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Friday, November 21, 2008

Bilbo and the Trolls: Reference Hunting

This is the Alpine Lakes, in the Cascades region of Washington State. I spent a week here with friends in 2007. There was a particular stretch of trails that we were on that keep coming to mind when I imagine this scene from the Hobbit.

I am certain that trolls have met here.  North American trolls at that. 

Tolkien's story ends with the Trolls being turned to stone. It made sense to use rocks for the main reference for the trolls.

"And there they stand to this day, for trolls as you probably know, must be underground before dawn, or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of and never move again."

I had considered making the trolls more organic, and more inspired by moss covered rocks. Moss-covered rocks are wonderful. They conjure the feelings of places that are either remote, and undisturbed by man or secluded and well-tended by man. In the end, adding the moss to the trolls stony skin seemed too tranquil a covering for a set of characters who are about to cook our hero and a dozen dwarves.
At some point I think I may go back and do a piece of the 3 trolls as the giant stones, from when Frodo and Sam camp amongst them. Alan Lee has done what could be considered the definitive version of this scene, and it is marvelous. But I would still like to illustrate it, with these trolls, covered in moss and sticks and over-run by woodland creatures.


  1. That scenery is gorgeous!
    I kind of pictured the stone trolls made out of dark, stained rock, and kind of rough-hewn. Coarse rocks for coarse ne'er-do-wells!

  2. That first photo - I need to build a cabin there.

  3. These are great photos! What kind of camera do you take with you when you hike? I love going out backpacking but I'm never happy with the quality of the point and shoots I've taken with me and I'm kind of squeamish about taking my SLR . . .

    Thanks for sharing these illustrations that you're doing I think they are some of the best I've seen for Tolkien's work. I love Alan Lee and John Howe, but I think you've captured the humor and the essence of the story. I've really enjoyed seeing your process and the final paintings.

    Thanks so much, again!

  4. Hi Sara,

    I think these would have been on a little Canon Powershot. I have a dSLR, but I am too afraid to bring it on these trips. It's amazing what you can capture with the tiny digital cameras now though.