Hey! I haven’t seen you folks since last year! (Terrible joke, sorry.) We had a family emergency and I’ve been off to Mississippi to help out. We’re back in Maine now, though, just in time for the snow and cold to really get crankin’.
I didn’t have much time while I was down South, but I did reread some of The Lord of the Rings. While there are a ton of monsters in the books (and films) the first that show up in the book are some of the most terrifying – in any incarnation. The Nine. The Ringwraiths. The Nazgûl, led by the Witch King of Angmar…
I first read the books in my late teens, and immediately fell in love. While I’d already been fully immersed in the nerd lifestyle, with Star Wars and D&D playing pivotal roles, the world of Middle Earth quickly became one of my favorite fictional places, and the epic journey from the Shire to Mordor one I was always happy to revisit. I’ve since re-read them every decade or so – sometimes just skimming for my favorite parts, sometimes losing myself in the world Tolkien created. They’re a touchstone of my youth and an escape from the travails of the real word.
It’s somehow been 20 years since Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring was released, and that was also on my mind when I chose a book to take with me. I remember when I first saw the film in the theater, in the wake of 911 and a changing world. I loved it, even with the deviations from the book, and the first film in particular has characters and images that stick with me. While Ralph Bakshi’s version of the Nazgûl informed a lot of my mental imagery up until 2001, I have to admit that it’s the more recent film version, inspired by John Howe’s artwork, that I think of now when I read about the “black riders.”
In the book as in the film (and I’m specifically talking about Fellowship here) the best scene featuring the Ringwraiths is the attack on Weathertop, when five of them attempt to take the One Ring from Frodo, injuring him in the process. I never really thought of them as anything but black cloaked figures when first reading the book, but I do love the “Ring vision,” where Frodo can see the ruined visages of what they once were, “great kings of men.” There’s a ruined grandeur to them, and the Witch King in particular, that I like – and that’s what inspired the drawing this week.
As a random aside: there are a number of creatures whose scientific names are inspired by the Nazgûl, but my favorite has to be the Nazgulia – a genus of parasitic wasps.
What about you? What’s your favorite part of the Lord of the Rings (if any)? Do the Nazgul give you the shivers, as they do me? Or is it Shelob or some other fell beast from the films?