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  1. #1
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    What was the color of Helm's Deep?

    I've been trying to get clarification on what shade of stone the Hornburg was made out of.

    I understand that the Gondorians built Minas Tirith out of white stone, but they didn't create all their structures that way, right?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buck5959 View Post
    I've been trying to get clarification on what shade of stone the Hornburg was made out of.

    I understand that the Gondorians built Minas Tirith out of white stone, but they didn't create all their structures that way, right?
    That's right, they evidently didn't. That said, as far as I'm aware it simply isn't stated what the Hornburg looked like in such detail. Tolkien tended to use a broad brush when describing things and lets us imagine the rest. There are some details to watch out for, though (like how he says the walls had an overhang at the top).

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    That's right, they evidently didn't. That said, as far as I'm aware it simply isn't stated what the Hornburg looked like in such detail. Tolkien tended to use a broad brush when describing things and lets us imagine the rest. There are some details to watch out for, though (like how he says the walls had an overhang at the top).
    I don't wish to appear antagonistic, but I could not disagree more that Tolkien 'tended to use a broad brush'. He's one of the most descriptive authors I've ever read.

    It took him an extraordinarily long time to write the sequel to the Hobbit. If you have read the Letters of Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter, you can see the issues the publishers had with him writing, re-writing, re-submitting chapters, being asked to split into separate books and focus on narrative not descriptive or historic back stories. Issues like paper shortages after the war meant cuts and re-writes to keep the length down to a manageable trilogy (well, six books in part) and Tolkien was appeased somewhat by being able to provide Appendices, but I don't think he was ever totally happy that the tale couldn't be longer - and that goes for me too. I could have happily digested another two thousand pages!

    Take this game as another example, If you go to the Shire, then re-read the early chapters of the Fellowship (particularly Frodo and Sam's journey out of the Shire) apart from scale, the designers were able in the most part to map out the Shire accurately. That isn't just down to Tolkien's hand drawn maps either, the text lays out the steps quite nicely even quoting what Frodo's sees to the East, what lies north of him etc.

    Also, if you are a fan of Ted Naismith, Alan Lee or John Howe and have ever read their interviews about the wealth of descriptive text they have to draw on, you can understand just how these artists always managed to draw and paint this world 'as we see it'. I was blown away the first time I saw Naismith's Rivendell because it felt like he raided my mind - but I only knew it looked like that because the text in the book is so descriptive.

    Karen Wynn Fostad's 'Atlas of Middle Earth' is able to provide all kinds of details on fauna, geological formations, travel times, distance - all solid geographical information as a real world Atlas would give you - because she is able to draw from source information in Tolkien's books.

    Admittedly, The Silmarillion and Lost Tales books don't provide the level of sensory details you get in LOTR but that's because there were in the main unfinished notes from a lifetime of scribbling which started when Tolkien was serving in the First World War.

    Please don't think I'm being pedantic or dissing your opinion, but as a life long fan I've been drawn into a world not only because of it's epic tales but because it's a world a can almost see and feel. Anyone who read the books (pre movies) had a distinct image of The Shire, Bree, Weathertop, The Hornburg, Edoras, The White City.... purely because we were told in detail what these places were. Peter Jackson did well bringing established artist Lee and Howe in to artistically drive the films, ensuring that part pleased 'most' of the fans. As an aside on the films though, I thought the Fellowship was amazing, but felt the liberties taken in the other 2 films discoloured my enjoyment of them. Jackson said there is limited time to tell a story so some of the book understandably hit the cutting room floor. Yet, there was time to throw Aragorn off a cliff being chased by an oversized hamster and to march Haldir into Helms Deep with an elf archer contingent and then kill him off! BLASPHEMY!!!

    Anyway, just saying in my view I don't see the 'broad brush' - I see a very detailed and descriptive author who really knew how to make reading a sensory experience. I could almost smell the stewed rabbit or the putrid Dead Marshes equally .....

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cjdobs View Post
    I don't wish to appear antagonistic, but I could not disagree more that Tolkien 'tended to use a broad brush'. He's one of the most descriptive authors I've ever read.
    I don't know what you've been reading, then. Tolkien's descriptions of things are typically sparing - not the lore of his imagined world, which is of course highly detailed, but in simple terms of what things are supposed to look like. He tends to leave a lot up to his audience. It is, for example, by no means certain whether his Elves are even supposed to have pointed ears or not. There's the eternal debate about whether Balrogs had wings or not, something he likewise left indeterminate. He leaves it almost entirely to us to imagine what Sauron looks like, apart from a few small details that help give an impression of something awful. And so on, and so forth. We know that he sometimes imagined things in more detail than he actually wrote down in his tales and these details only appear in his letters, because people asked him about them. But he's not that descriptive... by contrast, Mervyn Peake could spend pages on end describing one room.

  5. #5
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    I think the color of helms deep is something we can imagine, for example it seem logical for me that Helms Deep Dike is carved from the mountain side, so yes the color of helms deep should be a mix of Mountain (color) carved stone and other stone brought by Gondorians, which could be darker.

  6. #6
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    It's been awhile since I went through the books again, but what I recall is mostly what Rad stated. However, I reckon it's easy to see Tolkien's quantity as quality, if you take my meaning. He described many different places, people and things, but each one in turn seemed rather spartse in details. I went back and read just a few of the passages when Aragorn and Co. arrived with the Rohirrim and was surprised myself at the lack of great detail. I did not see a word at all about color, but I easily could have missed it. My eyes are not what they used to be.


    With the films now especially I think our minds fill in the rest without us realizing it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Al. View Post
    I think the color of helms deep is something we can imagine, for example it seem logical for me that Helms Deep Dike is carved from the mountain side, so yes the color of helms deep should be a mix of Mountain (color) carved stone and other stone brought by Gondorians, which could be darker.
    This seems reasonable to me as well. Greys and whites in the stone. Except why would they need to bring stone from Gondor? They had a whole moutain to quarry from.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by bambubambubambu View Post
    It's been awhile since I went through the books again, but what I recall is mostly what Rad stated. However, I reckon it's easy to see Tolkien's quantity as quality, if you take my meaning. He described many different places, people and things, but each one in turn seemed rather spartse in details. I went back and read just a few of the passages when Aragorn and Co. arrived with the Rohirrim and was surprised myself at the lack of great detail. I did not see a word at all about color, but I easily could have missed it. My eyes are not what they used to be.


    With the films now especially I think our minds fill in the rest without us realizing it.
    I agree completely with what you've said here. The quality of Tolkien's writing can often lead us to believe that he's actually described things in far greater detail than he really has. Often all he's really done is given us the layout of a location and left the details to our own imaginations.
    Also the wealth of great Tolkien illustrators such as Nasmith, Lee, Howe and many others have brought the images of Middle-earth, which previously only existed in our imaginations, to life.
    No wonder the LotR movies, despite the many failings in the story telling, have been almost universally praised for getting the "look" of Middle-earth right, the movie makers were guided every step of the way by two of the greatest Tolkien artists of all time, John Howe and Alan Lee. Those guys have been showing us what Tolkien's world should look like for years.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolfhelm View Post
    I agree completely with what you've said here. The quality of Tolkien's writing can often lead us to believe that he's actually described things in far greater detail than he really has. Often all he's really done is given us the layout of a location and left the details to our own imaginations.
    You didn't get it, Quantity is Quality means Tolkien gave lots of information which is Quality, he didn't gave a color for helms deep but he left a world with general rules and similarity with our own to figure it out.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al. View Post
    You didn't get it,
    Not so. Wolfhelm totally got what I meant and said it even better than I could I think. Tolkien's style almost tricks you into thinking he's described things better than he actually has. Artists like Alan Lee and John Howe were able to take these brief descriptions and turn them into something amazing. If Peter Jackson did one thing right, I think it was bringing their work into the process of making the movies.
    Today is a good day for Pie.

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bambubambubambu View Post
    Not so. Wolfhelm totally got what I meant and said it even better than I could I think. Tolkien's style almost tricks you into thinking he's described things better than he actually has. Artists like Alan Lee and John Howe were able to take these brief descriptions and turn them into something amazing. If Peter Jackson did one thing right, I think it was bringing their work into the process of making the movies.
    Ok he got it, its cool then.

    Its my habit sorry, most of the times people don't get important parts or twist things to agree with others, he got it my apologies.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    I don't know what you've been reading, then. Tolkien's descriptions of things are typically sparing - not the lore of his imagined world, which is of course highly detailed, but in simple terms of what things are supposed to look like. He tends to leave a lot up to his audience. It is, for example, by no means certain whether his Elves are even supposed to have pointed ears or not. There's the eternal debate about whether Balrogs had wings or not, something he likewise left indeterminate. He leaves it almost entirely to us to imagine what Sauron looks like, apart from a few small details that help give an impression of something awful. And so on, and so forth. We know that he sometimes imagined things in more detail than he actually wrote down in his tales and these details only appear in his letters, because people asked him about them. But he's not that descriptive... by contrast, Mervyn Peake could spend pages on end describing one room.
    I know what I've been reading thank you. Same thing I have since I was 12 - and now at a grand age of 40 still reading - yes I'm a slow reader

    Having read through this thread I can agree and accept that Tolkien's quality is 'how' he presents his writing and characters rather than 'telling us' in great detail.

    All I know is, I felt Middle Earth, perceived it's look and feel purely from reading - then I went out and bought paintings, maps and the like to flesh this out...many of which I marvelled at as they were spot on, many I scorned because 'they got it wrong' - purely an artistic opinion! I still picture Aragorn as rough and hard faced, not a chiselled king, as I first saw him from what I read all those years ago.

    As for Mervyn Peake, well, if that is your style I can understand the difference in appreciation here. I find Mervyn Peake entertaining but a little long winded and drab (again just an opinion!) I like descriptive text but there is such a thing as overkill.

    I still don't believe Tolkien's is a broad brush. As you say, the lore itself that supports the tale telling, is just beyond what most authors would prepare as background knowledge. Not only did he present 2 tales of Middle Earth through The Hobbit and LOTR, he presented through his notes and works, a complete history, genealogy, many languages and epic tales of times gone by in the land of Arda. That background material in itself speaks volumes for descriptive appreciation - much more than telling us what colour the stones at Helms Deep were.

    p.s No Wings for Balrog!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cjdobs View Post
    I know what I've been reading thank you. Same thing I have since I was 12 - and now at a grand age of 40 still reading - yes I'm a slow reader

    Having read through this thread I can agree and accept that Tolkien's quality is 'how' he presents his writing and characters rather than 'telling us' in great detail.

    All I know is, I felt Middle Earth, perceived it's look and feel purely from reading - then I went out and bought paintings, maps and the like to flesh this out...many of which I marvelled at as they were spot on, many I scorned because 'they got it wrong' - purely an artistic opinion! I still picture Aragorn as rough and hard faced, not a chiselled king, as I first saw him from what I read all those years ago.
    'Strider' does in fact get an unusually detailed description when he first appears. When people get things 'right' as we see it it's because they've absorbed the same cultural influences as us (so you fill in the gaps with much the same stuff) and so imagine things much the same way. When people get it 'wrong' from our point of view it's generally because they're not steeped in the same culture and so don't go for the same visual references as us.

    As for Mervyn Peake, well, if that is your style I can understand the difference in appreciation here. I find Mervyn Peake entertaining but a little long winded and drab (again just an opinion!) I like descriptive text but there is such a thing as overkill.
    I only mentioned him as an example of someone who really did go into masses of detail, as a way to illustrate what that actually looks like. Yes, he does overdo it but that helps set the atmosphere of Gormenghast - he provides a vast edifice of fusty, elaborate prose through which you wander, and if it's too much it only reflects how overwhelming the place would be if it were real - an imponderably vast, crumbling pile.

    I still don't believe Tolkien's is a broad brush.
    Be that as it may, but judging by the other replies it seems I'm not alone in my impression of his prose so I'm content to differ. The detail of the background really has nothing to do with the descriptive details of the places, people and things; I do wish you wouldn't try to lump the two together.

    p.s No Wings for Balrog!
    Privately I lean towards no wings (believing the intent was for them to be metaphorical, shadow rather than substance) but if that debate comes up I simply say that it's indeterminate - either reading is valid, so it's not worth arguing over. Saves a lot of fruitless debate.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Radhruin_EU View Post
    'Strider' does in fact get an unusually detailed description when he first appears. When people get things 'right' as we see it it's because they've absorbed the same cultural influences as us (so you fill in the gaps with much the same stuff) and so imagine things much the same way. When people get it 'wrong' from our point of view it's generally because they're not steeped in the same culture and so don't go for the same visual references as us.


    I only mentioned him as an example of someone who really did go into masses of detail, as a way to illustrate what that actually looks like. Yes, he does overdo it but that helps set the atmosphere of Gormenghast - he provides a vast edifice of fusty, elaborate prose through which you wander, and if it's too much it only reflects how overwhelming the place would be if it were real - an imponderably vast, crumbling pile.


    Be that as it may, but judging by the other replies it seems I'm not alone in my impression of his prose so I'm content to differ. The detail of the background really has nothing to do with the descriptive details of the places, people and things; I do wish you wouldn't try to lump the two together.


    Privately I lean towards no wings (believing the intent was for them to be metaphorical, shadow rather than substance) but if that debate comes up I simply say that it's indeterminate - either reading is valid, so it's not worth arguing over. Saves a lot of fruitless debate.
    Olive Branch - agree to disagree on the end result and I wont be lumping things together because I do agree with your point that background detail isn't that prevalent in the books - maybe it's the colouring of the foreground that drives my view he was a descriptive author and that's the point I was making.

    Nice chewing the fat with you though

  14. #14
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    First, the outer wall of Minas Tirith was actually black, made of the same stuff as Orthanc, which is why is was impregnable.
    For that reason, since Helm's Deep was not imbreakable, the wall was probably not black. Grey would probably do it.
    He does include more details than you would expect. You just need to look closely, as it is usually just one word, which a fast or unfocused reader would miss.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mellonbeleg View Post
    First, the outer wall of Minas Tirith was actually black, made of the same stuff as Orthanc, which is why is was impregnable.
    For that reason, since Helm's Deep was not imbreakable, the wall was probably not black. Grey would probably do it.
    He does include more details than you would expect. You just need to look closely, as it is usually just one word, which a fast or unfocused reader would miss.
    Thanks hope devs pick up on this lore-bit

 

 

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