Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"The Last Ringbearer"

I haven't done any Tolkien fan art in maybe 30 years. But I started reading an amazing unauthorized novel called "The Last Ringbearer", by a Russian paleantologist named Kirill Yeskov, and when I'm not doing real work I'm having a hell of a time putting it down.

By "unauthorized" I guess I mean fan fiction, but it's fan fiction in the same sense that Gregory Maguire is fan fiction--a beautiful exploration of a well-known fictional universe from a fresh angle, rife with grown-up considerations like economics, relationships, and the moral ambiguity of war. (The only real difference is that Maguire picks subjects that have passed into public domain.) No publisher has dared to try to publish Yeskov's novel in English, but a pdf of a full translation can be downloaded from the translator's blog here. If you're a fan I really recommend it.

Yeskov takes the tack that Tolkien's invented history reads an awful lot like a romanticized, sanitized account written by the victors, involving as it does a war of extermination against the Orcs. It's a surprising take on the material, but Yeskov pulls you right in. The action picks up shortly after the climactic battle in Return of the King, as two Orc soldiers, a scout sergeant and a wounded medic, pick their way home into Mordor as the allies are mopping up the last of the resistance. Yeskov actually makes no mention of the Orcs having their traditional monstrous appearance--he seems to be saying that they're more or less human-looking, the victims of a campaign of literal demonization. Nonetheless, I couldn't resist drawing the two lead characters as traditional Orcs, but perhaps with a more noble bearing.


Anonymous said...

I learn about the coolest stuff when I check in to this blog. Heck, the eye candy is just an awesome bonus. This piece looks cruel and gritty. There's a weariness that you don't really get in the originals. I suspect you've done graphically what the author did in prose. Can't wait to check it out!

Yisroel Markov said...

This is an unexpected bonus, Mr. Kobasic. Thank you; perhaps I may interest you in a slightly updated translation?

Anonymous said...

it was year ago, but if i remember, only one of them was Orc

JayeRandom said...

Far from looking monstrous, Eskov specifically states that the Umbarians, Orocuens, and Trolls of Mordor are very definitely human, albeit with common ethnic physiognomies in each subgroup. Tzerlag is "typical Orocuen by his looks, short and wide-faced" while Haladdin the Umbarian is "narrow [faced] and beak-nosed". Trolls are described as "stocky and unsmiling"

Kevie Metal said...

Jaye: I am planning more illustrations inspired by the novel, this time closely following the character descriptions given. Any thoughts of your own on what real-world ethnic types could work as templates for the imagined ethnic types in the novel (Orocuen, Umbrian, etc) would be greatly appreciated.