January 3, 2015

Her Majesty's Hobbit

        Today is J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday (born 1892).  We recently went to see the third installment of Peter Jackson’s “Variations on a Theme by Tolkien,” and while I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy it, my primary feelings were of disappointment.  What a wasted opportunity to do a really good adaptation of The Hobbit at last!  Oh well.  So today I’ll honor Tolkien with some illustrations of his work that he actually liked: those by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.  (At the time, in the early 1970s, she was Crown Princess, and her pseudonym was Ingahild Grathmer.)  Her illustrations were published in the Danish editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1977.  (She was also said to have been involved in the translation: a multi-talented woman.)
        While these illustrations are, I believe, simply pen and ink, they have a definite block print vibe, with nice solid black blacks and white whites.  They were apparently “redrawn” by Eric Fraser for a 2002 reissue, but I really don’t know what that means or what “redrawing” accomplishes.  As Tolkien himself noted, Margrethe’s illustrations have a certain similarity to his own, especially noticeable in the picture of Smaug on his hoard.  (I don’t know whether Margrethe had seen Tolkien’s pictures when she did hers.)  There’s a certain stylized whimsy without being cutesy that seems appropriate, especially for The Hobbit, which isn’t nearly as serious or epic in tone as The Lord of the Rings.  But the Nazgul is pretty cool, too!

[Pictures: Smaug from The Hobbit,
Nazgul from The Lord of the Rings;
Eowyn faces the Lord of the Nazgul’s mount from The Lord of the Rings, I presume all these illustrations to be pen and ink, done by Margrethe II of Denmark, 1977-ish, and redrawn by Eric Fraser, 2002-ish.  (Images from io9).]

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