The pictures and sketches of JRR Tolkien
September 16, 2009 12:01 PM   Subscribe

In Soviet Russia, copyright abide by you!
posted by not_on_display at 12:06 PM on September 16, 2009

I'm always a fan of his work. Now if only I could make my initials look so cool.
posted by Atreides at 12:09 PM on September 16, 2009

Should point out there are some by other artists in there too.
posted by nthdegx at 12:11 PM on September 16, 2009

Also from the same site: To the children of J. R. R. Tolkien, the interest and importance of Father Christmas extended beyond his filling of their stockings on Christmas Eve; for he wrote a letter to them every year, in which he described in words and pictures his house, and his friends, and the events, hilarious or alarming, at the North Pole.
posted by not_on_display at 12:13 PM on September 16, 2009

The illustrations in the link and in the editions of The Hobbit and LOTR that I've read always make the Shire and Rivendell way more muted and way less green than I imagine. Now that I think about it, the grass in the Teletubbies is kinda more yellow than one might expect. Does the UK just have mostly yellow grass?
posted by ignignokt at 12:24 PM on September 16, 2009

Man clearly loved himself some Aubrey Beardsley.
posted by Naberius at 1:14 PM on September 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by rainperimeter at 1:28 PM on September 16, 2009

Does the UK just have mostly yellow grass?

Having just visited West Sussex where there is lots of grass, I would say no. But then, I'm from California, where the grass is very yellow nine months out of the year.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:29 PM on September 16, 2009

Having taken the train from London to Bristol, no, the grass is quite green.
posted by Bugbread at 2:38 PM on September 16, 2009

Seconding the Beardsley influence - though would Tolkien have approved of Beardsley? See also...

the grass in the Teletubbies is kinda more yellow than one might expect.

Really? Not sure it's actual grass anyway.
posted by Phanx at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2009

Maybe it's obvious to others, but only after I paged through once did I realized that where more than one work is described in the caption, click on the art to see the other pieces being described.

nthdegx I don't see works by anyone else, except for the coloured versions of some of the black and white drawings, which is credited.
posted by zadcat at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2009

Thirdig the Beardsley influence. At the same time some of them, at least to me, recall very closely some illustrations of Roger Dean. Not just in the fantasy-themed landscapes, but also in the composition, the shapes and even the architecture.
posted by _dario at 5:46 PM on September 16, 2009

Not_on_display, Letters from Father Christmas is one of my favorite works by Tolkien. It gave me a whole new perspective on his relationship to storytelling, to his children, to the genesis of the hobbit and how it relates to the LOTR, etc.

It was never intended to be a book, and it's not, really. It's just a collection of letters and drawings that he created for his children when they were growing up. But it's really wonderful.
posted by alms at 6:30 PM on September 16, 2009

alms - it is indeed a wonderful book if you can find the original edition. I can't find the one I had growing up, and have had to settle for a revised edition which doesn't contain all of the letters, or even all of each individual letter, which is a damned shame.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:23 PM on September 16, 2009

The way the JPEGs load from the top reminds me of the Spectrum game I spent so many hours playing. Also, thanks for the hint, zadcat!
posted by nowonmai at 8:21 PM on September 16, 2009

I think I've seen most, if not all, of these before (I even had the 1970's calendars in which they were reprinted), but seeing them again makes me think, again, what I remember thinking even as a very young reader -

Tolkien was probably the WORST person to draw illustrations for his own works. He somehow managed in his pictures - especially in any of them that included actual characters - to completely destroy all of the wonder, enchantment and imagination that he created with his words. I still remember my first reaction to seeing the drawing of the pipe-smoking Bilbo in Bag End, and the ones of him riding the barrels down the river - "That is NOT a Hobbit! I know what a Hobbit looks like, and it's NOT that! Oh, and those are not trolls, either!!!! I don't CARE if he wrote the books!"

Authors should not illustrate their own works. J.R.R. Tolkien, QED.
posted by yhbc at 9:20 PM on September 16, 2009

All of these drawings and more are in this book, which has graced many a coffee table in my various residences over the years. I am huge fan of this stuff.
posted by naoko at 10:03 PM on September 16, 2009

yhbc, I would agree generally that Tolkien's vision of his own work was sometimes problematic for me, and I have preferred other illustrators. (I also really enjoy most of the movies.) But what stands out for me is that his artwork is very akin to his literary output, which is intentionally a facsimile of a nonexistent historical work. The illustrations -- particularly some of the landscapes -- are very reminiscent of things one might see in ancient texts such as the Edda. Tolkien wanted the visual experience of reading a long-lost work of history literature.
posted by dhartung at 10:05 PM on September 16, 2009

The illustrations are pleasant, at times beautiful, but they don't add anything to the stories, for me. And I don't like his sense of scale, either. Take Bilbo, standing in the entry hall of Bagend, the door open. How is a hobbit to reach that door knob? Also, the illustration shows buildings in Hobiton, with upper floor windows. For hobbits?! The colored version even added some dormer windows in a roof!

Orthanc: I'm just sorry. My own vision of Orthanc still is my preferred. It was described as having strangely smooth walls, and having been built with lost technology. My version looked more like something from our own time, but minimalistic. I will admit, my vision of much from the stories is always completely unrealistic in scale, my ideas being scaled way down. Unless, perhaps, my notions are rooted in walking distances, as described.
posted by Goofyy at 11:57 PM on September 16, 2009

Authors should not illustrate their own works.

I disagree. Why shouldn't they? They are just as entitled to illustrate their perception of their own works as are others. One wonders what you think of William Blake and his contribution to illustrating his own poetry.
posted by juiceCake at 7:39 AM on September 17, 2009

Legal path clear for Hobbit movie
posted by homunculus at 8:52 AM on September 17, 2009

JRR Tolkien trained as British spy
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on September 17, 2009

Yes Goofyy, they don't add anything for me either. But they do remind me of various vast, eldrich feelings I had around different places when I was young. This watercolour of Nargothrond, which I haven't seen before, is a great example - it appeals to some subterranean fantasy I didn't know I was keeping. It seems both realistic and otherworldly at the same time.

The whole scene around the Gates of Moria, either in the book or the film, strikes a similar chord/association. It's so strong that it's almost physical, and I always marvel at how he managed that.
posted by sneebler at 6:52 PM on September 17, 2009

Not another fucking elf!
posted by Wolof at 1:23 AM on September 18, 2009

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