J.R.R. Tolkien liked to draw, illustrating much of his own writing. His original sketches for the first edition of The Hobbit (1937), those content, hairy-toed landscape ramblers, are as good as any attempts to visualise Tolkein’s mythical antiquated worlds. Hardly surprising, of course, what with Tolkein being one of Middle Earth’s Middle Englanders. As he said:
“I am in fact a hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees and unmechanised farmlands; I smoke a pipe and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome).”
And you thought his books are all twee, make-believe escapism. They are slice of life stuff.
Tolkein’s portfolio features many more doodles, paintings, sketches, maps and daubs. You can see a selection at the Tolkien Gateway, which shows over 100 of his images, and in the books The Art of the Hobbit and J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, both edited by Wayne G. Hammond, who tells his readers:
We have long felt that Tolkien’s art deserves to be as well known as his writings. The two were closely linked, and in his paintings and drawings he displayed remarkable powers of invention that equalled his skill with words. His books have been read by countless thousands; most of his art, however, has been seen by only a very few.
This gallery begins with what has to be our favorite illustration. The first picture is delightful combination of words and text. It fits with our story on Illustrated Letters.