How This Site Came To Be
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, 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
“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 in 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 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.
With the brave new world of the Internet at my fingertips, I decided to bring my passion for Middle-earth to the web. I uploaded my one lowly page of animation and called it Mordor! I found a top site called 25 hobbits and created a link to my site. There were very few visitors in the beginning and I wondered if there were others like myself, that wanted to know more about the Orcs, the Nazgûl and the Dark Lord of Mordor.
It did concern me, what John Howe might think if my altering his version of the Dark Tower, so I reached out to him and asked for permission to continue using it. He was very gracious and stated that he liked my version, though it was much darker than his own. He said as long I gave him credit for the image, with a link back to his site, along with a notation that the image on this site was altered from it’s original form, then he would be fine with my using his image. His generosity toward Mordor has always made me extend the same to others, who use my graphics or content on their site, as long as they offer a link back to The Land of Shadow.com. In addition, I’ve made it our policy to afford all artists, whose work we showcase here in Mordor, a direct link back to their site with full credit for their work.
Mordor ~ The Land of Shadow was built slowly, one page at a time. With many fits and starts, it began to take shape. When I uploaded the first image, it was only a single page, but as fan interest grew, I began to add other dark creatures and places from Middle-earth. With each new page I created, I had to update and add to the Mordor Menu. I eventually created the Servants of Shadow, the Dark Domains, the Brazen Beasts, the Map of Mordor, the Black Speech, a Movie & Dark Entertainment News page, along with many other pages of content over the years and Dark Flash animation’s to go with them. For me… Mordor is never complete.
Over the years, there have been several versions of The Land of Shadow.com and below you can see the three main versions, with the evolving Mordor Menu that went along with the Dark Tower. Click on each of the links below to see these versions of the pages at full size and with animation.
The current version of Mordor ~ The land of Shadow.com as you see it now, was developed between 2007 and 2009 and we are still in the process of making updates to this version of the site. Now that The Hobbit Trilogy news has come to an end, we have placed the updates to the site front and center.
In the early years, as Mordor grew I searched the web for others with an interest in Middle-earth and I found that like myself, there were many fans with a deep love of Tolkien’s writings. They too were caught up in the excitement of bringing their own passion for Middle-earth to the internet, in the form of fan-sites and online communities. There were few sites in the beginning, but that was soon to change. New Line Cinema announced a partnership with a young director named Peter Jackson, who intended to make three films based upon Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings! Like other Tolkien fanatics, I was both excited and worried. Then came the first Internet Preview and the anticipation reached a fever pitch. Like countless others, I watched that Trailer at least a hundred times. It looked like Mr. Jackson was going to do it right and as it turned out he did!
As Middle-earth fandom grew with the intense interest in the films, I found many others with a love of both Tolkien and the darkerside of Middle-earth. I created a community forum called Dark Messages as a place for the Mordor Community to discuss the books and films. We began with an EZ Board Forum. Right from the onset our community was a chaotic band of orcs, goblins and wraiths, with a riotous interest in Middle-earth. Freedom of speech was the watchword for Mordor’s Dark Messages and while other Tolkien Community Forums tried to restrict and control content and speech, we let our members have free reign, within what we as a group determined were acceptable limits. This was both a blessing and a curse, because though we probably had the most interesting unfettered Tolkien Topics, we often had the most contentious that would often erupt into flame wars. Typical Uruk behavior. Our forum drew Tolkien fans that did not find community in many of the other forums. A motley crew at best.
Dark Message began as an EZ Board Forum and those early pages still exists, but without our Mordor graphics HERE. We eventually migrated the Dark Messages Community to a self contained phpBB board which we hosted on our server and which gave us total control over content. The Mordor Community thrived for years during making of The Lord of the Rings films, but by 2005 -06 many of the forum users had moved on to other interests. I accept responsibility for this, because I have focused primary on the main site and let the community forum fend for itself. When The Hobbit films were announced, I made the difficult decision to abandon the message board and focus exclusively on The Land of Shadow.com.
As the movie fandom grew in the early 2000’s, there other dark sites that came online and much like The Land of Shadow.com they were often given the cold shoulder by other Tolkien sites that did not understand our interest in the Darkside of Tolkien world. We banded together and formed a consortium called the Dark Legion, made up of fan sites focused on the evil in Middle-earth. Websites such as Lugbúrz, Durthang, Mirkwood, Minas Morgul, the Old Forest and others joined us and we combined forces to vote our sites up on the Top Sites. Choosing to be on the darkside did not exactly endear us to many in the Tolkien Community and our antics on the Top Sites resulted in a feeling of animosity towards us, that we did not intend. It seemed to confirm to those sites, that we truly were as evil as out site names indicated and so we became outsiders in our own community. Oh well.. C’est la vie!
The fan excitement and interest in the films spawned hundred of new individual websites. In the media it seem like The Lord of the Rings was everywhere! For about 6 years straight there was a constant stream of news and media content to post about here in Mordor. In 2001, we established the Domain Name for Mordor… www.theLandofShadow.com and we were official!
However, as the films came and went, so did many of The Lord of the Rings themed websites and communities. In the hey-day of the first three films, there were as many as 400 Middle-earth themed websites, but by 2007… many of those sites had faded away and only a few of us hardcore webmasters remained. With the advent of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and others, self-managed websites and community forums fell out of favor. Even with the announcement of The Hobbit films, the web did not see a resurgence of these kinds of websites again. The massive online community presence and diversity of website themes and designs seems to now be a thing of the past. It was an unforgettable moment in time…
However… I’ve never been one to give up on my passions. Mordor, unlike others survived the dry years between 2005 through 2010, when The Hobbit films were announced. Seeing that the darkside of Tolkien’s world was still under-served, I revamped the news portion of the website and began posting all things Hobbit as well as Mordor and to keep the site relevant I increased the news page to include all types of news that centered around dark films, books, games and music However, our core content has always been and always will be about Middle-earth. With the transition over to WordPress as our website format, we were able to mix Hobbit and other Dark News reporting within our site with much greater ease and it allowed us to beef up the existing site a great deal.
When the Hobbit Trilogy was finally completed, I considered letting Mordor go… However, there was such an outcry when I expressed my thoughts online, that I decided not only to keep the site online, but to also make a concerted effort to update all parts of Mordor into the new format. Over the last two years we have made tremendous progress, as well as adding new areas and site additions. Though the lands of Middle-earth, for the most part are currently dormant in the world of filmmaking, we’ve still maintained a strong following and carved out a dark niche in the world of Middle-earth and Dark Entertainment News.
In just two years, in 2018 we will mark our 20th anniversary and that will be something to cheer about! Where Mordor goes from here is anyone guess, but as long as the Dark Army of Mordor continue to march across our lands, we will make sure they always have a place to camp and to experience the dark delights in the Land of Shadow!