You should mark this date on your calendar, because this is officially the first piece of fanart I’ve ever drawn, Lord of the Rings or otherwise. No, really. While I’ve appreciated other artists’ works, I think I’ve always felt a little intimidated by the concept of going outside of my comfort zone (natural history.) But I was re-watching the movies recently, and thinking about the enormity of climate change and other ecological disasters, and this ended up being the result. 

For those who aren’t big LotR nerds, the Earth-on-fire in the center of the Eye of Sauron should be a pretty obvious in its symbolism. And yeah, we’re looking out over the plains of Mordor, though of course the quote comes from much earlier in the storyline, before anyone can actually see it. So the background looks pretty terrifying and overwhelming. But look at the foreground, where Frodo and Gandalf sit. The log is inscribed with “estel”, the Quenya (high elvish) for “hope”, and against it leans Anduril, the sword of Aragorn that was forged from the shards of Narsil, which itself was the sword that cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand. And then to the right, the gentle but persistent light of Eärendil’s star, which was given to Frodo by Galadriel and which gave him light at a time of great darkness. 

The quote is from early in the journey to return the One Ring to the Crack of Doom–its place of origin–to be destroyed. I think of these words quite often when I am feeling discouraged about the ecological state of the planet, both as a whole system and as individual places and habitats. In all the billions of years of life here, I happened to be born into this moment as a human being, on the precipice of great destruction. Yet I maintain hope, because with hope comes creativity and the strength to continue; it is all too tempting to fall prey to nihilism and despair. My hope is not untempered by realism, of course, but it is the guiding light that keeps me going, that if there is any chance to improve things even in the smallest way, then I am driven to do whatever I can to make that happen. 

May you find hope and strength as well.