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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – And Back Again, to Bag-End**


Feb 25 2007, 9:45pm

Post #1 of 15 (667 views)
**JRRT: Artist & Illustrator. The Hobbit, Part II – And Back Again, to Bag-End** Can't Post

Hammond and Scull note that “Tolkien was less artistically inspired by the final chapters of The Hobbit, which are full of action or which retrace Bilbo’s road as he returns to Hobbiton.” So for Chapters 15 to 19, they point out, there are only two sketches total, of which only one got published.

In sections of five chapters, The Hobbit’s page and picture count and ratio is:
1-5, 100 pp, 4 pictures = 1:25 pictures per page
6-10, 110 pp, 5 pictures = 1:22 “
11-15, 65 pp, 2 pictures = 1:32 “
16-19, 30 pp, 1 picture = 1:30 “

Do you think Tolkien ran out of artistic steam for the last five chapters out of nineteen, as Hammond and Scull imply? Should we be thinking, as the editors obviously are, of the number of pictures Tolkien started, not the number he published?

What scenes in the latter part of The Hobbit do you wish Tolkien had illustrated?

In any case, after the death of Smaug, there really are only two illustrations left to consider in this collection. Tolkien began, very roughly, to sketch out an idea for one of the most dramatic moments in the entire book, the coming of the Eagles to the Battle of Five Armies:

From The Hobbit, Chapter XVII, ‘The Clouds Burst”:
[Bilbo] had taken his stand on Ravenhill among the Elves-partly because there was more chance of escape from that point, and partly (with the more Tookish part of his mind) because if he was going to be in a last desperate stand, he preferred on the whole to defend the Elvenking. Gandalf, too, I may say, was there, sitting on the ground as if in deep thought, preparing, I suppose, some last blast of magic before the end. That did not seem far off.
The clouds were torn by the wind, and a red sunset slashed the West. Seeing the sudden gleam in the gloom Bilbo looked round. He gave a great cry: he had seen a sight that made his heart leap, dark shapes small yet majestic against the distant glow.
"The Eagles! The Eagles!" he shouted. "The Eagles are coming!"
Bilbo's eyes were seldom wrong. The eagles were coming down the wind, line after line, in such a host as must have gathered from all the eyries of the North.

138. The Coming of the Eagles
Click here for a larger view.

What can you identify? What is the point of view? What is that black smoosh?

Should Tolkien have pressed on and tried to complete this sketch?

Hmm. Well, perhaps that’s a good example of why Tolkien didn’t try to do any more illustrations of the “action-packed” end of his book. What he did do, is another all time favorite, both quirky and charming:

From The Hobbit, Chapter I, ‘An Unexpected Party”:

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors.
As soon as the door was opened, he pushed inside, just as if he had been expected.
He hung his hooded cloak on the nearest peg, and "Dwalin at your service!" he said with a low bow.

From The Hobbit, Chapter XIX, ‘The Last Stage”:

He was quite content; and the sound of the kettle on his hearth was ever after more musical than it had been even in the quiet days before the Unexpected Party. His sword he hung over the mantelpiece. His coat of mail was arranged on a stand in the hall (until he lent it to a Museum).

Here, for kicks, I’ll introduce guest artist John Howe, whose well-known Bag-End is a first-class homage to Tolkien’s:

139. The Hall at Bag-End (published in The Hobbit); and Bag-End by John Howe.
Click here and here, respectively, for larger views.

Howe is a professional illustrator, Tolkien was an amateur. How can we tell?

What do Howe and Tolkien agree on? What do they disagree on? Which do you like better?

Hammond and Scull note that Bilbo could not possibly reach his own doorknob. Why might Howe have left Bilbo out of his version?

Where did the mail coat and sword go in Tolkien’s drawing? And check out Bilbo’s hat! (shapeless what . . . ?)

Part of the difference is that Howe is painting in color. How’s Howe in black and white?

Another difference is simply the development of illustrative styles over the years. What might professional illustrators of Tolkien’s own time have made of Bag-End? Can you name any favorite illustrators from the 1930s (or maybe a little earlier or later!) that you wish could have tried to illustrate The Hobbit?

Why in the end did Allen & Unwin (and Houghton Mifflin) agree that Tolkien’s illustrations were worthy of publication?

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


Feb 25 2007, 10:01pm

Post #2 of 15 (466 views)
Howe [In reply to] Can't Post

clearly used Tolkien's own illustration as a starting point, though he did deviate in using some Alpine influences (he does live in Switzerland) in the carving, etc.

The scale problem is one that clearly shows Tolkien is an amateur artist, but i think it is also telling that Tolkien himself had trouble visualizing the Hobbits.

I have always wanted to see how Pauline Baynes would have illustrated The Hobbit. She captured the whimsy and pseudo-medievalism of Farmer Giles so well that I believe she would have created some beautiful images of Rivendell, Mirkwood, Lake-town, and the Lonely Mountain.

(Formerly drogo of the two names!)

N.E. Brigand

Feb 25 2007, 10:01pm

Post #3 of 15 (470 views)
Twice as many pages in early chapters? [In reply to] Can't Post

Perhaps you already mentioned this, but I find it remarkable to learn that Chapters 1-10, which takes the story through the feasting at Laketown, are on average 21 pages long, while Chapters 11-19, including Smaug and the Battle of Five Armies, average only 10 pages each.

Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.


Feb 26 2007, 12:11am

Post #4 of 15 (483 views)
Pauline Baynes did illustrate The Hobbit in Bilbo's Last Song. [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed that book is much more about Baynes' illustrations than Tolkien's poem. The scenes from The Hobbit are small, but appear at the bottom of every page. The larger illustrations at the top of the page are scenes from the last chapter of LotR.


Feb 26 2007, 12:17am

Post #5 of 15 (456 views)
I've never seen that one [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not a professional Tolkien collector, so I know there are gaps in what I have! I wondered if there was a Baynes-illustrated one after I posted that, but never checked. Thanks, will have to get it.

(Formerly drogo of the two names!)

(This post was edited by drogo on Feb 26 2007, 12:20am)


Feb 26 2007, 12:34am

Post #6 of 15 (471 views)
Pauline Baynes Smaug [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's her version of Smaug:

ink drawing by JRRT


Feb 26 2007, 12:50am

Post #7 of 15 (467 views)
Pauline Baynes [In reply to] Can't Post

I love Pauline Bayne's Smaug! Though he isn't too terrifying more sardonic.

I remember having a Tolkien calender with his Smaug picture in it. I do like it even if it is not a "realistic"

I also wanted to reassure everyone that I am reading the posts, I'm just really poor at posting sometimes. I am
working hard on my discussion as well.


Feb 26 2007, 1:13am

Post #8 of 15 (446 views)
Her Smaug seems similar to Tolkien's [In reply to] Can't Post

Baynes's version is a little more polished, and doesn't have all the interesting peripheral details, but Smaug is curled protectively on top the gold the same way as Tolkien drew him, and has the same heavy, almond shaped eyes. In both versions, I can almost hear Smaug's voice, "You have nice manners for a thief and a liar."


A day without sunshine is like, you know, night


Feb 26 2007, 1:18am

Post #9 of 15 (458 views)
Howe reduces the scale of the room by enlarging the furniture. [In reply to] Can't Post

Although Bilbo is not shown, by implication he could easily reach the doorknob. Howe also strengthens the beams on the roof, making it more plausible that the roof holds up a whole hill of dirt. He brings in more light by adding two windows, and shows the light coming in from the windows and open door. Without the windows there would little light when the door is closed. Howe is careful to show Bag End at the time of day when maximum light would come in the doorway and windows. Tolkien didn't worry about that level of realism.

As for other illustrators, I've always liked Maxfield Parish and N.C. Wyeth, although they are more in the realist school. I do like Pauline Baynes, who is not so realistic. But I also wish I could see a full set of illustrations by Cor Blok, who makes no attempt to be realistic. I understand he made many illustrations which were sold privately, and never published.


Feb 26 2007, 2:56am

Post #10 of 15 (471 views)
Parrish and Wyeth [In reply to] Can't Post

would both have done brilliant, and quite different, Hobbits.

Parrish might have overwhelmed Tolkien's material, his technique is so precious; though I would die to see his Hobbit landscapes, his characters might have been a bit twee.

Wyeth would have brought out every ounce of grit and medieval realism in The Hobbit. I think Tolkien would have liked him better.

They were, however, world-famous illustrators in their time. I'm sure such an odd tale by so obscure an author would never have gotten past their agents, or whoever.

Great comments on Howe's attention to light, something that Tolkien almost never uses at all (Bilbo Comes to the Huts is a fabulous exception).

squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary

Grey Havens

Feb 26 2007, 5:22am

Post #11 of 15 (435 views)
Interesting! [In reply to] Can't Post

Has there been any other discussion of the notion that Tolkien himself might have had trouble visualizing hobbits, though he described them in words?

What I noticed in Tolkien's drawing, besides the mismatch of scale between the hall and its occupant, is that the painting on the left wall seems to be curved (to match the curve of the wall), while the items on the right hang as one would expect them. Is this deliberate? It's certainly odd.

N.E. Brigand

Feb 26 2007, 7:46am

Post #12 of 15 (443 views)
Looking forward to it. [In reply to] Can't Post

Don't forget to chime in on Altaira's March roll-call thread.

Detail from earliest version of Thror's MapTolkien Illustrated! Jan. 29-May 20: Visit the Reading Room to discuss art by John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith and others, including Tolkien himself.

Feb. 19-25: The Hobbit.

Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 27 2007, 2:22am

Post #13 of 15 (428 views)
The objects on the right [In reply to] Can't Post

It would be difficult to curve a clock; and I've imagined that the "picture" on the right concealed some sort of cabinet. Hiding-place for a little bottle of Old Winyards and a couple of glasses, perhaps?

Tolkien did have trouble in drawing his Hobbits to match his descriptions. From Letter #27 to the Houghton Mifflin Company (March/April 1938), "I am afraid, if you will need drawings of hobbits in various attitudes, I must leave it in the hands of someone who can draw. My own pictures are an unsafe guide - e.g. the picture of Mr. Baggins in Chapter VI [with the Eagle] and XII [with Smaug]. The very ill-drawn one in Chapter XIX [at Bag End] is a better guide than these in general impressions."

So - he thought that this one was closest of all to Bilbo! (And either he's forgotten about the hairy feet, or Bilbo's foot-fur is very light blonde...)

Still 'round the corner there may wait
A new road, or a secret gate...


Feb 28 2007, 10:30pm

Post #14 of 15 (418 views)
Yay, got my copy already! [In reply to] Can't Post

Bless you Ebay sellers. I really like the little Hobbit vignettes. They remind me of her Narnia illustrations, but they are in her later style which I like even better.

A great book, thx for the head's up on this one!

(Formerly drogo of the two names!)


Mar 1 2007, 3:27pm

Post #15 of 15 (480 views)
You are welcome. I'm glad you like it. Anyone who likes Baynes' drawings [In reply to] Can't Post

of Tolkien scenes certainly should get it. Maybe I'll see if I can find Baynes' map of Middle-earth on ebay. But I don't think I'm going to buy the Dutch LotR with Cor Blok's covers, or Finnish or Swedish translations The Hobbit with Tove Jansson's illustrations, although they would be kind of cool.


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