110 Drawings and Paintings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Of Middle-Earth and Beyond


A few years ago, we fea­tured J.R.R. Tolkien’s per­son­al cov­er designs for the Lord of the Rings tril­o­gy, a series of nov­els that jus­ti­fi­ably made his name as a world-builder in prose (and occa­sion­al verse), but rather over­shad­owed his out­put as an illus­tra­tor. He did­n’t just do cov­ers for his own books, either. You can get a sense of the breadth of Tolkien’s visu­al art at the Tolkien Gate­way’s gallery of over 100 images by Tolkien, which reveal the land­scapes, let­ters, inte­ri­ors, and ani­mals with­in the cre­ator of Mid­dle-Earth­’s mind.


Many of these images come with descrip­tions of their prove­nance, which you can read if you click on their thumb­nails in the gallery. At the top of the post, you’ll find Tolkien’s 1927 paint­ing Glau­rung Sets Forth to Seek Turin, first pub­lished in The Sil­mar­il­lion Cal­en­dar 1978.

“The title is in Old Eng­lish let­ters, which J. R. R. Tolkien fre­quent­ly used when writ­ing in a for­mal style,” says the Tolkien Gate­way, not­ing that, “at the time of the paint­ing the name of the Father of Drag­ons was Glórund, not Glau­rung,” and that “the entrance to Nar­gothrond is here seen as a sin­gle arch, unlike the triple doors seen in oth­er draw­ings.” (Leave it to a Tolkien fan site to have just this sort of infor­ma­tion at the ready.)


We also have here Tolkien’s cray­on draw­ing of the West Gate of the Moria, a scene described in The Fel­low­ship of the Ring as fol­lows: “Beyond the omi­nous water were reared vast cliffs, their stern faces pal­lid in the fad­ing light: final and impass­able.” Just above is Tolkien’s ren­der­ing of Bag-End, res­i­dence of a cer­tain B. Bag­gins, Esquire, “coloured by H.E. Rid­dett and first pub­lished in the Eng­lish De Luxe edi­tion and in a new edi­tion of the Dutch trans­la­tion (both 1976) of The Hob­bit.” Just below, you can see his 1911 sketch of the much less fan­tas­ti­cal Lam­b’s Farm, Gedling.


Beyond perus­ing the images in the Tolkien Gate­way, you’ll also want to have a look at Wayne G. Ham­mond and Christi­na Scul­l’s book, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illus­tra­tor. Some Tolkien enthu­si­asts will, under­stand­ably, pre­fer to keep their per­son­al visu­al­iza­tions of the Lord of the Rings uni­verse unsul­lied by non-tex­tu­al imagery such as this, but if all of Peter Jack­son’s megabud­get film adap­ta­tions did­n’t sul­ly you, then Tolkien’s mild, almost rus­tic but still solemn­ly evoca­tive draw­ings and paint­ings can only enrich the Mid­dle-Earth in your own mind.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er J.R.R. Tolkien’s Per­son­al Book Cov­er Designs for The Lord of the Rings Tril­o­gy

The Only Draw­ing from Mau­rice Sendak’s Short-Lived Attempt to Illus­trate The Hob­bit

Hear J.R.R. Tolkien Read From The Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit

Sovi­et-Era Illus­tra­tions Of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hob­bit (1976)

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­maFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (8) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (8)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.