Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Writer(s): J.R.R. Tolkien.
Editor(s): Christopher Tolkien.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Format: Slipcase – Hardcover.
Release Date: December 14th, 2021.
Pages: 104.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Art.
ISBN13: 9780358653042.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


What is Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien about? It is an art book with the sole purpose of collecting all the pictures (paintings, drawings, and designs) conceived by author J.R.R. Tolkien and that were originally published across six calendars from 1973 to 1979 (excluding 1975). On top of these pictures published either by publishers Ballantine Books or George Allen and Unwin, it also includes the original pen and ink illustrations of some of the drawings, coloured and uncoloured. Most of these drawings also pertain to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, with a couple of exceptions making the cut. All of these pictures and sketches are accompanied by a primarily documentary nature description, meticulously achieved by his son, Christopher Tolkien.

If you’re looking for stories set in Middle-earth, you might find them here by gazing long enough into the pictures of J.R.R. Tolkien. Otherwise, consider yourself warned, this book purely focuses on displaying J.R.R. Tolkien’s artwork in one neat volume, beautifully put together, fully optimizing paper texture and size to capture the subtle and delightful beauty of his epic fantasy world. While the pen and ink illustrations beautifully showcase the original concept behind some regions of Middle-earth, it is the colorized versions that really give readers a better sense of the fantastical and whimsical elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world. His design of some of the creatures (e.g. Smaug is quite adorable in watercolour) is also exquisite, contributing to the mythological essence often attributed to his work.

His son, Christopher Tolkien, does not go beyond concise descriptions of these pictures, mentioning little curious details regarding misinterpretations, referring to other books either written by his father or published posthumously, and even elaborating on some mistakes that have now been corrected in his latest edition. In some rare cases, he even goes in-depth in translation to better understand his father’s created language. In fact, those particular pages, especially “Leaves from the Book of Mazarbul” truly convey the complexity and creativity of his father’s creation.

Unless you want to acquaint yourself with J.R.R. Tolkien’s artwork and discover more of his little side talent, and he does some pretty cool patterns in his newspapers while doing crossword puzzles, there’s nothing else that really justifies paying full price for this art book. Huge Tolkien heads will, however, want this in their collection, hopefully, bought on sale, to blissfully look and read through this, and embrace Middle-earth a bit differently from J.R.R. Tolkien’s more narratively-structured works.

Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien is a lovely collection of pictures by the mind behind The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and succinctly described by his son in a stunning hardcover slipcase edition.



39 thoughts on “Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. I like the illustrations. I’ve decided to give the Lord of the Rings and such books a serious try (motivated by your Silmarillion review), so if it goes well, I’ll certainly check this out too. I love a picture book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Somehow I overlooked this one, perhaps because it was so recently published. One of the preview images you showed is familiar to me, Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves. It might have been in one of my editions of The Hobbit. I’ve always loved his artwork of that style.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nop, that’s actually Glaurung, the wingless dragon, the first to appear in the world thanks to Morgoth. He first appears in The Silmarillion but plays a crucial role in other stories! 😀

      Smaug is actually way cuter and on this particular edition, he’s featured on the back cover that I don’t show hahah if you check out on google “Death of Smaug” you’ll see what I was referring too when I say he’s drawn cute (even if it’s his death hahaah). 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wonder what came first – the drawings or the books. Which inspired which?
    While I don’t write much fantasy, I wonder how often doodles/random drawings inspire people to craft stories. Or at least help hash out the details. Interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely a great question, Goldie. If the author does enjoy drawing and has a particular talent at it, I do think it must help a lot to draw out some of their ideas, maps, and concepts. I can see how it helped Tolkien, for example, especially with his maps, considering how his stories are often very heavy on the description of places and journeys! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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