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Thread: Tolkien the Illustrator

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Here's a thread for discussion of Tolkien's paintings, drawings, illustrations, art related tidbits, or discuss various other artists and their depictions of Middle-earth and its peoples. Sorry if there's a similar thread somewhere already.

I think Tolkien himself was a very good illustrator (though not great at depicting people perhaps, as he seems to agree sometimes), but today I'll start off with a humorous tidbit concerning another favorite Tolkien artist of mine, Pauline Baynes. Tolkien liked her art, but not, it seems, every single depiction.

I wondered if Tolkien saw PB's depiction of the Fellowship, and if so, if he had any commentary. Recently Hammond and Scull suggested (at least) that he did, and now in the new book on The Hobbit, note 14 to The Bladorthin Typescript, Rateliff notes (concerning the art for a poster map by P. Baynes)...

'... In addition to ten vignettes on the map itself, Baynes added a headpiece at top showing all nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring (plus Bill the pony) and a tailpiece at bottom showing the Black Riders, Gollum, Shelob, and a horde of orcs. Although Tolkien greatly admired Baynes' work on the whole, he disliked this particular piece so much that, in addition to writing this essay he had the top and bottom cropped off the original painting when he had it framed for presentation to his longtime secretary, Joy Hill (personal communication, May 1987).'

Smile Smilie
Surely there are some Alan Lee fans out there?

I am one. I might have noted this before, but I think his pencils to the new Children of H’rin are wonderful. His website has been in the making for some time now (it appears)... but I think it's on the way still.
My favourite Tolkien artist is Katherine Carina Chmiel.
I googled the name... some nice stuff! thanks Virumor. And anyone with a liking for depicting Maedros has got my vote.

About her Maedhros, Armrod and Amras for example: though it's tough to capture that 'flame-eyed' quality I think she did very well with the eyes -- I don't picture the hair quite so red maybe, but the grey eyes are handled quite nicely there.
Her work is excellent, no wonder she is your favourite... I always like it when artists give their impression of what Morgoth and Sauron would look like in their pyhsical form, like the one of Morgoth holding the throat of some poor guy... Really well done. Thanks for the name Vir Orc With Thumbs Up Smilie
Tolkien ahd some wonderful designs of the hobbit holes, but I really wasn't satisfied with his design of Finrod Felagund's house emblem, you know, the one with the quiver of arrows and a bow?
The device (for Finrod) I'm thinking of includes a harp and a torch; or looks like these things to me anyway.

H&S describe: 'Tolkien may have meant to suggest that this device was created for Finrod by Men, as it is closer in design to the devices of Men he described in The Lord of the Rings and drew in the early 1960s, than it is to the other, geometrical Elvish devices he created at the same time. The latter are usually symmetrical on every axis, which often imparts a sense of perpetual rotation, perhaps intended to suggest the immortality of the Elves within the circles of the world.'

'In contrast, the devices of Men tend to be symmetrical only on either side of the vertical axis, and often have a strong horizontal axis as well. In these the movement is not circular, but extends from the centre outward towards the frame with an impetus to thrust beyond it.'

Interesting, never thought of that.
like the one of Morgoth holding the throat of some poor guy...

I think that was rather a depiction of Maedhros being captured by a Balrog.
Tolkien was also an outstanding calligrapher in my opinion. Recently I noted an odd thing: for those who have a copy of The Peoples of Middle-Earth, the introduction to Dangweth Pengolo’ refers to a 'superb illuminated manuscript of which the first page is reproduced as the frontispiece of this book.'

Hmmm, my Peoples of Middle-Earth has no frontispiece! despite that it's a first edition HMCO hardback. If you have JRR Tolkien Artist and Illustrator however, a page for Dangweth Pengolo’ can be found in the Appendix on Calligraphy. Or, if you own a copy of Morgoth's Ring, there's a similar looking piece (at least) for The Tale of Years.

Superb again!
Nice bit of info on the house emblems, Galin!
I had never really noticed that whole vertical/horizontal axes stuff about the emblems of Men, but the circular patterns of the Eldar are definitely obvious, esp. in those of the Finwe and his sons'.
Sad news from Hammond and Scull concerning Pauline Baynes:

We've just had the sad news that Pauline Baynes, the esteemed artist, illustrator of Tolkien's Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book, Smith of Wootton Major, Bilbo's Last Song, etc., and of Lewis's Narnia books, passed away a few days ago at her home in Surrey. She would have turned 86 next month.

Wayne and Christina

As I say above, she is one of my favorite Tolkien artists, though she illustrated much more than some of JRRT's work of course.
I think her illustrations of Garm in Farmer Giles of Ham truly represent my idea that lazy, cowardly mutt.
That's such a shame, may she rest in peace...

It's a pity that later generations get more or less the end of the 'Tolkien Era'... It won't be long before CRT would leave us... saddening to say... It seems the greatest writers were a few generations ago... they'll always be remembered though, including the illustrators...
Hey All!
I am unsure if you guys might be able to answer my question but I've been searching the internet and unable to come across the information.
The Tree of Amalion, that Tolkien drew. I love the picture and the alternate one on the book Tree and Leafs. I was just wondering if anyone knew information about the drawing, what it meant, where it came from, what it represented?
Thanks Smile Smilie
book Tree and Leafs.
leaf by niggle?
Hello and welcome!

In Pictures there are four depictions of Tolkien-made trees (no. 41 in the book), including three similar drawings of the Tree of Amalion -- one of these being the one made for Tree and Leaf. By comparison two have flowers, but the T&L version bears leaves, no flowers. Christopher Tolkien notes that an earlier version of the design for the book was entitled: 'The Tree of Amalion. First draft for the cover of Tree and Leaf'

Christopher adds that he can cast no light on the name Amalion itself, but based on a manuscript fragment, Carl Hostetter notes that Amalion may derive from Quenya amalya 'rich, blessed', from amal 'riches, blessing, bliss, good fortune' related to a later form alam with the same meaning, and also alam 'elm-tree' as in Etymologies. Mr. Hostetter is quoted on this in Hammond and Scull's JRRT: Artist and Illustrator (A&I).

The version reproduced in A&I is that of the Tree of Amalion dated August 1928. Hammond and Scull note that in On Fairy-stories Tolkien refers to the Tree of Tales: 'which the tree of Amalion surely represents. It is undoubtedly related to the tree in Leaf by Niggle.'

In 1963 Tolkien wrote to Raynor Unwin regarding the cover for Tree and Leaf, and said that he had among his papers more than one version of a: '... mythical 'tree', which crops up regularly at those times when I feel driven to pattern designing. They are elaborated and coloured and more suitable for embroidery than printing; and the tree bears besides various shapes of leaves many flowers small and large signifying poems and major legends...'

Tolkien's quote here can be found in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

According to Hammond and Scull, along with his reply of 23 December 1963, JRRT sent: 'a hasty reduction of this pattern into leafy terms' (these appear to be Tolkien's own words, though not recorded in the book Letters itself). And when that proved inadequate Tolkien made a new drawing, double the earlier size and more elongated.
Yea Galin I too am a great Alan Lee fan. love his work.

I am quite taken with some, not all of JRR's illustrations. Somehow they evoke the faerie world, the great and mysterious perilous faerie world to me. Simply done but in a manner that to me evokes what Samuel Spade said about the Maltese falcon' the stuff dreams are made of".
You might want to check out The Children of H’rin Paperback Release Party where on 14 October 2008, there will be an online chat with Alan Lee as well as an online contest where his signed copies, some with a sketch will be given away. For entry blank see Contest.

As loss pointed out below, I was only off by a thousand years and have since corrected it.
Sounds great... But unfortunately, Alan Lee won't be able to use his hands or body by then, he will be 'Alan Lee's Head' in the year 3008!

Raise your hands if you love Futurama! Wiggle Smilie

I like all of AL's work, he has the experience of purely Tolkien art, and recognised as THE one... Gives him rather a good status...
Hey Loss! I have not been on the same thread as you for.....ever. Smile Smilie

Thankyou for the information dear Grondy. That is splendid. It gives me butterflies of excitement in my belly(is that rude, should I say stomach, gut, midsection, what?)
Belly rhymes with jelly and is what that jolly old guy has, so it is quite acceptable. And using guts instead of intestinal fortitude, is fine by me as it lessens many chances for spelling errors. Elf With a Big Grin Smilie

I need to order a 2009 Tolkien based calendar.
Where can you obtain such a calendar Grondy?

Now that our home is back to normal, well new that is, nothing is the same as before but pretty;and since I feel too exhausted to go down to the storage room and go through the boxes to find more art than I have so far found to put on the walls, I shall get some enormous canvasses and do my own representation of Samwise and dear Frodo , minus a finger, thinking it is all over for them and watching the destruction all around. I love when "Frodo says to him that he is glad to be with him(paraphrasing) at the end of all things.

i have been collecting what I feel are true representations of Imladris carvings (candle holders and picture frames of olive wood,etc.)and some Hobbity things as well.

They shall go in my dining room with the painting. I hope I have time to get it done in a small amount of time, no fooling about.

I have been thinking of Christopher Tolkien a lot lately. I do so wish he was truly part Elvish and could live at least one hundred more years to bless another generation or two with all his hard work.
I need to order a 2009 Tolkien based calendar.

So do I Smile Smilie
Three sources for Tolkien Calendars:

UK Tolkien Calendars from

US Tolkien Calendars from

The 2009 Heren Istarion Calendar

'Glad to be of service.' Happy Elf Smilie
Does anyone in this blessed realm of Middle-earth draw anything from the Lord of the Rings , if so what have or are you drawing.

I admit since I saw a couple of the movies before being given my books, I already was used to Elizah and company as what the characters actually looked like.Worked for me.
And of course viewing the movies I felt emotionally hooked up to the characters.

So I never bothered to draw any on my own.But now I have just begun and I think they are in some ways similar in a couple of cases, and very different in others. When I am done I will put them up in the dining room. I change it from time to time completely. It is the room where our imagination takes faerie flights and we enjoy the ambience. I did it completely Hobbity once and that was fun.

Now I think it is time to be elven, after my own kind. Smile Smilie

But lately I felt I should just start reading everything beginning with the Hobbit once more and let my imagination go free.
When we had fan art in the Gallery, there were a bunch of pictures that were not movie related as well as one series by a French preteen that were and were quite good.
When we 'had' fan art Grondy, what do you mean, no one contributes to that section any longer?
I have viewed it all and it is thrilling to see how each person's mind thinks after reading the same thing as everyone else.
Fan Art was in our Gallery, where various fans had contributed their art work, which has now been replaced Orc Sad Smilie for some reason by a movie slideshow; Leelee was probably thinking of our Fan Fiction section, which happily Orc Smiling Smilie remains intact.
another question about a cover drawing and where it was adapted from. i know that on the one similarion cover there is a heraldic device of luthien. my question is for the cover of the unfinished tales there is a similar heraldic device in a variety of colours and no real symbols within it. and again i cannot find any information about where it was derived from. any assistance would be awesome Smile Smilie
thanks guys and thanks for the incredibly descriptive detail to my last question Smile Smilie