The Anduin - Parth Galen
'Wandering aimlessly at first in the wood, Frodo found that his feet
were leading him up towards the slopes of the hill.
He came to a path, the dwindling ruins of a road of long ago.
In steep places stairs of stone had been hewn,
but now they were cracked and worn, and split by the roots of trees.
For some while he climbed, not caring which way he went...'
(The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, page 515)
"In steep places stairs of stone had been hewn..."
That's what Tolkien tells us about the hillside below the Seat of Seeing, on Amon Hen. And no more. In the movie, however, the area around Parth Galen seems to be strewed with ancient ruins - vestiges of a glorious Númenórean past. Grave-faced statues, column heads, fragments of ribbed vaults and even a gigantic, bodiless head are standing or lying, moss-grown and smothered in foliage, in the half-dusk beneath the trees. A triple archway that wouldn't have been out of place on top of Amon Sûl pops up in the middle of nowhere...
And there's this kind of gatehouse, built around a few flights of stairs that seem to lead further up the hill. It appears on screen in a split second when Frodo takes his stroll in the park to meditate on the flight plan. Now in our opinion there wasn't a direct need for the Weta set designers to add this particular ruin to the Parth Galen collection; there's already so much action in this part of the movie that the Amon Hen building and the Weathertop spolia would have sufficed to dress up the site. That they did it all the same, underscores their ambition to make every corner of Middle-earth look as interesting and authentic as possible.
So, what is it? In the Fellowship-movie, the camera angle leaves scope for the presumption that the stairway forms part of a greater complex: a sanctuary or a palace. For us, the design reminds us of the propylaia, the monumental entrance to the Acropolis in Athens. The architecture is breathing its Númenórean origins: one recognizes the doubled (Egyptian-like) 'Narsil-motif' in the masonry of the walls. Peter Jackson must have had a bigger vision when he read Tolkien's line about the "path" and the "stairs of stone": "People don't realize that this hill was once a much grander structure, the seeing-seat on top of Amon Hen was the climax of an ancient place of worship in the Númenórean days [...]. So we evoked that by putting these polystyrene ruins all throughout the hillside."
The 'Appendices' do provide a clearer image of the building. Apart from the actual stairway there are a couple of walls and an archway, built in zigzag-mode. Next to the steps there's also a kind of sarcophagus (?) with a single broken flagstone: some nasty grave-robbery must have happened here in the past... (eh-eh, gollum! Gollum!) In short: a lovely ruin for a model maker. In search of a small scenery project we picked this gem from our still-to-do list (we might return to Amon Hen some day soon: already we have drooled over these bird's head sphinxes that come with the Seat of Seeing!).
We really should have used some 'Woodland Scenics' stuff to plant a forest around our ruin - yet we may, Mr. Frodo, we may. Instead, we brought forth our battered Barad-dûr backdrop to create a kind of Mussorgskian 'Night on Bald Mountain' atmosphere. You'll have to do with that until we've set up our own LSB Greens Department.
'Rock & Stone', remember?
Aragorn: "Do you not know, Boromir,
or do you choose to forget the North Stair,
and the high seat upon Amon Hen,
that were made in the days of the great kings?
I at least have a mind to stand in that high place again,
before I decide my further course."
(The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring, page 507)