|What is a role model to you? Do role models require certain qualities for you? How should people relate to their role models?
Write a story, poem or create an artwork based on characters who are role models for their people.
Role models are always a touchy subject. Modern culture seems to often equate "role model" with "time spent in the public eye." As an artist, I admire others who are excellent practitioners of their craft; as an athletic performer, I appreciate the skill and effort it takes to be a world-class athlete. But, to me, these people are not role models.
I suppose that my obsession with Fëanor demonstrates the sort of person I am apt to take as a role model. I admire people who strive and achieve against expectations, convention, or law. People who are rebellious, incendiary, radical; people who regard the power to determine their own destinies as a right, not a privilege belonging to only a few. I admire people like Frederick Douglass, who was driven to break the rules, to learn to read and write, so that he could achieve freedom. Women like Aphra Behn and Anne Bradstreet, who lived during a time when women didn't write and wrote anyway. People who risked their reputations, their safety, their lives to better their lives and those of others, who often inspired, moved, and outraged others through artistic creation, through the power of words.
Those are my role models.
This project was an interesting one. After writing the above personal response to the prompt, I sat down to decide how to convert this creatively to a story or a poem from Pengolodh's point of view. Pengolodh is young and still determining who and what he admires; who he would like to "be." Like me, he feels compelled to give his admiration in one direction; like me, he often finds his imagination pulled in an entirely different way.
This piece seeks to reflect that. It is the beginning of an illuminated page from an epic poem that Pengolodh wrote about his father. He learned a lesson that every scribe learns about why not to start the calligraphy after finishing the illumination. When he realized that he wasn't satisfied with the poem, he began to scribble and doodle on the page and ended up with quite a different poem than the one that he started.
(Click to view full-size.)
A Poem for My Father,
Authored by Pengolodh of Nevrast, YS 78
Across the ice, he bravely shouldered forth,
Pressing back 'gainst the bitter winds of north,
Striving 'gainst night in service of what's right
Striving 'gainst night, ever seeking the Light
Striving 'gainst night at his Lord Turgon's right,
To record his deeds with History's sight,
To give future Noldor a cause for song,
To know their cause was true, not twined with wrong
But was driving evil from Arda dark,
fist blade to Morgoth's face, leaving our mark.
For this he marched 'cross ice and
The Creator rested amid the stars,
Restless, though for what he could not discern.
For, naked to night, his hands were unmarred
By the worldly vestments that itch and burn.
But the emptiness itself seemed a blight.
Lack--not imposition--defined his need,
A lack of something tangible that might
Enrobe the cogs that would become his deeds.
He summoned all his lore and subtle skill
That mind and hands should serve to manifest
The greatest desire of his heart and will,
Then--suddenly still--he allowed to rest.
His hands lay gently folded, gloved with night,
Then, as a blossom opens, revealed Light.
Footnotes for the Curious:
That Pengolodh wrote "A Poem for My Father" in YS 78 is based on three important dates from The Grey Annals:
- YS 53: Turgon discovers Gondolin
- YS 64: Work begins on Gondolin
- YS 116: Turgon relocates his people from Nevrast to Gondolin
Since one of the few things known about Pengolodh is that he was born in Nevrast, I chosen YS 78 as a time when he is approaching maturity but still a young man.
Pengolodh's ruined page was done on Bristol vellum with acrylics, ink, and gold leaf. I tried to replicate the process he would have gone through as much as possible. (Except that I started with the illumination; in life, I know better, and I suspect Pengolodh does now too!) I laid out my calligraphy before beginning and let it deteriorate as I worked and Pengolodh would have become increasingly convinced that the page couldn't be salvaged. I didn't plan any of the scribblings and doodles that adorn the rest of the page. I did write "Creator" beforehand; however, I wrote it differently than I usually do in order to best replicate Pengolodh's experience of inventing a sonnet on the spot. Usually, I compose sonnets on the computer, in a table where I can add lines out of order and move them around, if need be, and where I can note the rhyme scheme in the margin and highlight any meter issues as I go along. I also rely almost religiously on a rhyming dictionary to help me in my composition. Sonnets are very difficult for me, so writing one directly to paper felt rather like working without a net--but I think it turned out well. I did make some minor corrections as I worked. If you're curious what the writing journal of a real-life poet-scribe looks like, you can see my working pages for this project here.
The illuminated design is mostly of my own invention; however, the gilded fruit-and-squigglies are borrowed directly from medieval sources. They were very common, and I've always liked them, strange though they may be. (See an example here.) The calligraphy is a hand that I invented to resemble the Tengwar. In truth, I find it bordering on hideous and much prefer the sections done in Pengolodh's "cursive," which in scribe-speak is normal handwriting, and which rathers resembles my own disgustingly neat natural hand.
Finally, line 9 in "Creator" is slightly altered from a line in The Silmarillion, "Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor." Pengolodh, of course, would say that this poem is about Eru. Having pointed out this line and its source, I leave it to the reader to decide whether she or he believes him or not.