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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

johnhowetower

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 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.

firstdarktower

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

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.

mordorhistorypages

A selection of our first pages here in The Land of Shadow.com

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.

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This version was online in 1998
tlos-history-pages2

This version was updated in 2000
tlos-history-pages3

This version was online in 2002

The current version of Mordor ~ The land of Shadow.com as you see it now, was developed between 2007 and 2009 and was uploaded for the most part in 2010-2011.  With the completion of The Hobbit Trilogy in December of 2015 a great deal pf the movie news came to an end and we focused once more on the main site.

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!

darkmessages

This was one of the Banners for our Dark Message community forum

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.

community

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.. Que Sera, Sera.

darklegion

A banner created to promote the Dark Legion

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 a two year period we made tremendous progress, as well as adding new areas and site additions. Though the lands of Middle-earth, for the most part dormant in the world of filmmaking, we still maintained a strong following and carved out a dark niche in the world of Middle-earth and Dark Entertainment News.

Another blow came to the site with Adobe’s announcement to not only discontinue updating Flash but to abandon it entirely. This meant any website using Flash Animation could no longer play the animation on their site. As far back as the late 1990s Flash became an indispensable tool for web designers in creating interactive web content. TheLandofShadow.com made extensive use of Flash to create an immersive experience of being in Mordor. Almost every page had some interactive animation. This was the death of beautifully designed websites with interactive content. It was a blow that was difficult to recover from. On December 31 of 2020 Flash was officially killed off and Adobe recommend taking all such content off websites around the world. This represented another blow to the individual creation of websites across the internet. It has now been transformed from an an individual free-for-all into a corporate controlled world of interweb design. Now everything looks like Facebook… uggg! Dreary, flat and soulless. Go HERE for Wired.com’s thoughts on the loss of Flash and what it has done to the internet.

We marked our 20th anniversary in 2018 and that was something to cheer about! However, the loss of our interactive content was disheartening and I decided that if I was unable to keep Mordor as it once was, then maybe it was time to throw in the towel. It took about 5 years for Flash to be killed off completely and by January of 2019 I had removed most of the interactive content. I made the hard decision to discontinue Mordor completely. TheLandofShadow.com had a good run and it was time to pack up and go home. On March 25, 2019 I closed down the site. I could have left the site online and let it slowly die off, but that was not my way. I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory. So on March 25th I flipped the switch and the lights went off. TLOS.com was now nothing more than a memory for those who once loved its dark terrain.

BUT… as we all know, you can’t keep a Dark Lord down! During the pandemic I had time to reflect on the long and storied history of this site. I maintained the Youtube Channel I created for Mordor and discovered that people where asking what happened to the cool site they remembered. I kept getting requests to bring the site back online and to begin updating the Youtube Channel.

I created the Channel in the early years.  Youtube went live in 2005 and I created the Mordor Channel in 2007. I used it primarily as vehicle for creating video content for The Land of Shadow’s special events. However, because I was using music and video from The Lord of the Rings films I was unable to monetize the content. As a result I didn’t use it for much else. In 2021 I created a Youtube Channel to discuss a trilogy of novels I have been working on for several years. The Rivendoh Trilogy. You can go HERE to discover more. I realized I was under utilizing my Mordor Channel and so I posted a video asking people what they thought of the old site and if they wanted me to bring it back. I got enough of a response to justify opening the website again and creating new content the Youtube Channel.

This also coincided with the news that the much anticipated new series from Amazon was set to premiere in September of 2022! I was off and running. I began by making a weekly ‘Shadowcast’ (A podcast about the upcoming series) while working on rebuilding the website. The site went live again in early October of 2022 and has been running ever since. As some have pointed out it’s a bit old fashion in its design and structure, but that’s fine with me. It’s a sentiment I believe Sauron would have related to. Now, it’s the podcast the garners most of the attention, but hopefully it will draw people back to TheLandofShadow.com were the memories with come so thick they they will have to brush them away from their faces. I subscribe to the idea that… IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WILL COME!

Where Mordor goes from here is anyone’s guess, but as long as the Dark Army of Mordor continues to march across our lands, we will make sure they always have a place to camp and to experience the dark delights found only in the Land of Shadow!

The Dark Army of Mordor marches across the plain of Gorgoroth!

OrcArmyGorgoroth

Artwork on this page has been modified from it’s original form to enhance the layout of this site.
Lay your staff on the images to discover more about the artists.

 Posted by at 11:37 am