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Saruman's Stronghold

The Making of Orthanc

© Lotrscenerybuilder 2010

Making_Orthanc_1

"In the book you see only the bottom half of the tower at Isengard,
but Alan Lee conceptualized the rest of it with WETA.
They played around with different proportions of the tower,
how thick it was at the bottom,
and what sort of shapes are at the top."

(John Baster, reflecting upon the development of the Orthanc design)

"What's the bet, he doesn't have any little kids or cats…"
(theguru1, at The Shadow and Flame Collectors forum, guessing at our fambly life)

I. 'So that what he made was naught, a child's model…'


On a quiet Friday evening in July 2005, a block of waste wood was cut into four identical 'wedges' which were then glued together back to back. Out of sight of our son, this odd contraption was clothed with a few dozens of pegs and match sticks. Only when, the day after, a set of pointy horns was finally added to the structure it became vaguely recognizable as one of the fortresses from the LOTR-movies. But when our son ob-tained his swimming diploma during the next week, he had no trouble at all to identify this ominous black Tower that was waiting for him in our own Middle-garden (the fact that, only shortly before, he had been presented with the Playalong Toys "Orthanc" box, might have given him a clue though).

Making_Orthanc_2

Gandalf: "Tell me, 'friend'…
Why does Saruman the Wise abide in HERE with gladness?"


Eventually, the wannabee-tower found its way to the lotrscenerybuilder website; in those early days we were assiduously looking for suitable pictures and we had but a few miniatures in our collection to choose from. But although the tower wasn't looking too bad in real time, it made a rather poor appearance in the pictures. As time went by, the tower jarred more and more with new additions like Minas Morgul and Cirith Ungol. In the end, it survived all the cleansings simply and solely because we didn't want to give up the 'Isengard' page at our site…

Making_Orthanc_3

Saruman: "You fear to go into this mockery.
It was built too greedily and too fleeting.
You know what it evokes in the eyes of the beholder:
Sorrow and Shame!"


The idea of replacing our "Shoddies of the Past" by more faithful versions occurred to us shortly after finishing the Argonath statues. As far as we were concerned, there were three candidates. In the Fall of 2008 the Black Gate was first in line to undergo a total remake. Barad-dûr came next. For nine months we toiled and moiled in our spare time to put things right in Mordor.

And then our urge for renewal came to a halt. Orthanc had never really been a favourite of us, and still wasn't. For two reasons: first, the unworldly, almost wickerwork-like aspect of its architecture had thus far failed to charm us; and second we, for our part, had failed to see the challenge in dressing up this monolith with endless rows of strips & stripes. So, after saying goodbye to Mordor we travelled to the southern fringe of Mirkwood instead, and from there to the shores of Nen Hithoel.

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