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August 13, 2003

Pre-Raphaelite Award: Wednesday

Today's award-winner is Middle Earth.


That is Miranda Otto as Eowyn being all whispy-whispy at the steps of Edoras. Otto would have been a fine Pre-Raphaelite beauty, as would Liv Tyler or Cate Blanchett. Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen are both from Pre-Raphaelite central casting. There was no way to choose any one of them.


It isn't just the actors. The clothes and the architecture all fit the mold. The interiors may show "the Elvish side of Sears", as a clever Flea-friend put it, but all this underlines the lasting influence of William Morris on everything from wallpaper to bedding. The very landscape is meant to evoke the same feeling of a lost time whose mythological truth is underlined by the same symbols which tell us it is all a fantasy. And get a load of these two. The love of Arwen and Aragorn is a Pre-Raphaelite picture come to life.

This Christianity Today article squares the circle of Tolkien's pre-Christian imagery and his devout Catholicism:

All of this seems distant from Catholicism, unless we wish to suppose Tolkien's religion was a mere fancy that found a lodging in the immense mystery of the Church of Rome. Certainly many people suppose that conversion to Catholicism entails a large dollop of romanticism.

But first, Tolkien never converted to Catholicism: he was born into it. And second, no convert to Catholicism finds anything like the Pre-Raphaelite magic that he might, in his non-Catholic days, have fancied lay in the region across the Tiber River.

I think this does an injustice to Pre-Raphaelite magic though, in fairness, I am one of those people staring across the Tiber. The "sacramental imagination" does play a smaller role in many Protestant traditions than it appears to for Catholicism but we too have our mystical reason. William Blake's "Imagination" was an inspiration to the Pre-Raphaelites and, I suspect, Tolkien alike. The Pre-Raphaelites are often criticized for the fairy tale unreality of their works. How could these critics of Raphael's unrealistic depictions of the world turn around and paint endless pictures of Ophelia? More tomorrow...

Posted by Ghost of a flea at August 13, 2003 11:00 AM


Mmmmm.... Aragorn.

Posted by: Ith at August 13, 2003 03:20 PM