July 27, 2001

Inside Information
Staff Reporter

We stand in the hallway of the art department at Stone Street Studios in Wellington, New Zealand. The walls are covered, floor to ceiling, with artwork depicting J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth: conceptual drawings; paintings; mechanical drawings; photographs (of locations, sets, actors); computer generated images. For me they capture Tolkien's integration of the big picture, the historical view (Minas Tirith in the vast distance), with the smaller, personal, and in some sense truer perspective of the individuals caught up in the sweep of events (here is Pippin, riding on Treebeard's shoulder). This must be how Bilbo felt, seeing the treasure of Smaug for the first time: There are no words left to express his staggerment, since Men changed the language that they learned of elves in the days when all the world was wonderful.

Three years ago a friend dropped a web-page print-out on my desk at work. Peter Jackson might (or might not) be producing and directing a film version of The Lord of the Rings. I wrote a letter, offering to help with Tolkien's languages, and got a friendly, encouraging response. We continued to exchange letters, and then one day I was on the phone with the producer, negotiating terms of employment.

Now (although my work is done by e-mail, telephone, and fax machine and does not require me to be in New Zealand) I have made the pilgrimage, together with my son Chris, so that I can really get to know the people I am working with.

Alan Lee's office is at the end of the hall. He will fly home to England tomorrow before returning to finish up his work, but we spend a bit of time together. Over a photograph of a beautiful hill, with Alpine mountains visible in the distance, he has laid a piece of tracing paper, and drawn Edoras. You will surely have seen photographs of this full-size set under construction. Looking carefully at the mountains in the background I imagine I can see the Starkhorn, the Irensaga, and between them the Dwimorberg. Only change the Mediterranean scrub for grassy savannah, and this is Rohan.

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