The Case of the Mirrored Image…

March 2017

by Jeremy P

 

“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward… Now, this was a case in which you were given a result, and you had to find everything else for yourself.” – Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

The archaeologist resurrects the past from available evidence found in the present. It’s not an easy job. Often the story is told only through small details, and the archaeologist has to piece together the small bits they find into a larger narrative. For a great example of this, be sure to check out some of the video interviews with Forrest, l ike this one in which tiny marks on a bone suggests that ancient peoples may have had to eat horses when times were tough. It’s pretty cool what all you can figure out from a few small marks.
https://dalneitzel.com/video/fishing/sl03.html

Dr. Jones said, “Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”, and it’s the same in the Chase, but you all know that already.
It’s winter. If you’re out in the woods, you shouldn’t be. So while it’s no grand adventure, let’s have some fun.

We’re going to try and resurrect the past, in some small way. We’re going to turn back time and try to figure out what an original artwork looked like, from what we find in the present, using one of the well-known illustrations in T he Thrill of the Chase. We’re going to take this image and rebuild it as the artist originally intended.

First, some context. Mirrors, reflections, reversing, these topics are so on the minds of searchers these days, based on comments from Forrest in the past year. Most searchers are watching videos on Youtube about the “backwards bike”. They’re digging up scrapbooks in which Forrest shared pictures of his bathroom mirror. They’re wondering about mirrors in the chest. They’re pondering quotes from the book like, “…if any readers over the age of twelve don’t see a little of themselves in this mirror…”

Mirrors are hot right now, but did you know… there is actually a mirrored image in the book? There’s just the one, it’s on page 146, and if you don’t look twice you may miss it.

This is the image as published in The Thrill of the Chase, on page 146. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything curious about it. Those who have read the book have considered whether it holds clues, but on its own it simply seems to be an illustration about the environment, similar in theme to the Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise and putting up parking lots.

Look closer, however, and you may begin to notice some oddities. Most of the people I’ve talked to, when asked, eventually notice that some of the tree stumps have been duplicated. Fewer, still, notice that this image is a mirrored one.

The left edge of the sky in the image is exactly the same as the edge of the right side.
So, let’s keep things straight. I don’t want to start any clue-mongering. I think we can reasonably say that the mirroring in this image is the work of the graphic artist who placed the image on the page, and not the original illustrator (presumably, Allen Polt, as listed in the credits), and it’s probably not a clue from Forrest in a conspiracy with the artist himself.

How do we know this?

We know it was the graphic artist who mirrored the edges, because a space for a tree stump is copied on the left side, where there is no tree stump, with exactly the same edges as the space on the right, where there is a tree stump. The illustrator didn’t do that. It’s clearly a Photoshop job, post-illustration, pre-press.

What I’m interested in — what we’re endeavoring to do, in fact — is to determine whether or not we can figure out exactly what the original image was, before it was doctored. We want to see if we can reconstruct the original image and bring it back from the past.
Got it? Great! Let’s get to work!

What we don’t know, yet, is which edge of this mirrored image is the original edge. We’ll need to know that in order to reconstruct the original image.

For now, let’s skip over the question of edges, just for a moment, and look at the tree stumps in the foreground.

As we can see, several of the tree stumps are duplicates. The copies are color coded here. Which ones are copies, and which are the original, is a little difficult to determine, but not so much if you think it through.

There are two types of images that graphic artists work with, vector and raster images. Vector images are scalable because they are just paths, so like between “x” and “y” fill the path with black. These are great for logos where you don’t know if it’ll be a small image on a phone or a big image on a billboard. Line drawings, solid shapes, those are all good for vector images. Photos, not so much.

Raster images are made up of individual pixels. They don’t scale well, especially when trying to make them larger. We’ve all seen pixelated images of small graphics blown up big, and those are raster graphics. These are raster graphics, the illustrations in the book.
But here, in this image, we have clean lines. This suggests they haven’t been scaled up. In fact, they have probably been scaled down, as we have another clue in the line thickness, or weight. Notice that most have similar line thickness, but some are lighter than others. The line weight suggests that the copies are the smaller ones, because the lines are thinner.

Great! We’ve made progress. Let’s remove the ones we can determine are copies, based on line weight. These are the smaller red and blue ones. Here’s the result:

Notice that the ones that were marked green and orange haven’t been removed. That’s because we don’t have any basis for determining which of those are the original, and which have been duplicated… at least not yet.

Now, let’s turn our attention back to those edges of the sky. Can you figure out which one is the original edge?

They are nearly identical, so don’t feel bad if you can’t figure it out right away. OK, I’m not really being fair. It’s a trick question.

Truth is, neither the left side, nor the right side, is the original edge. It’s this green dotted line shown here. Wait, what? You’re wondering, “Where did that come from?” Bear with me. It is the original edge. Here’s how we know…

The six stars highlighted by the green circles are all the same set of two stars. If you have the book, check it out. It’s obvious once you know what you’re looking at.

There’s other “registration points” in the ink strokes and minor white space, as well, but these six are the most noticeable.

These stars give away that what we have is the exact same pattern on the left, twice, and once on the right. This leaves us three potential original edges, and we have to decide which is the correct one.

Well, obviously, we know that one of the two on the left isn’t the original, and we know that it can’t be the outer one on the left, because that leaves the inner left duplicate pattern unaccounted for. There’d be, like, a gaping hole there. It’s not rocket science.

But now that we know that we are justified in doing so, let’s remove the outer edge duplicate, the two stars on the farthest left and the matching pattern that surrounds it.

What we’re left with is what we know to be the original face of the left side, and what the graphic artist gave us as the edge of the right side.

The second set of stars on the left were kept as is, and the reconstructed edge was found in the ink marks. Again, if you have the book you can follow along. These small scans don’t show the marks in great detail.

However, If you look very close at the illustration on page 146, you can see a little indentation here, a duplicated ink stroke there. Hidden in all of this is everything we need to find the original line marked above in green.

OK, still with me? So, now that we have this somewhat awkward looking image, we also have a very new question. When trying to deconstruct what the graphic artist made, and reconstruct what the original illustrator made, we’re forced to ask…

Did the graphic artist flip the right side to the left side at some point? It’s a fair question. Although we’ve found that the left side had at least one copied pattern, maybe both patterned areas were copies, originally from the right side. So, the question, was our reconstructed left side copied from the right side of the original?

The answer is, No. How do we know?

This little line here tells us. It’s not a natural line. Drawn from left to right, it stops abruptly at the arrow, then starts again and ends at the stump that we can clearly see is the same stump from the left side of the image.

The two stumps, the one on the left, and the one on the right, are the same, so which is the original?

If you trace this little line on the left side of the image, it flows naturally. If you trace the line on the right side, it doesn’t. The one on the left, of course, is the correct original line, and the stump on the left is the correct original tree stump.

Further, if you look at the image on page 146, this non-natural line’s “bump” coincides with a darker ink stroke extending upward. Everything to the right of the darker stroke is a duplicated pattern from the left image, everything to the left of the stroke is not that pattern, it’s “new” image.

Now we’re really making progress!

We can follow this line and reconstruct the original right edge of the illustration and remove the copied edge.

It’s not an exact science, but this is more or less the original, non-mirrored, right edge of the illustration.

And now we can clearly see which of the remaining duplicate stumps are original stumps, and which are copies that should be removed.

We remove the final stumps, leaving only the original stumps, the original left edge of the illustration, and the original right edge of the illustration.

Finally, like a ghost from circa-2010, we have a glimpse of the original illustration. Let’s recap…

This is the illustration that was constructed by the graphic artist, from the original illustration provided by (presumably) Allen Polt, published on page 146 in The Thrill of the Chase.

As we’ve seen, when looked at closely, it’s been changed in several ways from the original artwork. Through analysis, we’ve determined exactly what steps the graphic artist took in constructing this image, and working backwards from the published image we were able to reconstruct the original work.

We found evidence that both sides were actually extended, using the left edge of the original work. The right side was augmented. The left side was the augmented. But even as the left side of the original work was used, it was copied and pasted to both sides, and the original left became left, right, and also left-left.

It was challenging, but we did it. Like archaeologists, we’ve built a time machine and peeked into the past.

You’ve been patient long enough, so let’s have a look at the original work by the original artist! Here it is, The Original Illustration…

It’s possible that the original work has some minor differences from what we were able to reconstruct, but we should be fairly certain that if said artwork ever surfaces we’d be pretty close, if not spot on, in our reconstruction.

To me, this version looks more like the style of other images in the book. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to draw similarities between it and, say, the image on page 41 of the book. There’s a similar rounded side on the right, and a straighter edge on the left.
Now all we need is Allen Polt’s autograph to make it complete.

OK, you’ve all been really great on this adventure. As a reward, you can now let your imaginations wander!

Why was the image expanded from the original work???
Was the illustrator OK with the changes???
Did Forrest even know the graphic artist made the changes??? Is the mirroring a clue???

Unfortunately we can’t answer these questions with just the physical evidence we find in the final published image. But, hey, that’s what imagination is for, and maybe that’s why it’s so much more important. Imagination fills these gaps between knowledge, which are like enormous canyons waiting to be filled.

Go fill them up! Jeremy P.