BRINGING THE LEGEND TO LIFE:
The Making of the Argonath
© Lotrscenerybuilder 2008
Middle-earth is full of wonders beyond count and Weta has truly gone to limits to bring them all to life. Now some may argue that their 'Big-ature' of Minas Tirith outshines all others. We however hold the view that the most impressive monument ever produced by Richard Taylor and his team is that of the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings. It might even be that these statues best of all symbolize the grandeur of Middle-earth.
Aragorn: "Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses
of Isildur and Anárion, my sires of old."
It is Aragorn himself who identifies these kings of stone on either side of the Anduin River. Thanks to the Prologue at the beginning of the Fellowship-movie, the world knows Isildur by sight; he was played by actor Harry Sinclair, who sported a kingly beard for the occasion. Anárion was the younger brother of Isildur. The reason for his absence in the movie is undoubtedly the fact that he was already dead by the time of Sauron's Defeat. He was killed in the year before the final battle, during the siege of Barad-dûr.
According to Tolkien, both statues of the Argonath were carrying an axe; however, not so in the movie, were the figure on the western shore is holding a sword. On closer examination this weapon resembles the Blade that was Broken under the armoured foot of Sauron. One has to believe therefore that this bearded image is representing Isildur, while the figure on his right is the younger Anárion (and not the other way round, as we have wrongly believed for ages).
"Long have we desired to work upon these kings of old…"
From the early days of scenery building we were fairly confident about our ability to copy the architectural wonders of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth. Being a mathematician, we think we have an eye for proportions and measurements; castles and turrets shouldn't give us any serious problems. But as for statues… we are not exactly a sculptor. When we modelled the faces of these Trollshaws fellows in the past we were positively surprised by the outcome. The Gargoyle of Minas Morgul proved to be a different matter. However, its ugliness saw to it that even the nastiest miscue couldn't spoil its jeering grimace…
But behold, the Pillars of the Kings: no stupid snouts but finely chiselled features on these guys; no clumsy claws but delicate fingers on authoritative hands; no bulging bellies and dangling willies but stately robes on kingly torsos. They were serious stuff indeed.
When we learned of the online UK One-Ring community we thought the time had come for us to venture upon this awesome heritage of the Númenorians; what better way to show the worldwide Fellowship of Scenery Builders that you take these modelling matters serious? With a frame of the Argonath before our very nose we asked ourselves again that frightening question: now, by Morgoth, where to begin?
We picked up a small piece of MDF and started to draw some lines, making a rectangle of 1 x 2inches. Within, we made a simple sketch of Anárion's noble features. And that's how it all began…
Every model has its 'key-problem'; if one doesn't get this or that specific part of the model right, it is likely to become a failure as a whole. That's why we always start to work on the 'key-problem'. Back in the days of Khazad-dûm for example, we struggled with the pillars of the Chamber of Mazarbul; before starting with Gandalf's Cart we had to figure out a way to imitate the wickerwork; and preceding the construction of the Green Dragon there was our search for a credible - and affordable - imitation of a thatched roof. In case of the statues of the Argonath there loomed a multitude of key-problems but we worried most about their faces. With no beard, Anárion's face formed the biggest challenge.
Now if you had the impression that this lotrscenerybuilder always knows exactly what to do to get things right, let's ruin the myth. Although we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve, more often than not the next step was determined solely by the results of the preceding one. Sculpting Anárion's face mainly meant that we cut away some MDF while fervently praying to the Valar for guidance (we might possess some talent for this kind of fumbling but often we're just lucky to get the results that we hope for).
In case you have missed it: Anárion's nose is next to his face, being still attached to what might become his arm, his breast or his butt.
We knew from our earlier work that only the incidence of light on Anárion's face would make him identifiable (all of a sudden we understood the ingenious working of all these classical bas-reliefs!). Thus we took great care of sculpting the relief on this 4 mm thick strip of MDF.