Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Short Canter Around Some Centaurs

From Dante:
With St. Anthony:
From Faust:
With Jurgen:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fantastical Beasts And Here You Find Them

On Modern Adventures, Written About A Hundred Years Ago

"There has, indeed, been a great and inspiriting revival of romance in our time, but it is partly frustrated in almost every case by this rooted conception that romance consists in the vast multiplication of incidents and the violent acceleration of narrative. The heroes of Mr Stanley Weyman scarcely ever have their swords out of their hands; the deeper presence of romance is far better felt when the sword is at the hip ready for innumerable adventures too terrible to be pictured. The Stanley Weyman hero has scarcely time to eat his supper except in the act of leaping from a window or whilst his other hand is employed in lunging with a rapier. In Scott's heroes, on the other hand, there is no characteristic so typical or so worthy of honour as their disposition to linger over their meals. The conviviality of the Clerk of Copmanhurst or of Mr Pleydell, and the thoroughly solid things they are described as eating, is one of the most perfect of Scott's poetic touches. In short, Mr Stanley Weyman is filled with the conviction that the sole essence of romance is to move with insatiable rapidity from incident to incident. In the truer romance of Scott there is more of the sentiment of 'Oh! still delay, thou art so fair'; more of a certain patriarchal enjoyment of things as they are--of the sword by the side and the wine-cup in the hand. Romance, indeed, does not consist by any means so much in experiencing adventures as in being ready for them. How little the actual boy cares for incidents in comparison to tools and weapons may be tested by the fact that the most popular story of adventure is concerned with a man who lived for years on a desert island with two guns and a sword, which he never had to use on an enemy."--G. K. Chesterton.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Don't Be So Pig-Headed

I've always been interested in how certain elements enter popular thought. Recently I think I've traced how a peculiar concept entered the field of Fantasy, and this is how I think it happened.

Walt Disney came out with its animated version of Sleeping Beauty in 1959. In that film, the evil fairy Maleficent is served by a batch of "goons" who search for the baby Princess Aurora and imprison Prince Philip.Among the goons and memorable for having a speaking part is a green, anthropomorphic pig-like character carrying an axe (far right).
When the Brothers Hildebrandt come to paint their 1976 Tolkien Calendar, they produce a picture called "Captured By Orcs." The Orcs they depict are not exactly as Tolkien describes them: they are decidedly pig-headed. What I think happened was this. The Hildebrandts, being self-confessedly inspired and influenced by Disney (see The Art of The Brothers Hildebrandt) drew a correlative between Maleficent the Mistress of All Evil and Sauron the Dark Lord, and decide to draw the mooks of one based on the mooks of the other.
This, of course, is pure speculation. What is a fact is that the next year, 1977, saw the production of the heavily Tolkien-inspired Dungeons&Dragons Monster Manual. In this book (which the Tolkien Estate later had them remove references to Ents and Hobbits), the artist Donald C. Sutherland depicted Orcs like this:
From the Monster Manual the idea of the pig-headed Orc was disseminated throughout fantasy fandom.

Another race of green, piggish axe-wielders came along in The Return of the Jedi (1983), the Gamorrean guards. There was some mild controversy among fans that the design had been snitched from Sleeping Beauty.
The pig-headed Orc entered the video-gaming arena with a design by Akira Toriyama for Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen (1990). This version of the Orc (and Orc-kings) descended down to every Dragon Quest game thereafter.
The idea of the pig-headed Orc is now being swept away from the field with closer attention to Tolkien and re-imaginings in the Fantasy area. But it will always be embedded in its history as a strange little cultural deviation.