Talks with Tolkien artists: Irjikor

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MirachRavaia's avatar
By MirachRavaia

This interview will be a little different from most of them, because :iconirjikor: - Irjikor is not a visual artist. He is a Master Riddler. If you would like to play the Hobbits' favourite game of riddles, and in the same time test your Tolkien lore, you can watch his gallery for a new riddle posted weekly. Here are a few random examples:

LotR riddle #01Great king, golden king, power shifts
Ill-advised by Lord of Gifts
Iron-willed and borders crossed
Now all he had forever lost.
LotR riddle #10Appearing first to break the siege
With word and fire serving liege
Strong above, but weak below
Great deceiver, bringing woe.

LotR riddle #11Bands of fire, water, air
Shining clear and shining fair
Without darkness, harbours light
Radiating healing might.
LotR riddle #13From horse's fame he will ride on
Continue line when second's gone
Though shackled once, he is reborn,
Victorious with fields and horn.

LotR riddle #18Naught but pain and hate they see
Their birth itself a mockery
Ever fulfilling harsh command
From spirit, eye, as well as hand.
LotR riddle #25Furiously he rides to the gate
Though well he knows what will await
Compared to his foe, he’s merely an imp
But in his dying, he leaves him a limp.

Hello! For the beginning, could you tell us something about yourself?

Okay. I'm Irjikor, which means "Creator" in the fictional language of Karipaj (from Algoroth Saga I'm writing). I'm from the Netherlands and by now I've been on DA for about five months. I play the piano, love to build thing, love to read (a LOT), and of course I write stories and LotR riddles.

What brought you to deviantArt, and how do you find your experience on the site so far?

I got here via 0athSworn, a dear friend of mine, who wanted to read some of my stories and advised me to start uploading.
I love the site so far. I get amazing feedback and I really enjoy the beautiful art of others!

And what about Tolkien? How did you enter his world for the first time, and what impression did it leave in you?

I was very young when I first came into contact with Tolkien. My parents had an illustrated version of The Hobbit on the bookshelves, which I "read" even before I could read.
As soon as I could read English, I went through the Lord of the Rings, and I have spend many a happy hour discussing the Silmarillion with my father, who is a Tolkien fan as well. To this very day, we cannot agree on the origins of Tom Bombadil! Haha.

I absolutely love the unprecedented depth to which he built his world. And in this, he is a great example to me as a writer.

How far have you delved into those depths? To make some riddles, you need to have a rather good knowledge of Middle-earth and its history...

I've always been a fan of lore. The history and people, the powers that move and shape the worlds over time...
In almost everything I read, I feel a strong love for it.
But with Tolkien, I've reached a point where it gets confusing, because Tolkien tended to change already established things over time.

In a direct answer to how deep I've delved into the lore...
Very deep. In all modesty, I think I might reside amongst the Lore-Masters. Haha.

Does that mean that you have read everything that has been published from Tolkien's work? Can you write or speak in Sindarin or Quenya as well?

Not everything. But almost.
LotR, the Hobbit, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales... But I still have the Children of Húrin lying on my "to read"-pile.

As for Sindarin and Quenya, I only know a couple of words and basic sentences, but naught of the grammar. Though I am learning it now a bit. I just never had the time before.
Writing it I cannot either. Besides the standard Roman script, I know the real-life scripts of old Greek, a bit of Cyrillic, and I have mastered Elder Futhark. So I never got round to learning Tengwar or Cirth.

Good to know which books you are drawing inspiration for the riddles from! (And that one doesn't need to read all 12 book of History od Middle-earth to find the answer) :D (Big Grin) And what do you think about movies? When they came out, many of the inner pictures of characters and scenes in the mind of the readers have been replaced by actors and settings from the movie. Did it happen to you as well? Did you try to prevent it?

I think that the change of my inner pictures of the characters into the actors was inevitable. Especially with such an epic cast as Peter Jackson managed to assemble.
One must never forget the almost extreme difference in medium, between books and films. To fit so much of the original story in them as Jackson managed is truly astounding. I believe a great deal of the success is due to the involvement of John Howe and Alan Lee, the two illustrators who have had an enormous influence on the way people view the books. To have them so deeply involved in the making of the films, greatly lessens the visual distance between the two versions. Thus growing the chance of the actors taking the place of the inner pictures of characters.

When it comes to the changes Peter made, I have total peace with them. Haha. Some things from the books cannot be properly conveyed to the audience during the span of a movie.
For example: due to the Elven blood in their veins, Aragorn, Isildur, and Elendil would not be able to grow a beard. But in our current time and culture, the facial hair these men had adds to the regality of their appearance.
I personally treat the two versions as two different universes, each with their own variations, and each magnificent in their own right.

Who is your favourite Tolkien character and why?

That's a tricky one! Hahaha.
But if I have to give an answer, I think I'd have to say Círdan. His AGE! :mindblown:
Early Tolkien fans are often impressed and amazed by Lord Elrond's age, or that of Lady Galadriel. But Círdan is a whole other tier up! That Elf has seen it all! He was there at Cuiviénen, at the destruction of Beleriand, the reshaping of Arda at the end of the Second Age, the fall of Sauron at the end of the Third...
He is so old, his original name has been completely forgotten, and is only known to us in Primitive Quendian. He might not be the most epic character when it comes to deeds, but he definitely is one of the wisest, a counsellor to the likes of Elu Thingol and Elrond.
In my opinion, the greatest sage there is in Arda.

Could you now tell us something about your riddles? How did you get the idea to make them in the first place, and where do you find inspiraton for them?

I started my "writing career" off writing poetry, and I have always liked riddles. So when I saw the Game of Riddles scene from the Hobbit movie (a scene I dearly love anyways), those two loves came together and the idea came to be.
About half a year ago, I was reading Unfinished Tales, and a metre started forming in my mind. A subject took shape, and the first riddle was born. Almost immediately followed by several more. Now, I can hear half the riddle in the back of my mind as soon as I read about someone or something.

In my riddles, the metre is paramount. As far as I can remember, all my LotR riddles are written in a tetrameter. With this metre in the back of my mind, I start collecting "puzzle pieces", bits of information about the subject of my riddle, which I start to fit into the metre.
After this I only have to refine the riddle and go over it a final time as a whole to see if both the metre is correct, as well as the sentence structure.
It may seem overly complicated for a simple riddle, but the result is more than worth it. Besides, after more than a hundred riddles, it starts to become second nature. ;) (Wink)

Isn't the metre constraining sometimes, preventing you to put some clues into the riddle or blurring others? Or do you always find your way around it?

Of course the metre is a constraint. But, once practiced, it is not as constricting as one would think. I quite often think of clues I want to put in the riddle, which won't make it into the end result. But rarely, if ever, does it limit the riddle as a whole. Simply because there always are more clues you can replace them with. ;) (Wink)

I do sometimes work around the metre a bit though. Mostly by dropping a syllable, signified by the apostrophe. For example: playing around by writing "don't" instead of "do not", or "'til" instead of "until".

How about writing in general? When did you start with it, and what are your ambitions?

I started writing in September 2014, though I did not intend to. I had already created a great part of the Algoroth world (merely out of hobby), and one evening a scene came to mind. And this scene, with this one character in it would not let me go. So I wrote it down. But it still wouldn't let go of my mind. So I continued writing, curious to how the story would end (for I do not plan my stories beyond a vague idea of what will happen, which usually does not even come to pass :D (Big Grin))
In the end, the scene went down as Chapter 1 of my book Maric, which I have also uploaded to DA. So from that one scene, a series of over four books and of over a thousand pages has grown. As well as a deeply loved and, truth be told, rather addictive hobby.

As for my ambitions, they are modest. I would love for my books to be published, and to be sold well enough to allow the entire series to be published.
My goal is to create something people will like. And thusfar, I am succeeding. :) (Smile)

Could you tell us more about this world and story? Maybe you will get some new readers :) (Smile)

Ooh... That's a tricky one :D (Big Grin)

Let’s give it a try:

“The Algoroth Saga takes place in the declining kingdom of the Azufin. A few years ago, the Zh’kar (Prince, or Viceroy) of Merithèn openly revolted and plunged the nation into civil war. But that war is not the only one…
Unbeknownst to the people and the lords alike, there is a secret organisation, acting from the shadows. Unbiased, impartial, but not without enemies. They tread in Darkness, unseen in Light… They are the Algoroth.

But this secret brotherhood is under attack. Many of their brethren are suddenly being killed all over the northern provinces of the failing Azufin kingdom. And in the centre of it all is Kjal Woren, lieutenant to the Zh’kar of Merithèn.

It is now up to Maric, an Algoroth of the brotherhood, to hunt down this Kjal Woren and save his Order. A path that takes him straight through the heart of the civil war. But it is not only the fate of the war that drives Maric, nor his love and loyalty to the Order… Between him and Woren, it is personal…”

I have created a world so rich in scope, lore, and culture, it has taken me now 4 books to reveal only a slither of it. I try to write my stories in such a way, that one could read it without any interest for the lore and would enjoy an exciting fantasy series. But for anyone who wishes to see the bigger picture, I weave small hints into the tale. Hints that are barely noticed when one does not look for it, but when noticed, form the pieces to a much larger puzzle.

That sounds interesting! Do you maybe have some writing tips for others?

Of course! :) (Smile)

First of all, when writing a story, I have found it not to be necessary to have planned out the tale from start to finish. If you know your world and characters well enough, you can improvise!
Secondly, the story itself. It does not need to be epic in scope. What a story needs is a, what I like to call, "spark". A target, or goal. Let me take "A Brother's Blade" as an example: the loss of an object which should not be lost. Simple. The simpler the spark is, the better. Because this will also be the first driving force for the reader to continue and not put the book aside after one chapter. But of  course, the spark must be strong enough to carry the tale all the way. For this, I have no advice. Just be honest to yourself when rereading the first chapters yourself, and see if this spark is strong enough to keep you wanting to read more.
Thirdly, do not flood the reader with terms and references when starting. This is the point that is most painful to me. Sweating a little... I have built an incredibly deep world for the Algoroth, but I cannot show more than what is necessary for the tale. A reader must get used to special terms. When starting a book, a reader starts off immersed in his or her own culture. So actions in a book based on another culture might very well be viewed as “odd”. You must ease a reader into your story, get them acquainted with the world and culture of it. And this takes time. By flooding a reader with lore not necessary to the story, at any point in it, you raise the needed investment to continue. To me, this is most painful, but of great importance nevertheless.

Could you give us an example from your gallery of
- your favourite riddle?

Ooh… I cannot decide :D (Big Grin) I like them all equally. But if I have to say something, I’d say it’s riddle #16, because it is a slight variation in style compared to the others.

- a riddle that you find hardest to guess?

Well, I do consider some hard to guess, only to be proven wrong immediately. And some I regard as easy to solve, sometimes go on for days being unsolved. But I’d say riddle #17. That one has rather obscure hints in the lines, and has proven to be difficult by only being guessed by one person.

- a riddle that was hardest to create?

of the ones I have posted thus far, or of the legion of riddles still in stock? XD Of those posted… #21? I don’t know anymore XD

- your favourite chapter of your story?

Easy! Chapter 7, part 2! That is the one which gives us an insight into the Marrin (northern) culture by means of a lullaby (which I have created, both text as well as music, and have posted recently), ánd it answers one of the most tricky questions for an Algoroth to solve: “Should the time come when they can no longer approach someone in disguise and get their information, or get them to do something, or whatever, and should the time come when an Algoroth must approach someone in the full authority and might of his rank... how?”

A Brother's Blade - chapter 7 (part 2/2)[chapter 7, part 2]
Dorohen sneaks through the hallways, passing the guards completely unseen. When he hears a soft, wheezing murmuring, he presses himself against the wall and waits patiently. The Algoroth sees an old little man walk by. Behind him, he pulls a cart, whilst softly uttering curses in his creaking voice. The odd man passes the Algoroth with only five feet in between them, but he doesn’t seem to notice him. Seem.
Ten feet further down the hallway, Skerin stops and turns around. “What the…?” he murmurs, but the remainders of the candlelight only illuminates an empty corner. Skerin feels a cold shiver run down his spine. “Whatever…” he murmurs, and he continues on his way.
Dorohen steps out of a different shadow and stares down the hallway the old man took. He nods, turns, and looks curiously at the hallway the man came from. He checks the cover in front of his face one last time, before going on.
He has already found two other hall

- any other piece of writing you would like to share with us and why?

Well, the teaser to my other book, the one I’ve written because I wanted to take a break from the Algoroth Saga to keep my mind and the Saga fresh: Mirkveidr. It is a story about a man in our modern day world, but with only one difference: those beings from the millennia-old folk tales? They exist. And they are dangerous. But when you go out into the street and tell people you hunt monsters for a living, you either get a reality tv-show, or a tight, white shirt and a room with matrasses on the walls ;) (Wink)

Mirkveidr teaser, part 1-3Chapter 1
The Netherlands,
July 2013

The streets are abandoned. Not a single person is in sight and every possible sign of life is lost in the thick haze of rain that seems to fall everywhere. In the streets, the light is limited to its source and even though the curtain of downpour does not reach under the overhangs and the roofed-over alleys in between the houses, the fog completes the concealment.
People have already shut their windows and everyone is inside, in front of the television, their computer, or a book. Only for the most essential things people go out. And everything that isn’t essential… they’ll get to that in a day. Or two. Whenever the rain finally stops.
Somewhere in one of the more narrow streets, a single person walks. He has hidden himself deep inside his long, dark raincoat, which reaches all the way down to his ankles and which only shows his dark boots as he walks. The man glances at the street in front of him, and behind, but sees

What key people in your life, (on or off of dA) have been inspirations to you, or has supported you, as an artist? You can also tell us why, if you want.

I have enjoyed/am enjoying the support and honest critique of some great friends and of course my family. 
Here on DA, I have to give a shoutout to two people most of all:
0athSworn, a dear friend of mine and one who has gifted us with her Strangers trilogy, which I absolutely love!
Eardaneth, a 'fan' from the very beginning and overall Riddle-Master. His feedback, as well as his investment in my riddles are a huge morale boost and encourage me to keep up the quality and quantity of my content.
And further on everyone who watches, has viewed, and has commented on my content. If I were to get no feedback whatsoever on my work, I don't think I would continue much longer. The amount of it has blown away my wildest expectations and has reinforced the reason I write: to entertain people!

Is there some artist(s) at dA you know, who doesn't have as much attention as they would deserve? If yes, could you give us some thumbnails from their gallery?

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0athSworn, definitely. I can honestly state that I'm a big fan of her trilogy!

Is there something else you would like to tell to the fans of Tolkien and your writing and riddles?

Read and reread ;) (Wink)
Things are not always what they seem the first time around. And by reading things again, you may notice the small details, and a whole bigger world may open up to you.

That was the last question, thank you for your time and answers!

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