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  • Emma Ford

A Hall Fit for a King

Inspiration from other worlds

The work of J R R Tolkien has always had a great influence on me. The imagery he evokes when writing about Middle Earth is incredible and it appears that he always had a very clear idea of what he wanted the reader to imagine.

I'm going to start with The Golden Hall of Meduseld in Rohan, because it has had a great influence on my design for the Great Hall in Dinas Symyddliw in my created world.

“The travellers entered. Inside it seemed dark and warm after the clear air upon the hill. The hall was long and wide and filled with shadows and half lights; mighty pillars upheld its lofty roof.”

"But here and there bright sunbeams fell in glimmering shafts from the eastern windows, high under the deep eaves. Through the louver in the roof, above the thin wisps of issuing smoke, the sky showed pale and blue. As their eyes changed, the travellers perceived that the floor was paved with stones of many hues; branching runes and strange devices intertwined beneath their feet. They saw now that the pillars were richly carved, gleaming dully with gold and half-seen colours. Many woven cloths were hung upon the walls, and over their wide spaces marched figures of ancient legend, some dim with years, some darkling in the shade.”

“Now the four companions went forward, past the clear wood-fire burning upon the long hearth in the midst of the hall. Then they halted. At the far end of the house, beyond the hearth and facing north towards the doors, was a dais with three steps; and in the middle of the dais was a great gilded chair.”

The above excerpts are from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The King of the Golden Hall (Chapter 6)

Above: The Interior of Meduseld (The Golden Hall of Rohan) in The Two Towers Movie.

Below: The Exterior of Meduseld in the Two Towers Movie

Although it was not at the front of my mind when I created the below drawings of my Great Hall, you can see the clear influence that this has had on my work. I think this is because I have spent so many hours watching The Lord of the Rings movies that the imagery is clearly burned into my mind.

But I don't want my drawings to just be derivative of the imagery in the Lord of the Rings, and while there are great similarities there are also clearly visual differences.

The Lord of the Rings is not the only inspiration I used for these drawings. I have spent a great deal of time looking at Viking history and culture for inspiration.

The Vikings built similar buildings as Mead Halls and Great Halls, examples of which can be found in Scandinavia and Northern Europe in the form of reconstructed Mead Halls.

Fyrkat, Hobro, Denmark

A reconstruction of a Danish mead hall

Such places were huge part of Norse Culture and are mentioned throughout Norse Mythology. For example in the Poem Beowulf:

"Then it came to his heart that he would command men to fashion a hall and a mansion, a mightier house for their mead-drinking than the children of men had ever known, and there-within would he apportion all things to young and old such as God had granted him, save the people’s land and the lives of men.Then have I heard that far and wide to many a kindred on this middle-earth was that work proclaimed, the adorning of that dwelling of men. In a while, swiftly among men, it came to pass for him that it was all made ready, the greatest of hoses and halls. For it he devised the name of Heorot, even he whose word far and wide was law. His vow he belied not: the rings he dealt and treasure at the feast. The hall towered high with horned gables wide..."

Beowulf. A translation and commentary, J.R.R. Tolkien Lines 53-66

Obviously Tolkien also took inspiration for Meduseld from Beowulf and he wrote about it in his letters:

"Beowulf is among my most valued sources; though it was not consciously present to the mind in the process of writing, in which the episode of the theft arose naturally (and almost inevitably) from the circumstances. It is difficult to think of any other way of conducting the story at this point. I fancy the author of Beowulf would say much the same"

Tolkien's Letters: Number 31

These illustrations of Heorot (the Mead Hall in Beowulf) were made by Alan Lee, who illustrates myths and legends, but also a great many of Tolkiens works, including The Lord of The Rings, and was a concept artist for the movies.

His work also has a great influence on me, because he created the most beautiful watercolour paintings that give a real sense of atmosphere and grandeur. His attention to detail and pure skill are a huge inspiration to me.

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