For serious Tolkien fans, the Tolkien shelf or bookcase is one of the warmest spots in their home. It is a cozy hearth, a jeweled hoard, a kind of shrine. It displays what we love and photos of this storied touchstone are proudly shared and joyfully received in our big corner of social media. As a lifelong J.R.R. Tolkien reader, I'm enjoying the astounding experience today of setting a new book on one of my own Tolkien shelves which features a cover that I painted. In the words of Samwise Gamgee, "Glory and trumpets!"
Translating and Illustrating Tolkien
Translating and Illustrating Tolkien is part of the Peter Roe Series, published by Luna Press, introduced and edited by Will Sherwood, and featuring the proceedings of the 2021 Tolkien Society autumn seminar. It includes the scholarship of six authors: Eric Reinders, Helena Real, Martha Celis Menzoda, Aline Esperanza Maza Vázques, Sonali Arvind Chunodkar, Joel Merriner and Marie Bretagnolle. As described by the publisher:
"J.R.R. Tolkien's works have gained global appeal, leading to translations in over thirty languages and a host of stylistically unique illustrations. As a translator and illustrator himself, Tolkien was acutely aware of the challenges and benefits that both bring to a written text. Translating and Illustrating Tolkien explores what these processes add to, emit from, or complement Tolkien's original text."
This special volume is available for purchase from the publisher, from the Tolkien Society, and at major online booksellers.
Three Books of Lore
It was my heartfelt honor to be invited to contribute my painting, "Three Books of Lore" for the cover of such a worthy publication. This illustration depicts Bilbo's room at Rivendell and the moment in which he is giving gifts to Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin before they finally return home to the Shire in The Lord of the Rings. Merry and Pippin receive beautiful pipes and Sam receives a bag of gold, but what Frodo is given has the most significance to Tolkien readers:
"Then he gave Frodo his mithril-coat and Sting, forgetting that he had already done so; and he gave him also three books of lore that he had made at various times, written in his spidery hand, and labelled on their red backs: Translations from the Elvish, by B.B.” - The Return of the King, Book 6, Chapter 6: Many Partings
Those three books are how we will all eventually end up, via a set of fascinating circumstances, reading The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Moreover, I personally cherish this moment in the story because I feel the characters' experiences, coupled with the writings of Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, and documenting their encounters with many great folk could have eventually brought knowledge of Eru Ilúvatar to hobbit society. This could have been of inestimable comfort to them when Middle-earth became dominated by Men and hobbits had to become more hidden than they once were. Knowing you were created and are cared for by a Creator can make even a difficult road one worth traveling. I truly treasure this scene.
I hope readers will enjoy the details in the cover art as much as I loved pondering the comforts the Rivendell elves might have provided for Bilbo to make his room homely. A stained glass window honors his poetry, and given that the elves are merry, little rabbits have been woven into his carpet on the thought that Elrond's folk would often have listened to Bilbo describing his own adventure, including the many times he was poked fun at as a "bunny" or "rabbit". There is a fine fire, room for his writing, and, of course, plenty of delicious refreshments.
My illustrations are all hand-painted and museum-quality prints of this original work can be purchased here.
I am deeply grateful to:
J.R.R. Tolkien for filling my life with wonders beyond count
Will Sherwood for the opportunity of providing this cover
The Tolkien Society for its promotion of such celebrated scholarship
Luna Press for publishing such a handsome volume, with special thanks to Francesca Barbini for her ongoing encouragement
Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese of the Prancing Pony Podcast for providing my favorite soundtrack while I'm working on Tolkien illustrations, as well as their moderator, Katie McKenna, for her kind encouragement
My father, Stephen Ellis, for reading me The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings when I was a small child, and my mother, Caren Ellis, for being my lifelong inspiration in the arts.
My family for their love, support and celebration
My own Tolkien shelf is an even happier place in my home today, thanks to a wide and wonderful community of gifted people who work so hard at what they love. It is a pleasure and an honor to be part of your fellowship.