07 April 2011

Frazetta's Middle-Earth Pictures

I am a huge fan of the work of Frank Frazetta. To this day, when I read a Conan story by Robert E. Howard, in my mind’s eye the Conan that I see is Frazetta’s Conan. He probably is the greatest artist in the ‘swords and sorcery’ genre of the 20th century (although Michael Whelan certainly is a serious rival).

Nonetheless, when ‘Bree Yark!’ commented on my ‘Where the Wild Hobbits Are’ post that Frazetta had created a number pictures depicting scenes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I immediate leapt to the conclusion that Frazetta’s style simply could not be appropriate for anything involving Middle-earth.

Then Trey kindly provided this link. After looking at Frazetta’s Middle-earth pictures, I have to issue a mixed verdict.

On the one hand, this picture of Gandalf is brilliant:

And this picture of Bilbo (or at least I think it’s Bilbo) is also quite good:
On the other hand, though, this picture of Eowyn simply is … too ‘cheesecake’:
Good grief! Eowyn just should not be wearing a chainmail swimsuit. (For an even more ‘cheesecakey’ portrayal of the poor Rohir shieldmaiden, see this.)

I can only imagine what Frazetta’s Galadriel or Arwen would’ve looked like!

16 comments:

  1. I agree with your assessment. I thik the Gandalf picture is quite excellent.

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  2. If you think those two Eowyn illustrations are cheescake, you should see the Frazetta illo. that features a NAKED Eowyn vs. the Witch King.

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  3. Interesting to contrast Frazetta's Gandalf with the Sendak picture from a few days ago. Same character, but what a different interpretation!

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  4. Eowyn vs. the witch king is great though, because that witch king is amazing. It would be pretty hard for Eowyn to be mistaken for a man though...

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  5. "Interesting to contrast Frazetta's Gandalf with the Sendak picture from a few days ago. Same character, but what a different interpretation!"

    Yes, I would have a hard time thinking of two artists with more different styles!

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  6. "It would be pretty hard for Eowyn to be mistaken for a man though..."

    Heh. I assume that she was at least wearing pants when trying to pass as 'Dernhelm'!

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  7. "I really like his Gollum."

    Yes, I agree that it's quite good. However, Gollum looks a bit too 'happy' IMO.

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  8. "I can only imagine what Frazetta’s Galadriel or Arwen would’ve looked like!"

    Sexy as hell, I'd imagine. ;)

    I do like his witch king there. My brother once played an evil cleric in one of my games whose appearance was based off they illustration. One mean dude with a mace!

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  9. Well, if you can imagine pants on her, it's pretty cool. I mean, I like the helmet. :)

    You know, it's weird thinking that anybody has sex in Middle-Earth.

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  10. Based on the other Eowyn pic from the same site, it's not only a chainmail swimsuit, it's a thong. Uncomfortable, I'd guess.

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  11. Yeah, for sure none of the Rohirrim would have noticed her riding along looking like that...
    heh.

    Good blog. Hey, you weren't trying to do F is for Frazetta, were you? ;-)

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  12. "You know, it's weird thinking that anybody has sex in Middle-Earth."

    I used to think that until I read the Silmarillion. :D

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  13. "Good blog. Hey, you weren't trying to do F is for Frazetta, were you? ;-)"

    Bwah? Oh right, that. Naw, I'm too old for that stuff. :)

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  14. I'd seen that pic of Eowyn and the Witch King before, but without a description. And thought Frazetta must have borrowed the concept of the image from Eowyn vs. the Witch King. Because, you know, that definitely wasn't Eowyn vs. the Witch King.

    Except that it is. LOL.

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  15. I love Frazetta's Gandalf, Witch-King and Bilbo. I do think his style is entirely appropriate for the tumultuous blood and thunder world of Middle-earth (which doesn't seem to have nearly as much blood-and-thunder illustration as I think there should be), but people get hung up on the details.

    His Eowyn, for instance. I can obviously see people finding his depiction to be pure cheesecake (not to mention the fact that there'd be no mistaking Dernhelm for a man), and I agree that it's not appropriate from that point of view. However, much of Frazetta's work is resonant on a thematic level, and from that point of view, the very masculine Witch-King fighting the very feminine Eowyn amply demonstrates the dichotomy of the scene.

    This can be seen in some of Frazetta's Conan illustrations too: though a few illustrations are pin-point accurate to scenes from a story, there are others which are purely thematic, and don't depict any particular part of a book as if it was a photograph captured in a moment in time. The two Witch-King/Eowyn images are more like half-remembered dream imagery of the scene than the scene itself.

    Or perhaps I'm looking too deep into it. All I can say is that this is part of the thing that makes Frazetta who he is, a man who portrays the human form - male or female - in a way that's sensual without being exploitative, attentive without being lascivious. His Eowyn thus doesn't strike me as cheesecake, so much as one of the partially nude warriors seen in Baroque paintings of the ancient era. I note that Frazetta's human warriors are frequently clad much as Eowyn is: look at the warriors in "Conan the Destroyer," for instance.

    Would I have preferred Frazetta to render Eowyn in a manner more akin to the book's descriptions? Of course. Do I think it's base cheesecake and an embarrassment to Tolkien? Not necessarily. I would very much like to see Frazetta's version of Galadriel, Arwen, Goldberry and other female characters, simply because Frazetta, more than any author, could render scantily clad or naked women in a way that's honest, artistic and compelling without being pandering. Better yet would be the Silmarillion. Imagine his Luthien, Yavanna or Thuringwethil...

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.