Monday, September 21, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part One

The Hobbit was first published on September 21, 1937, and in light of this august anniversary and the coming production of the movie (in which the part of Bilbo Baggins is yet un-cast), I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the images and ideas about Bilbo through the years and around the world.
J. R. R. Tolkien once famously declared that he was a Hobbit, in all but size, and it seems to me that there is some resemblance between how Tolkien appeared in the 1930s and his drawing of Bilbo in the hallway of Bag-End. It is hard to pin down just exactly how this impression arises: the drawing of Bilbo is rather small and sketchy in the face, but I still feel that there's a likeness there.
The second drawing arose from queries that Tolkien's American publisher, Houghton Mifflin, made asking for details about the appearance of the hobbit for use in advertising. Tolkien responded: "I picture a fairly human figure, not a kind of 'fairy rabbit' as some of my British reviewers seem to fancy: fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg. A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'; hair short and curling (brown). The feet from the ankles down, covered with brown hairy fur...Actual size--only important if other objects are in the picture--say about three feet or three feet six inches." This drawing from Houghton Mifflin's advertising in the Horn Book magazine in its 1938 Christmas edition was the result.
The third drawing was from the cover of the 1943 Children's Book Club edition. Tolkien grumbled about the absence of Thror's Map in this edition, and said "Surely the paper wasted on that hideous dust-cover could have been better used." The Bilbo pictured here is in a very Jazz Age style.
And just to give an example of the "fairy rabbit" conception, the fourth picture is from the cover of a 1992 Russian edition of The Hobbit. Notice that in this, as in other Russian editions, Bilbo has "fur" all the way up to his knees.
More Bagginses to come.


AlanDP said...

That's funny...I had already lined up Bilbo as my next pipe smoker. I'll link to these.

John said...

That jazz age Bilbo looks like Mr Money Bags from Monopoly. The Russian Bilbo-Nyet!