Monday, September 28, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part Seven

Today's first Bilbo is from a 1945 Swedish edition. He looks kind of like a genie, or a gypsy, or Jiggs from the old "Bringing Up Father" comic strip. In this edition "hobbit" was translated as "hompen." This was the sort of pointless invention that annoyed Tolkien, and led him to compose some Notes On Nomenclature for translators of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The second Bilbo is by David Wenzel for the graphic novel adaptation.

The third Bilbo is by Inger Edelfeldt, and shows Bilbo giving his speech at his 111th Birthday Party. He seems rather dispassionate to me, not as if he's been teasing his friends and relations and preparing to pull off the biggest practical joke of his life.

The fourth Bilbo is by Maurice Sendak, from a drawing he made while considering whether or not to try to illustrate The Hobbit. What an intriguing "if only" proposition! This is by far the smuggest Bilbo I've ever seen, ripe to be taken down a notch or two by a wandering wizard.

The fifth Bilbo is by Lidia Postma, and has been re-used in many of David Day's Tolkien books. It shows Bilbo in a scholarly mood, perhaps considering a passage in his memoirs. It's hard for me to give a completely unbiased judgement on this portrayal, as it bears a very strong resemblance to my Great Aunt Ruby.

And this, I think, must be my last posting on the Many Faces of Bilbo Baggins; not because there are no more, but because there are too many. I believe I could scrounge up about forty more; there is definitely a plethora of bizarre interpretations through the decades and across the globe. But who will be the newest face of Bilbo Baggins when the movie is cast?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part Six

These Bilbos are all from foreign editions of The Hobbit. Behold the wonder of Bilbo Baggins filtered through other cultures.

The first Bilbo is from the 1962 Portuguese edition, drawn by Antonio Quadros. Tolkien called these illustrations "hideous."

The second Bilbo is by Tamas Szecsko, from the 1975 Hungarian edition. This Bilbo looks like the English character actor Robert Morley to me.

The third Bilbo is by Livia Rusz, from the 1975 Rumanian edition. I love these illustrations, but wonder about Bilbo's sugar-loaf hat. Perhaps it just went in her mind with "the Little People" kind of thing.

The fourth Bilbo is by Mikhail Belomlinskiy from the 1976 Russian edition. Apparently (according to notes cited in Douglas Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit) the common Russian language does not differentiate between the terms for "legs" and "feet" which accounts for this Kruschev-lookalike Bilbo's hairy lower appendages.

The fifth Bilbo is by an illustrator known only as "Chica," from the 1976 French edition. This Bilbo looks so French and so 70's I'm surprised he's not wearing a neck-scarf. The striped pants are particularly groovy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part Five

All of these Bilbos are by the Greg and Tim Hildebrandt, known when they painted together as the Brothers Hildebrandt. Greg and Tim were twins (Tim passed away recently), and when they worked together could produce amazing works at amazing speed working on the same canvas at the same time. When you see the work they did individually (and each is a great artist by himself) you can see what each brought to their collaborations, but I feel that when they worked together they created a special magic. Their images fleshed out my visions of Tolkien while I first started reading him; their 1977 Tolkien Calendar hung in my drama teacher's room that year. It was some years before I could see their work from 1976, but I made sure I got the 1978 calendar the next year.

The first Bilbo is from 1976. A detail from "Bilbo Meets Gandalf", posed for by Greg's son, Gregory Jr.

The second Bilbo is also from 1976, "Bilbo At Rivendell;" posed by Tim and Gregory Jr., but the face is of George Hildebrandt, the twins' father.

The third Bilbo is from 1977, "The Unexpected Party." I love this picture: it is perhaps my most favorite Tolkien illustration of all time. If I had the thousands of dollars necessary I would have bought the reproduction that used to be available at the SpiderwebArt Gallery, the Hildebrandts catalog site, and hung it up in my kitchen.

The fourth Bilbo is from "At the Grey Havens" (1978). Were there glasses in Middle-Earth? I don't remember them ever being mentioned, but several illustrators have shown Hobbits wearing them. Maybe it just seems to go so well with their general nature (like pumpkins, which people like to associate with Hobbits as well, though I don't remember them ever appearing).

The fifth Bilbo was produced quite recently, for the expanded edition of Greg and Tim Hildebrandt: The Tolkien Years. It's interesting to me that they kept in their vision of Bilbo's enormous sideburns (for consistency sake, I suppose). It just seemed natural back in the 70's, like Luke and Han's hairstyles in Star Wars, that now..., well, you know. The title of the whole picture was "Bilbo Meets Gollum." There's more Elvis than Elvish about it...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part Four

The first Bilbo shown here is from the production design of the Rankin/Bass animated show of the 1970's. Although this design was softened and changed for the actual show, it survives in posters and artwork used to illustrate the tie-in print of the book.

The second Bilbo is how the hobbit actually appeared in the cartoon. He was voiced by Orson Bean, who did a fine job interpreting Bilbo's naivete, innocence, and a sort of English delicacy that borders on fussiness, without making him sound immature or childish.

The third Bilbo is from Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings. I read somewhere recently that his design was based on (if not actually modelled by) Billy Barty, and seeing his stubby fingers and squinchy eyes one can notice the resemblance. The film suffered from severe plot and time compression, and coupled with the unsubtle nature of animation, Bilbo was reduced to a cameo comic turn.

The fourth Bilbo is of course the great Sir Ian Holm in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. Sir Ian was already an old hand in the legendarium as he had played Frodo in the BBC radio production. His interpretation of Bilbo in all phases throughout the films is simply beyond compare.

The fifth Bilbo is from the Sierra Entertainment video game adaptation of The Hobbit. I think the design, while distinctly individual (especially the hair style!) hearkens back to the Rankin Bass conception. I enjoyed this game; even its story embellishments were not too far-out, and the writing shows a competent familiarity with Tolkien's work.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part Three

This batch of Bilbos could be sub-titled "The Great Illustrator's Series."

The first Bilbo is by Michael Hague. His version of Bilbo looks very young, almost like a child; this impression is re-inforced by his teeth. Bilbo at the time of The Hobbit is fifty, and although some latitude must be given to the fact that a hobbit's life-span is slightly longer and they age a little slower, Bilbo should look more mature than he does here.

The second Bilbo is by Pauline Baynes, from Bilbo's Last Song. Baynes of course is famous for illustrating the Narnia Chronicles, but before that she had illustrated Farmer Giles of Ham, and went on to produce pictures for Smith of Wootton Major, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and covers for the Trilogy, so it is safe to say she had Tolkien's imprimatur. Her Bilbo has a nice balance of age and stoutness, so one can easily imagine him at ease at home or going on an adventure.

The third Bilbo is by Ted Nasmith, and is from a detail of Mr. Baggins at Beorn's hall. This picture begins to beg another question: do hobbits go bald, or get balding? Hobbit hair is always described as thick and curly, and Bilbo's hair is given as brown, although a lot of artists given him a sort of russet-red coloring. I seem to recall reading somewhere that Hobbits don't get bald, or was that Dwarves? More research is indicated.

The fourth Bilbo is by Alan Lee, perhaps the best all-around illustrator Tolkien has ever had, and certainly the most influential after his design work on the LOTR movies. His Bilbo is definitely middle-aged, and definitely balding (in fact he looks a little like Phil Collins to me), and his general proportions are good.

The fifth Bilbo is from a sketch by John Howe, who produced calendar work and book covers for Tolkien as well as being co-designer on the movies with Alan Lee. Although he has made some paintings of scenes from The Hobbit, Bilbo basically appears as a head shot in most of them, and they all look different. This is the only full-figure representation I could find. Bilbo here is on the younger side, and thinner, too; although I suppose it could be argued that Bilbo might lose some weight while travelling rough in the Wild.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Many Faces Of Bilbo Baggins: Part Two

The first picture of Bilbo, by Susan Greenwood Sweeton, is from a magazine ad for silk screen T-shirts that I saw pretty regularly in the 1970's; other characters offered were Gandalf and Smaug. This illustration comes down on the rotund side of interpreting the Hobbit's propensity for fat, which varies from obese to pudgy to pot-bellied to almost nonexistent.

The second picture is of the aged Bilbo at Rivendell, and is a detail from a large poster by Judy King Rieniets (this poster was later reproduced as the "centerfold" of one of the Tolkien calendars). Rieniets has a definite Celtic feel to her designs.

The third Bilbo is a detail of a picture by Tim Kirk, one of the first artists to produce a Tolkien calendar. It is from a famous and iconic scene, the Riddle Game with Gollum. Illustrators love this scenario. The different interpretations of Gollum would be an interesting study in itself.

The fourth picture is from a teacher's catalog for Cassette Classics, which sold packages for units on different subjects. As such, the style is geared more to appeal to children. Once more, it's from the Riddle Game. The only identification for the artist is the name "Berrett" in the corner. The date is uncertain, but probably the early 1980's.

The fifth picture is by Darrell K. Sweet, and is a detail from one of the Great Illustrator's Edition Tolkien calendars. I like Sweet's work; he went on to produce an entire calendar's worth himself and his pictures were chosen as covers for one of Ballantine Books runs of issues of Tolkien's works. His Bilbo seems very thin and lanky, and this is accented by his short vest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Vagabond Song: Favorite Poems


There is something in the Autumn that is native to my blood--

Touch of manner, hint of mood;

And my heart is like a rhyme,

With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.

The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry

Of bugles going by.

And my lonely spirit thrills

To see the frosty asters like smoke upon the hills.

There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir,

We must rise and follow her,

When from every hill of flame

She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

--Bliss Carman(1861-1929).

Bliss Carman (born William Bliss Carman; "Bliss" was his mother's maiden name), the "unofficial poet laureate of Canada," or Alan Rickman in another life?

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.

Friday, September 18, 2009

10 Books A Day: #148

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings: The Fotonovel...Fotonovel Publications

The Film Book Of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings...Ballantine Books

There And Back Again: An Actor's Tale...Sean Astin (with Joe Layden)...St. Martin's Press

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Rings Photo Guide...ed. Alison Sage...Houghton Mifflin Company

The Lord Of The Rings Official Movie Guide...Brian Sibley...Houghton Mifflin

The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring Visual Companion...Jude Fisher...Houghton Mifflin

The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers Visual Companion...Jude Fisher...Houghton Mifflin

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King Visual Companion...Jude Fisher...Houghton Mifflin

The Art Of The Lord Of The Rings...Gary Russell...Houghton Mifflin

The Lord Of The Rings: The Art Of The Fellowship Of The Ring...Gary Russell...Houghton Mifflin

The Lord Of The Rings: The Art Of The Two Towers...Gary Russell...Houghton Mifflin

The Lord Of The Rings: The Art Of The Return Of The King...Gary Russell...Houghton Mifflin
And so, with a list of LOTR movie tie-in books, I come to the end of the books that I have in my house, though not the end of my books: I have at least ten 20 gallon storage tubs full of books in my mini-storage facility. And to bring the final total up to a nice round number I add a book I just got last weekend:
The Savage Sword Of Conan Volume Four...Dark Horse Comics
It has been a long, strange journey. In a way it has been a life review, as I recorded and considered books, when and where I read and bought them, and what they meant to me. I came to one major personal epiphany; that I no longer had the patience or the taste for "junk-food" fantasy that I used to have. Not that I still won't read some, from accident or boredom or hope, but, like the Elves with Sauron, never again will I serve them.
Now I hope to get back to more essay-like posts, perhaps after a short hiatus of a day or two.
Book Count: 1760.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

10 Books A Day: #147

Tolkien Quest: Night Of The Nazgul...John David Ruemmler...Berkley Books
The Tolkien Quiz Book...Bart Andrews...Signet

The Tolkien Quiz Book...Andrew Murray...Harper Collins

Bored Of The Rings...Henry N. Beard & Douglas C. Kenney of The Harvard Lampoon...Signet

Bored Of The Rings...Henry N. beard & Douglas C. Kenney of The Harvard Lampoon...Signet

Bored Of The Rings...Henry N. Beard & Douglas C. Kenney of The Harvard Lampoon...Roc
The Sellamillion..."A. R. R. R. Roberts" (Adam Roberts)...Gollancz
Tales Before Tolkien...ed. Douglas A. Anderson...Del Rey

A Hobbit's Travels...Michael Green...Running Press

A Hobbit's Journal...Michael Green...Running Press

A Walk Through The Shire...Michael Green...Running Press

Final Witness...Simon Tolkien...Random House

Today's books have very tenuous (if obvious) connections indeed to Tolkien's "legendarium." Quiz books, a which-way adventure, parodies, blank journals decorated with art marginalia. If The Tolkien Fan's Medieval Reader is a look at the professor's roots in older myth and literature, Tales Before Tolkien is a reader in "modern fantasy," showing stories that came before him and that he acknowledged were influences or favorites. Final Witness is a legal crime story by one of JRRT's grandsons, and has nothing to do with LOTR at all; I got it as a curiosity (to me; I am no fan or judge of this particular genre) and keep it in my Tolkien collection as such.

Book Count: 1747.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

10 Books A Day: #146 and 1/2

The Tolkien Scrapbook...ed. Alida Becker...Grosset & Dunlap

The Tolkien Scrapbook...ed. Alida Becker...Running Press

A Tolkien Bestiary...David Day...Ballantine Books

Tolkien's Ring...Alan Lee...Barnes & Noble

A Hobbit Companion...David Day...Turner Publishing, Inc.

David Day...master of recycling material and filling in space beside good illustrations.

Book Count: 1735.