Monday, March 14, 2016

The Art of The Lord of the Rings

Yay, another book down!  This time it was a quick read with lots of pictures (obviously...) and I'm here to tell you about it.   From the book jacket:

As he wrote The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s mental pictures often found expression in drawing, from rough sketches made within the manuscript to more finished illustrations. Only a few of these were meant for publication; most were aids to help Tolkien conceive his complex story and keep it consistent. Many do not illustrate the final text, but represent moments of creation, illuminating Tolkien’s process of writing and design. In addition to pictorial sketches, numerous maps follow the development of the Shire and the larger landscape of Middle-earth, while inscriptions in runes and Elvish script, and "facsimile" leaves from the burned and blood-stained Book of Mazarbul, support Tolkien’s pose as an "editor" or "translator" of ancient records.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien collects these drawings, inscriptions, maps, and plans in one deluxe volume. More than 180 images are included, all of them printed in color from high-quality scans and photographs, more than half not previously published. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, two of the world’s leading Tolkien scholars, have edited the book and provide an expert introduction and comments.

Topics covered in this book include:
  • Return to Hobbiton (Tolkien's in-depth drawings of The Shire and Bag-end)
  • One Ring to Rule them All (Ring inscriptions )
  • The Shire (more Shire stuff, particularly the outer regions)
  • Across the Brandywine (over the river and through the woods to Rivendell we go...)
  • Old Man Willow (drawings of the Old Forest, including one of the willow in question that I found to be astonishingly beautiful!)
  • Bree (no, the village, not the cheese)
  • Gandalf's Letter (the one left on Weathertop)
  • From Bree to Rivendell (pretty self-explanatory)
  • Rivendell (some of the best drawings in the book)
  • The Misty Mountains (surrounding Rivendell--for more MM, see The Art of the Hobbit)
  • Moria Gate (many, many drafts of this one)
  • The Doors of Durin (the Tengwar skills are incredible)
  • Balin's Tomb (for you rune-lovers out there)
  • The Book of Marzabul (if only Allen and Unwin had decided to keep Tolkien's drawing of this in the book as they had planned...)
  • Lothlorien (the color scheme blew me away)
  • The Great River (the drawings are pretty great--get it?)
  • The First Map of Middle-earth (and thus history was wrought)
  • The Departure of Boromir (bye, Boromir)
  • Helm's Deep and the Hornburg (Tolkien's drawings of Rohan's stronghold)
  • Isengard and Orthanc (actually really interesting to compare to the movie designs)
  • Minas Morgul and Kirith Ungol (Kirith because it was an early draft and not yet changed to Cirith)
  • Journey to the Cross-roads (some contour maps)
  • Shelob's Lair (I was scared just looking at the drawings)
  • The Choices of Master Samwise (drawings in the margin of this chapter draft)
  • Frodo and Sam's Journey (maps showing their trail)
  • The Second Map of Middle-earth (focusing on Gondor, Rohan, and Mordor)
  • Minas Tirith (the city on a hill)
  • Dunharrow (quick sketches for Tolkien's own reference)
  • Harrowdale and the White Mountains (pencil sketches)
  • The Passing of the Grey Company (the connection between Gondor and Rohan)
  • The Ride of the Rohirrim (their journey to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields)
  • The Tower of Kirith Ungol (again, not a typo)
  • Mordor and the Dark Tower (an enticing drawing of the bottom of Barad-dur included)
  • Mount Doom (you know, that volcano thing)
  • The Crown of Gondor (I found this particularly interesting in lieu of the very detailed and yet relatively vague description in ROTK)
  • The Citadel of Minas Tirith (a floor plan of the city and it's pinnacle)
  • Farmer Cotton's House (a few views from the outside)
  • Later Maps of Middle-earth (including Christopher Tolkien's editions)
  • Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor (the more detailed drawings of these places)
  • Title-page Designs (finally, the translation of the Tengwar that runs along the bottom of my copy!)
  • Dust-jackets: The Fellowship of the Ring (it was a scramble towards the end of publishing to get the jackets drawn up)
  • Dust-jackets: The Two Towers (amazing designs that were ultimately rejected from publication)
  • Dust-jackets: The Return of the King (a drawing of Sauron!)
  • The King's Letter (a letter from Aragorn to Sam written in stunning Tengwar)
  • The Tengwar and the Cirith (more elvish beauties)
I must tell you that while I knew Tolkien did some of the art for the books and obviously had skills with calligraphy, I had no idea he was such an artist!  Some of the drawings in here really are professional and I'm glad they have finally been published.

The book boasts almost 200 drawings, and while that is an impressive number, the prospective buyer should be aware that many of these drawings are very small pencil sketches in the margins of different manuscripts and there were a couple instances I couldn't even locate where the drawing was.

Overall I did enjoy this book however, and it is a really beautiful one.  I found it very interesting to look at Tolkien's manuscripts and his different jottings, though I can see that this may not appeal to all readers.  I think this is a great addition to anyone who likes art, looking at author's writing processes, or just Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings in general.  Happy reading!

One of my favorite drawings in this book was Tolkien's of Rivendell, the Last Homely House.


  1. Oh looks cool! I love the art that Alan Lee did for the books but Tolkien's art looks incredible as well!

    1. Yes--Alan Lee's paintings are my favorite, especially his illustrations for The Children of Hurin.