Top image: “The Mumak of Harad” by Cor Blok.
Tolkien’s Own Illustrations for The Hobbit
We may as well start with Tolkien himself, who provided the very first illustrations of Middle Earth for The Hobbit. While Tolkien was confident about his abilities as a writer, he didn’t feel he had much skill as an illustrator, and constantly apologized for his artwork in his letters to his publishers, George Allen and Stanley Unwin. But Allen and Unwin found the illustrations charming, though besides Tolkien’s maps, only one illustrated plate, of Mirkwood, was included in the first printing and was omitted in the second printing.
But even as he deprecated his own skills, Tolkien reached for a sort of visual “truth” in his illustrations. He had clear visions for the rustic fields and pathways of Hobbiton and the varied grays and greens of Rivendell. He drew from fairy tale illustrators like Jennie Harbour for some of his more narrative illustrations, like “The Trolls,” adding menace to the dark magic of the woods.
If you’re interested in seeing more of Tolkien’s art, Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull’s new book, The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, features more than 100 pieces of Hobbit art created by Tolkien.