Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Art of The Hobbit

This is the predecessor of the book I reviewed yesterday, The Art of The Lord of the Rings.  The title of this book is The Art of the Hobbit This one is a shorter read but is still packed with valuable information about Tolkien the writer and illustrator.

From Amazon.com:

When J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, he was already an accomplished amateur artist, and drew illustrations for his book while it was still in manuscript. The Hobbit as first printed had ten black-and-white pictures, two maps, and binding and dust jacket designs by its author. Later, Tolkien also painted five scenes for color plates, which comprise some of his best work. His illustrations for The Hobbit add an extra dimension to that remarkable book, and have long influenced how readers imagine Bilbo Baggins and his world.

Written and edited by leading Tolkien experts Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull,
The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien showcases the complete artwork created by the author for his story—including related pictures, more than one hundred sketches, drawings, paintings, maps, and plans. Some of these images are published here for the first time, others for the first time in color, allowing Tolkien’s Hobbit pictures to be seen completely and more vividly than ever before.

Topics covered include: 

Bag-End Underhill -This section is a collection of different paintings and sketches of Bilbo's front door
The Hill: Hobbiton -A broader view of the homely society Bilbo is reluctant to leave
A Letter to Bilbo -Drafts of script (Tengwar) used by Thorin in his "important" letter requesting Bilbo to meet them so they can get on with their adventure
The Trolls -Tolkien's vision of the three bumbling characters who mark Bilbos first "successful adventure"
Rivendell -Beautiful paintings of my favorite of the Elven realms in the Third Age
Thror's Map -Many, many drafts of a map Tolkien viewed as essential to the story.
The Misty Mountains -Including the fight between rock giants!
Beorn's Hall -Unique drawings of a unique place
Mirkwood -As the chapter title suggests, this is a collection of all of the Professor's work on the creepy forest of Mirkwood
The Elvenking's Gate -This included some sketches of the ancient elven city of Nargothrond (much to my delight!) which Thranduil based his halls around
The Forest River -An unexpected journey in barrels, illustrated fantastically (pun intended)
Lake-town -Maps of the relationship between Esgaroth and the Lonely Mountain
The Front Gate -That is, the entrance used by the dwarves to get into the mountain; it was much bigger than I had originally imagined it
"Conversation with Smaug" by J.R.R. Tolkien is one
of the many illustrations included in The Art of The Hobbit
Conversation with Smaug -The best illustration I can find of a dragon on his hoard by Tolkien, and featuring Bilbo with his Ring on
Smaug Flies Around the Mountain -This section is very ominous and foreboding, but whimsical at the same time
Death of Smaug -Even when a dragon is falling to its death it still looks good when Tolkien draws it
The Lonely Mountain and the Long Lake -This is exactly what it sounds like
Wilderland -Maps of the way between the Shire and the Lonely Mountain as well as a few sketches
The Hall at Bag-End -Finally, back at home in his nice cozy home, Bilbo relaxes
Binding Designs -Allen & Unwin publishers finally agree with Tolkien on one of his original designs!
Dust-jacket Art -The dust-jacket for the first edition is outlined
Portraits of Bilbo -Tolkien stated he had little skill in drawing humans and much preferred landscapes; however, he did venture into doing a few portraits of Bilbo Baggins which are included here

Overall, I felt this book, like The Art of the Lord of the Rings, offered good insight into Tolkien's writing process and the way that he envisioned things.  Unlike it's sister-book, this work has more of Tolkien's illustrations that he actually meant to publish whereas The Art of LOTR included many small pencil sketches he only used for his own reference.  It appears Professor Tolkien did a considerably large amount of artwork for his first real novel--certainly much more than in for his more mature work, The Lord of the Rings.

This was a remarkably quick read and I think the authors put in just the right amount of commentary to balance the pictures without overshadowing the actual illustrations themselves.  One of my favorite things was (similar to the other book) the translation of the runes that Tolkien used in his drawings.  I have often wondered what they might mean, and now I know!  Another thing I really enjoyed was actually the Introduction, which outlined very clearly the process Tolkien went through that ultimately led to him writing and publishing his first venture into Middle-earth (though he didn't know it at the time).

This book is probably best suited for aspiring writers so that they can see some of the strategies that one of the best writers of the twentieth century used.  It also would be a great addition to any art-lovers collection, and for my part, I love it because it is a work of Tolkien and the editors clearly shared my love for his work.

I wonder if they will ever get around to putting together a volume of Tolkien's work based around The Silmarillion stories.  I wonder if Tolkien actually did work based on The Silmarillion.  I know he considered it his greatest work, and for my part, it is my favorite to draw out.  Hmm...

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