christina Scull, is responsible for many key works of Tolkien scholarship and who, as Librarian of the Chapin Library of Rare Books at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, has curatorship of the Pauline Baynes bequest of paintings, drawings. Out of that Tolkien encounter came the decision to finally get Osric’s saga into print.

After a delay, caused by the Covid pandemic, Jay Johnstone is now pleased to announce the publication of Osric the Extraordinary Owl. This collector’s edition hardback book is written by Brian Sibley and illustrated by Pauline Baynes, with a foreword by Wayne G. Hammond. It is designed and produced by Jay Johnstone and comes in a gilded presentation box. Each book is individually numbered and comes with signed book plates by Brian, Wayne and Jay.

Photograph showing the cover of 'Osric the Extraordinary Owl', with a lovely grey and white owl against a blue, starry sky. Also shown is a two page spread inside the book, with an illustration of many varied birds.

Fans of Bayne’s art and Sibley’s writing will not want to miss out on this very limited release. You can find out more by clicking here.

New Line Cinema and Warner Bros animation announce a new animation project LORD OF THE RINGS: THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM from the director of Ghost in the Shell, with film Philippa Boyens attached to consult on the project.

The anime feature film will be directed by Kenji Kamiyama (Ultraman, Ghost in the Shell) and set in Rohan telling the story of Helm Hammerhand. The film is confirmed to be in the same universe as Peter Jackson’s film series.

“This will be yet another epic portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that has never been told before. We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies, along with new creative luminaries to tell this story. And so it begins.”

Sam Register, Warner Bros Animation

Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) are writing THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM which is currently planned for theatrical release.

Hobbits are now owned by Amazon, joining all-encompassing TV rights to The Lord of the Rings book and appendices rights.

MGM's famous roaring lion trade mark is seen in front of Bilbo and Gandalf.
The Hobbit films were produced by Warner Bros from rights owned by MGM. img: YouTube

It’s official: Amazon has acquired MGM Studios, including the longtime film and TV rights to The Hobbit and characters related. Within hours, CEO Jeff Bezos announced he is stepping down in July and moving to Hollywood to play with his major studio, of which the crown jewel is The Lord of the Rings.

What this means is that @LOTRonPrime can put Hobbits in their Second Age show, since rights to that class of characters were held by MGM. ‘But timelines,’ you say! Time is just a construct. Amazon needs an Everyman entry point for casual viewers: Hobbits are that. There have been rumors that Harfoots are in the show, a book-sourced compromise from the troublesome Hobbit rights. Amazon can now change all the dialogue in reshoots to call them Hobbits; casual fans will want that familiarity.

Remember the crushing drama of rights issues with MGM on The Hobbit, which caused Guillermo del Toro perhaps the greatest professional loss of his career? Amazon has just resolved all that for the future.

Amazon has full TV rights to The Lord of the Rings full stop – anything mentioned in the books and appendices. Now they have all the rights MGM previously held, from its 45 year old Saul Zaentz deal. Amazon chose not to remake The Lord of the Rings, instead exploring many different options, before settling on Numenor and the Second Age.

Owning MGM means, of course, that Amazon COULD remake The Hobbit into a limited series or a cartoon; many things are possible. All kinds of round doors are now open…

The cartoon Bilbo Baggins in front of Bag End - from the Rankin Bass Hobbit movie.

Chinese The Lord of the Rings Trilogy fans were highly anticipating this past weekend as Peter Jackson’s ‘The Fellowship of the Ring‘ was due to re-release nationwide – in glorious remastered 4k.

Unfortunately, due to the last second approval by government officials, many Chinese venues did not get the print in time and screenings had to be canceled. Here’s the wrap up from The Hollywood Reporter:

It was another bizarro weekend at the Chinese box office.

The long-anticipated return of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring finally arrived Friday in vividly remastered 4K. But official permission for the rerelease from China’s regulators came so late — just one full day in advance — that marketing for the movie was mostly nonexistent and scores of digital prints failed to reach cinemas on time, forcing a wave of cancelations and refunds to angry customers throughout Friday and into Saturday.

The article continues…

The Fellowship of the Ring, meanwhile, limped into fifth place with just $4.1 million. The opening results for the fantasy classic are a keen disappointment compared to the recent performance of James Cameron’s Avatar, which opened to $23.7 million when it was rereleased in China in March. The perennial appeal of the Lord of the Rings franchise could help Fellowship mount a healthy hold though, much as Avatar did (Cameron’s film has climbed to $60.2 million in second-run sales). Warner Bros. also will get a do-over later this month — assuming all goes to plan (always a big “if” in China) — when Jackson’s The Two Towers re-releases on April 23. Regulators have indicated that the franchise closer The Return of the King will also get a second run in China, but the film — worryingly — still hasn’t been given an official release date.

Hollywood Reporter, April 18th 2021 ‘China Box Office: ‘Lord of the Rings” Derailed by Logistical Issues

Guest writer Matthew Bossons brings us this fascinating look at how Tolkien fandom has made its way to China; and he reflects on whether Amazon’s upcoming Middle-earth series is likely to find fans there.

Panjiayuan is Beijing’s biggest and best-known antique market, regularly attracting orc-like hordes of tourists and locals alike to wander the warren of booths and stalls, both indoor and outside. All manner of old and made-to-look-old items are on offer here: jade carvings, stone Buddha statues, ancient coins, Chinese Communist Party pins and propaganda posters, replica Korean war medals and mounds of books. 

On a brisk October day, while standing at a hawker stand specializing in old Chinese books – mostly Chairman Mao’s iconic ‘Little Red Book’ – I came across a curious title: The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, in English-language and hardcover form. The book, a collection of sketches and maps made by Tolkien, was published in 2015 and compiled by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull – both well-known scholars of the ‘father of high fantasy.’

Cover of 'The Art of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien' - by Wayne G Hammond and Christina Scull
Continue reading “From Middle-earth to the Middle Kingdom: How Tolkien’s Grand Mythos Found Its Way to China”