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Other mind and hands: JRRT50

In time and space, in games and comics

By Roberto Di Meglio, Oronzo Cilli and Francesco Nepitello

In 1973 J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, creator of Middle-earth, died. In those same years, as never before, that almost prophetic desire expressed in his 1951 letter began to materialise, giving "other minds and hands" the chance to "participate and contribute" to the world he created, with "painting, music and theatre". And not only in these areas, as we know today. (…)

In a parallel path, closely intertwined with the growth of interest in Tolkien in game publishing, an extraordinary number of artists have approached the places and characters of Middle-earth in the past decades, making them visible and present to the eyes of readers and players. Tolkien himself had already sketched with his brushes and pencils, as well as with words, his creation, in a meeting of literary and visual suggestions that gave back the image of a mythical world, "fresh and crystalline" as he himself describes it in the aforementioned letter, and yet perfectly delineated in its geography, its languages, its history. Over the years, the allure of that world, non-existent and yet so real, has captured the imagination and stimulated many brilliant artists to bring it to life with their own creative resources, just as Tolkien had dreamed. The gaming industry - primarily the role-playing game industry, with its need for striking covers, illustrations of characters and creatures, maps - has become an immense laboratory of artistic talents dedicated to building the image of Middle-earth. (…)

Fifty years since Tolkien's death, fifty years of history of gaming and illustration, which we have tried to synthesise in a path that would put "yesterday" and "today", art and game design, side by side, in dozens of works all inspired by the same great love and reverence for the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. (…)

Middle-earth with its inhabitants and the epic stories that move within it live fervently in the imaginations of millions of readers. At the same time, its secondary world represents an inexhaustible source of inspiration for every art form, including comics. Artists, illustrators, scriptwriters who over time have drawn, and still do, from his writing, so punctual and rich in detail, even in those folds where the stories seem only hinted at or whispered, are influenced by Tolkien's world, a credible sub-creation with characters far from the stereotypical superheroes, called to live epic plots. (...) After Tolkien's death, parodies, comics and adaptations of his works followed one after the other unceasingly, helping to revive, in a different key, the secondary world often referred to as fantasy, a label that probably would not have met with his approval, whereas it would be better to place it in the literary tradition of epic poems such as Beowulf or Ariosto's Orlando furioso. It is no coincidence that, in reviewing the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, C. S. Lewis wrote: "If Ariosto rivalled him in invention (indeed he does not) he would still lack his heroic seriousness." Tolkien has also earned his place in the vast comic book universe and has done so through adaptations and parodies of his major works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, countless Tolkienian quotations and, in some cases, by acting 'as a protagonist' himself.

Venue: Palazzo delle Esposizioni - Lucca