Friday, July 8, 2011

Sendak and Tolkien: "The Hobbit" that never was

Image: Maurice Sendak/Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, via LA Times
There's been much ado about dwarves recently with the latest image to come out of Peter Jackson's version of the Hobbit. I stumbled upon this amazing article from the LA Times (back in March) on an abandoned project by beloved children's book author/illustrator Maurice Sendak and Lord of the Rings himself. From the article:
If you look closely, you will discover a master at work in the art of subtlety: Notice the heavy crosshatching used to weigh down a world-weary Gandalf contrasted with the open, airy line work that renders the jovial Bilbo. These depictions speak in an artistic conversation that has been ongoing for centuries, yet they are immediate and approachable by the child of today.

As Sendak noted passages for possible illustration and sketched in the margins of his copy of the book, the publisher prepared the art samples for Tolkien’s approval. The editor mislabeled the samples, however, identifying the wood-elves as “hobbits,” as Sendak recalled to Maguire. This blunder nettled Tolkien. His reply was that Sendak had not read the book closely and did not know what a hobbit was. Consequently, Tolkien did not approve the drawings. Sendak was furious.
Read the rest of the article to get the full story.

I find this fascinating and heartbreaking all at once. Sendak's art is vibrant and original and his interpretation may have defined fantasy for a generation had it made it to publication. Sadly, where the wild things are not is Middle Earth.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Eli Arndt said...

This is a sad tale indeed. I have always loved Sendak's work. He is a perfect pairing with Tolkien's work.

Perhaps some day somebody will release a version of the Hobbit that mighth ave been.