The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Title: The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Editor(s): Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: October 1st, 2015.
Pages: 240.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Art.
ISBN13: 9780544636347.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.


What is The Art of The Lord of the Rings about? To celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings, this book collects writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s complete artwork related to the beloved magisterial trilogy. Split into five categories (cartography, drawings, art done out of pure pleasure, art and maps planned to be used in the trilogy, and designs that were never published), these illustrations are presented and fully commented on by editors and Tolkien experts Wayne G. Hammond and his wife Christina Scull in this gorgeous deluxe volume. With over 180 images, printed and scanned in high quality for readers to delve into J.R.R. Tolkien’s various creative writing and design moments, better grasping the amount of detail, reflection, and expression put into the conception of his complex epic fantasy world. While respecting as much as possible the books’ events order, this collection of artwork allows fans to revisit the trilogy while being treated to a unique behind-the-scenes look at the writing process.

Similar to The Art of The Hobbit, editors Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull do a magnificent job of reconstructing the story in The Lord of the Rings through their commentary and descriptions of the featured artwork. This heftier volume thus offers readers a fantastic and in-depth dive into J.R.R. Tolkien’s whole writing process. Although most of the artwork featured in this book are scribbles, stylistic calligraphy, or maps, often multiple versions of the same drawing with slightly more details, it can be frustrating to readers who pick this book up expecting to see illustrations of the myriad of places referenced in The Lord of the Rings but can also be rewarding if forewarned as it offers a whole different angle and source of appreciation to J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. In fact, this book’s forte lies in the opportunity to appreciate his writing process, in how he conceived certain ideas, allowed them to evolve in his mind and in drawing, and to discern the contradictions or the corroboration of these illustrations of actual descriptions of the world in his beloved trilogy.

Once more, an optimal illustration size was utilized throughout the volume to give readers the chance to properly inspect and appreciate J.R.R. Tolkien’s artwork, from his unreadable writing style to his gorgeous four-coloured artwork. Despite being quite critical and harsh towards himself and his ability to draw, his illustrations showcase a talent that remains complimentary to his unparalleled imagination. With geography being such a key element of his writing, it is also a delight to watch the topographical development that went into conceiving certain landmarks and their placement on a map. Even when the final drawing is achieved and is unquestionably fantastic in concept, he did not hesitate to put it aside if it didn’t work with the story he had developed so far. After all, when the story of The Lord of the Rings was developed over multiple years alongside other responsibilities and with a war unfolding in the background, it is not surprising to learn about all the changes and adaptations that went into crystallizing his most redoubtable ideas and stories.

Giving readers a more comprehensive understanding of J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision through these numerous drawings, as small and poorly-refined as they could sometimes be, despite not being initially conceived for publication anyway, this book remains an intricate and insightful collector’s item that fans of his work will inevitably want to discover. Even more fascinating is how he created his inscriptions in runes and Elvish script, serving as further evidence of his infinite creativity in that domain. Nevertheless, while not a quintessential read that adds to his legendarium, this art book does plenty in opening to readers new doors of appreciation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work and imagination.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings is another precious and curious collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original artwork for The Lord of the Rings with enlightening commentary.



32 thoughts on “The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. What block do you use for the slideshow at the end? And what settings? I like the simple elegance of one picture but allowing the reader to choose to see if if they want.

    As for this, I’m amazed at just how talented Tolkien was in so many areas. He told stories, he created languages, he made up a physical world, he drew it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just the /slideshow for it, turn off autoplay, use slide transition, and keep the image size on large. It’s nice to know that some people actually think of looking through them though. I sometimes wonder if anyone actually takes the time to do so.

      Tell me about it. Dude pretty much embodies the ideal fantasy writer. His whole methodology gives him a nice understanding of his own world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, this sounds like an amazing book to add to any Tolkein fan’s collection. Just those few images gives a wonderful feel to what this volume contains. Enjoy it, Lashaan.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And another wonderful extra. Your review thoughts make me wonder if drawing and working up sketches was a big part of getting his writing muse fired up.
    This does sound like a wonderful book to flip through and appreciate after a fresh read of the novels.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This brings back memories of my youth when I was reading much more epic fantasy and playing Dungeons & Dragons, all of which were full of illustrations and maps of various sorts. So naturally, I made my own attempts at writing stories, drawing little illustrations, creating worlds and the maps to document them. I think a book like this is great to get another perspective on the creative process. I’m curious, though, now that you’ve reviewed Pictures, The Art of the Hobbit, and The Art of the Lord of the Rings, how would you rate/compare them to one another? Does one stand out to you above the others? Do they compliment one another? How much overlap is there, if any? I’ve really enjoyed these Tolkien reviews, Lashaan. Thanks much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Depiste knowing little of all the D&D content that exists out there, I can totally imagine some absolutely epic illustrations that accompanied the game! Now I’m very much interested in your stories, Todd! If you ever decide to revisit that hobby, you should totally share it on your blog or something! 😀 As for the three art books I’ve checked out this month, I found the The Art of The Hobbit was maybe my favourite because of how Tolkien actually drew things with the intention of publishing them, it made it more interesting to see how he drew things and what he wanted us to know of his world. The Pictures of J.R.R. Tolkien is also wonderful, mostly because of its formatting but the commentary is limited to pure descriptions by Christopher, unlike the other two by Hammond and Scull. The Pictures of TLOR is also nice but it contains way less “real” illustrations but gives a pretty good idea of the writing process behind Tolkien’s Middle-earth. There’s some overlap, especially for the coloured illustrations but the rest are unique to each volume.


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