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Mar 012018

Humble Beginnings

Over the course of the next fifteen days we will be taking a look back at over 20 years of Mordor ~ The Land of Shadow.com touching on landmark moments in this sites history.

“It all began with a vision of Barad-dûr by John Howe.” ~ Joe Russell, Founder of the fan site The Land of Shadow.com

In 15 days, we will mark the 20th anniversary of Mordor ~ The Land of Shadow.com!

March is a busy month here in Mordor with our annual Mordor March Madness Orc Wars, the celebration of Tolkien Reading Day on the March 25, which also happens to mark the fall of Sauron (not a happy day here in Mordor) and the end of the Third Age and the beginning of the Fourth in Middle-earth.

A momentous month to say the least, but it is also the month when the very first html page was posted online for Mordor on March 15, 1998. Like most websites at the time we used a TopSite to promote Mordor over the next three years, but with the films by Peter Jackson soon to premiere, we decided to make it official and created the Domain Name www.TheLandofShadow.com on March 11, 2001! This was 10 months before the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Joe Russell, Ring Lord ~Founder of Mordor the Land of Shadow.com. Photo 2009

We’ve never made a big deal over our yearly Anniversary, but 20 years is something special, so we want to celebrate it over the next 15 days by marking some of the milestones this site has seen over the last 20 years. We hope to bring some fun things for the fans of Mordor to see and a few surprises too!

To kick things off, here is an excerpt from our Dark Illumination page which tells the story of how the first page was created for Mordor back in January and February of 1998.

How It Came to Be ~ A Dark Illumination

The Land of Shadow.com is my personal interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythical land of Mordor. This site could not have been created without the inspiration from the masterful works of many artists upon which my vision of Mordor was built. This fan website is an expression of my joy in the reading of The Lord of the Rings.

Early in 1998, sometime in January or February, I came across this painting by John Howe and I was struck by how perfect his rendition of Barad-dûr was… it seemed to fit exactly with what I’d always imagined in my mind. It elevated the Dark Tower into a vast and potent symbol of Sauron’s Mordor, mysterious and frightening. As I sat looking at Howe’s Tower of Adamant, I thought how much I would like to see this image in motion, with the great Eye of Sauron searching for the ONE Ring across the Plain of Gorgoroth. And so began my own journey into Mordor.

Here is John Howe’s vision of the Dark Tower of Mordor


Lay your staff on the image above to discover more about John Howe’s creation of this painting.

The brilliant words of Tolkien came to mind, when Frodo puts on the Ring as he flees from Boromir and comes upon Amen Hen, at Parth Galen. There he sits upon the Seat of Seeing, as his eyes are inexorably drawn towards Mordor… where he must face the might of his enemy!

“Thither, eastward, unwilling his eye was drawn. It passed the ruined bridges of Osgiliath,
the grinning gates of Minas Morgul, and the haunted Mountains, and it looked upon Gorgoroth, the valley of terror in the Land of Mordor.
Darkness lay there under the sun.Fire glowed amid the smoke. Mount Doom was burning, and a great reek rising.”

“Then at last his gaze was held: wall upon wall, battlement upon battlement, black, immeasurably strong, mountain of iron, gate of steel,
tower of adamant, he saw it: Barad-dûr, Fortress of Sauron.”

“All hope left him.”


From the The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the chapter ‘The Breaking of the Fellowship’


Tolkien’s prose establishes a vision of Sauron, the Dark Tower and Mordor with such vivid detail and lyrical prose, that it has inspired countless artists as it evidently did John Howe, when he made this wonderfully dark painting. This image was the foundation, that would eventually be expanded into the Dark Tower we see in the film trilogy.

Of course when I began working with this image of the Dark Tower back in early 1998, The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films by Peter Jackson was still in its very early developmental stage. At this point they had already hammered out a usable three film script and Jackson’s creative team was already beginning to work on designs for the film. However, principle photography was still a year and a half away and very few knew what was taking place on the opposite side of the world. When I began working on animation for John Howe’s Barad-dûr, I had no knowledge of the coming tsunami of movie fandom, that would soon sweep across the globe. I was simply sitting at my home computer and thinking about how to animate this wonderful image, for my own satisfaction.

I began to tinker with the image, beginning by animating the Eye of Sauron, as I imagined it would be, peering like a great red beam of light from the heights of the Dark Tower. I fancied seeing the Ringwraith, as he bowed before his Master and the One Ring of Power spinning like a great wheel of fire in the Land of Shadow. I began to realize how much I loved the darkerside of Tolkien’s world and the seeds of an idea began to grow in my mind. Below is a still of the animated digital version of the Dark Tower I created from John Howe’s painting.


Here is a still showing the first version of the animated Dark Tower

For many years I was worried about how some of the artists might feel about way I displayed their original work. I have contacted those that I have been able, such as the Hildibrandt Brothers who were very generous about my using their images here in The Land of Shadow.com. I was most concerned that John Howe should like the work that I have created here, since his Dark Tower was the inspiration for this site. I was able to contact John and he was very generous about my use of his Dark Tower. I told him that I would remove any of the content from my site that featured his work, if he was not happy with it being displayed in this way. He did have a few requests, which we hammered out. He wanted me to indicate that the images were changed from their original form, making it clear this was an alteration if his work. So on every page of The Land of Shadow.com I indicated that the images on this site are altered from the original and have provided links and credit to every single art image I showcase here on Mordor.

John was very gracious when asked about how he felt about the alteration his Dark Tower and had this to say.

“People are probably going to prefer yours to mine, but I’ll take the risk! I’d like to add how grateful I am for your response, and am really glad this has all worked out. Please keep in touch. Your site is an inspiration to me – so very much darker than I generally go – you’re giving me ideas! Keep your eyes on film 3, there’ll be more colour rendering available when the tie-in books appear.”
~ John Howe

This conversation occurred sometime in 2002 and by that time the site had grown well beyond this one image. We featured a movie news page that featured all things dark in middle-earth and beyond. we had added the Dark Domains and Servants of Shadow pages for an encyclopedia of the dark places and creatures in Middle-earth. We were in the beginning stage of developing our Shadowlandian version of the Black Speech with lessons and a dictionary. We had interactive content with the goal of trying to make Mordor feel like a real place you could visit and learn about all things dark in Middle-earth. We had developed a large community message board, where we discussed all things Tolkien in the books and movies.

Mordor had grown far behind it’s humble beginnings and it still had a long way to go.

To find out more, go HERE to our Dark Illumination page.


 March 1, 2018  Posted by at 10:47 am

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