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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.