Postcard Origins: Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit

December 9, 2012 — 2 Comments
Der-Berggeist-Origin-of-Gandalf_by_J_Madelener

Der Berggeist by Josef Madlener

With Warner Brother’s marketing machine in full gear, The Hobbit is set for a successful release this weekend with US projections putting it on track to match the final Lord of the Rings film in opening weekend box-office takings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, projections place the US opening  weekend of The Hobbit at the $85 million mark.
I am forever fascinated by the origins of creative works.
WIth all the fanfare of the Hobbit opening, I am reminded of the little  postcard that, in part,  inspired J. R. R.  Tolkien to write his epic fantasy. Tolkien acquired a  postcard entitled,  “Der Berggeist”  and signed by J Madlener in the mid 1920s . This was around the time when he began telling his children the stories that were eventually to become “The Hobbit”  and would lead to the Lord Of The Rings stories.
The postcard was a reproduction of a painting of an old man with a red cloak and long white beard, nuzzling a fawn. According to Tolkien’s biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien “preserved this postcard carefully and long afterwards, he wrote on the paper cover in which he kept it, ‘Gandalf'”.
The original painting   of Der Berggeist was auctioned at Sotheby’s   in 2005 for $85,000 pounds.
Tokien’s  friends from “The Inklings” were suspect to his story about the dwarves with the” big hairy feet”. Some of them  were found grimacing when he would arrive at the pub, The Eagle and Child, with a new batch of pages to read. For years, Tolkien wrote and rewrote the pages of the Rings, typing it all himself as he could not afford the cost of a typist.
This often seems to be the artist’s plight, starting with a small inspiration (an obscure news story, a postcard) ,  work not appreciated by friends, but somehow, in the end , igniting the imagination of the world.
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2 responses to Postcard Origins: Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit

  1. The question becomes: Does our current culture – with its paucity of such inspirational touches as postcards and, for that matter, books – lack similar creative sparks or is sufficient inspiration coming from other sources? Mass media such as TV and film have been denounced for quenching the imagination, replacing it with ready-made images and prefabricated products. A quick survey of local cineplexes, filled as they are with rehashes, sequels and other “safe bets”, would seem to confirm those fears.

    Where do you look for inspiration?

  2. Rick – Good question. I think one needs to look for inspiration for the things that are not being done or created in modern culture. Look for the space, as it were, and make it come alive. What did Steve Jobs say? People don’t really know what they want until you give it to them. Michael Eisner used to say that taste is a combination of experience and intelligence — and with taste, you can determine what is unique. I think one can also figure out what is missing. And let’s face it, there is a lot of things missing today. These are great times to give people what they really want — but don’t know how to ask for it. David

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