Ted Nasmith, “Tuor Reaches the Hidden City of Gondolin”

Ted Nasmith is most known for his illustrations of characters and events from the mythos of J.R.R. Tolkien, including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, among others. While these subjects exist strictly in a world of fantasy, what defines Nasmith’s vision of them is the realism that is in his work. Even though the figures in his painting are fantastical in nature (some being creatures such as elves, orcs, dwarves, etc.), he treats them in a serious manner, as if he were depicting scenes that were from actual history. His work drawing concepts for buildings as an architectural renderer helped him to gain this realistic quality in his work. In “Tuor Reaches the Hidden City of Gondolin,” Nasmith utilizes his realist approach to breathe life into a key moment and place in the foundational story of Tolkien’s entire Middle-earth mythos, complementing the detailed yet poetic descriptions Tolkien gives in The Silmarillion.

The moment Nasmith captures is Tuor’s first sight of the city of Gondolin, the most magnificent city to exist in all of Tolkien’s stories. In the fictional history of Middle-earth, (Tolkien’s imagined world) Gondolin was built completely in secret, and modeled after a city built by the gods; very few people had witnessed a sight that even came close to its beauty, including Tuor, and this powerful moment of awe experienced by him is what Nasmith chooses to set the city of Gondolin against. The grandiosity of the city is captured by the perspective used, putting Tuor close and shadowed in the foreground, with Gondolin shining clear and bright like a beacon as the main focus. This juxtaposition serves to dwarf the mighty hero Tuor and magnify Gondolin.  Nasmith’s past experience in architecture lends itself to the detail, accuracy, and proportion of the white walls that climb the mount the city is built upon, as well as the golden tower-tops that jut up from it, and this is the image of the city in its full glory, before it falls to evil.

Tuor does not directly cause Gondlin destruction, but it was brought on by his arrival. He begins his journey in Vinyamar, donning newly found arms, and sets out to bear a message to the king, Turgon. Nasmith foreshadows this with his choice to place Tuor in the shadows of the surrounding mountains, as opposed to also putting him in the sunlight with the city (as he does in “Tuor at Vinyamar”). He begins his journey at Vinyamar with good intentions, but by the end he arrives at his destination and bring only darkness and evil.

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