Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Color of Fog at Night


I recently finished re-reading The Followship of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien out loud as a day's end story with C. and among other things I'm struck by the use of color in the book.

At one point Gandalf the Grey is recalling a debate with Sauruman of Many Colors:

'I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if they moved, they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.
'"I liked white better," I said.
'"White!" he sneered, "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light broken."
'"In which case it is no longer white," said I. "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it has left has left the path of wisdom."

Which sounds a lot like partitive color mixing, with a possibility of iridescence and side of epistemology.



Later in the book Frodo is in Lórien and experiences the following:

"He saw no color but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful."

Which sounds remarkably like reverse color anomia. To feel wonder by the urge to name known colors is indeed subtle praise for the ways of elves.

Finally there is a description of the elven cloaks:

"It was hard to say what colour they were; gray with the hue of twilight under the trees they seemed to be; and yet if they were moved, or set in another light, they were green as shadowed leaves, or brown as fallow fields by night, dusk-silver as water under the stars."

Whose fabric sounds biomimetic, no make that ecomimetic, and certainly a camouflage worthy of hobbit warriors.