I've been using gimp for awhile now and have had great success using it
to retouch about a zillion scans of old family photographs. but other than
then few things I need in order to do that (paintbrush, clone tool, rotate
tool and crop) I am still largely ignorant of how to use gimp.  (There's
just so much functionality in there, and I'm sure that I don't even have
any use for about 90% of it.)

Anyway, a relative just sent me an old old family photo that some nitwit,
perhaps a generation or two ago, did some seriously violence to with a pair
of scissors.  To salvage this one and to make it look presentable I really
need to be able to take the scan I have of it and crop it into a oval shape.
(Yes, it is a portrait.)

So anyway, how do I do this?  It isn't obviously.  I already did manage to
figure out how to make a selection of the exact size and shape (and location)
of oval that I want, and I _did_ make a selection like that... at least I
_thought_ that I did... but then when I did crop-to-selection I ended up
with the picture cropped to a rectangular shape, where the rectangle in
question is, quite apparently, the rectangle which only and exactly contained
the oval that I had selected earlier.

So um, could some kind soul instruct me here?  I'm obviously lost and should
probably spend a couple of hours reading the manual, but I guess you could
say that I am looking for that ever elusive "Royal Road to Geometry".
(Too bad I can't just download the whole Gimp manual direct into my brain,
like Trinity did for that Bell 212 helicopter.)

I'm sort-of guessing that what I really want is gonna end up being another
one of these things that ends up involving multiple layers... yes?  I mean
of course, what I _really_ want to end up with is an image that _is_ in fact
a rectangle, but everything outside of my selected oval has to end up being
painted total white (255).


P.S.  This is a strictly B&W image, BTW... just like all really old family
photographs everywhere.

P.P.S.  For bonus points, somebody please also explain to me how to fade
the edges of the oval slowly to white.  that would be really cool, and
would, I'm sure, impress the bejesus out of some of my relatives.
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