Riddles In The Dark.

I'm very happy with this artwork.

I’m very happy with this artwork.

So, there’s a great deal going on here. The main reality, that I’m addressing is the startling, iPad free truth. Most of my classes are on Chapter Four of the Hobbit, having started reading last Friday, and one class is mostly through Chapter Five, “Riddles In The Dark.” Hence the title of the post, True Believers. It was extremely satisfying reading aloud, especially doing funny voices for Smeagol (Gollum).

The day that this posts, most of my students will be reading that Chapter (Riddles in the Dark) for the first time. It was pretty excellent to be able to be the person, in the past three days, to introduce the fantasy concepts of Trolls, Goblins, and of course, Gollum himself, to close to a hundred seventh grade students for the first time. I have students coming to me, mystified, that things like World of Warcraft have their foundation in this text.

The same day, our school will be having a “Williams Visit.” This is to ensure that according to the “Williams Decree,” all students have textbooks at home, and that the school is clean and physically safe. I hadn’t intended to be making a metaphorical comment about that, but upon looking at the dank goblin caves above, perhaps there was something subconscious happening. My students all have textbooks, but I sometimes wonder at the safety of our perpetually “under construction and being painted” campus. I know that at least one teacher has filed a Williams complaint about facilities, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

We DID, for the first time in AGES, get Breakfast Burritos with our Breakfast in the Classroom this week. As readers know, my students and I are mental for the Breakfast Burritos. As a result, I jealously guarded mine while muttering, “My preciousss…” This added a level of interest in the book that without the Breakfast Burrito, would not have been present. At that time, I had started laying out the art above. Technically, we hadn’t gotten close to Chapter Five yet, we were still in the Goblin Caves…so I really didn’t want Smeagol in the art. Also…I didn’t want the hassle of trying to depict the tiny ring, so I thought a different direction was needed.

Hence “Smichelle the Goblin” up there. She is holding a pretty excellent looking Taco, highlighting the serious love of Mexican Food. I can see where that would indeed be “My preciousss…!” In addition, she is an amalgam of everything I dislike about westernized anime styling and fantasy costume design…which, at the end of it all, became something that I really liked. She has an asymmetric costume design, which is common in modern Fantasy, but many elements from first edition Dungeons and Dragon goblins. She has the “big eyes, small mouth” expressiveness of anime…and, honestly, she came out looking cool enough to have future appearances.

Frodo and Sam hauled Gollum all of Middle Earth, after all, after obviously having his stolen Ring of Invisibility. I wouldn’t throw that jumbo sized Taco into the volcano in Mordor, though. It’s too delicious.

The black and white art, with no logos.

The black and white art, with no logos.

Despite how chaotic the school environment is right now…it is pretty excellent to be the gatekeeper to this kind of famous, paradigm changing literature. If part of the goal of the English teacher is to instill a love of reading and the printed word, than certainly this, more than any “Interim Assessment” about technology changing the art of conversation, is the way to the hearts and minds of my young charges.


2 thoughts on “Riddles In The Dark.

    • Thank you! It was drawn over the course of two days, in segments. My students actually got to see it take shape, as a result, which they thought was pretty interesting…it really made my constant yammering about the importance of refining drafts relevant to something they thought was cool.

      One of the bigger things I’ve been working on is the illustration of backgrounds, and having characters in real settings. It’s not necessarily needed for every panel, but the backgrounds really make things work better. Last week, which was all “cover art” was really about that sort of thing.

      Thanks for the kind words.

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