Until I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings, my favorite book growing up was, by far, The Hobbit. Growing up in Russia, however, meant that instead of Tolkien’s English version, my parents read me a Russian translation. To me, the translation easily matched the pace and wonder of Tolkien’s original. Looking back, The Hobbit probably made such an indelible impression on me because Tolkien’s tale was altogether different than the Russian fairy tales and children’s stories that I had previously been exposed to. There were no childish hijinks, no young protagonists, no parents to rescue you when you got into trouble. I considered it an epic in the truest literary sense.
As with many Russian translations during the Cold War, the book came with a completely different set of illustrations. Mine, I remember regretting slightly, lacked pictures altogether. A friend’s edition, however, was illustrated in the typical Russian style: much more traditionally stylized than Tolkien’s own drawings, they were more angular, friendlier, almost cartoonish.
In this post, we include a number of these images from the 1976 printing. The cover, above, depicts a grinning Bilbo Baggins holding a gem. Below, Gandalf, an ostensibly harmless soul, pays Bilbo a visit.
Next, we have the three trolls, arguing about their various eating arrangements, with Bilbo hiding to the side.
Here, Gollum, née Smeagol, paddles his raft in the depths of the mountains.
Finally, here’s Bilbo, fulfilling his role as a burglar in Smaug’s lair.
For more of the Soviet illustrations of The Hobbit, head on over to Mashable.
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in March, 2015
Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writing at the Huffington Post.
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I am sure the author will acknowledge that Bilbo Baggins has an uncanny resemblance to Soviet actor Yevgeny Leonov. Also, I would love to know who the illustrator was. The plates remind me of book illustrations done by an acquaintance of mine, Yuri Gershkovitz, during the years I worked in Moscow in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
I love reading your blog every morning to start off the day, but in this case I feel you generilised a bit attributing the images to just “the typical Russian style”.
I missed reading about the author of the pieces. Much can be attributed to an illustrator’s particular style and how that can influence a national, political, or historical aesthetics.