Most of Tolkien’s illustrations for The Silmarillion date from the period 1927-1928. This was a fertile creative period for him when much of his imagination was devoted to his early legendarium. From the 1930s onwards The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings consumed much of his creative energies and afterwards he was never able to re-capture the spirit of these early years. He left The Silmarillion unfinished at his death.
‘The Shores of Faery’, 10 May 1915. This is the earliest illustration of his secondary world, painted when he was a student at Oxford. It shows the city of the Elves in Valinor, framed by the Two Trees bearing the light of the sun and the moon.
‘Nargothrond’, July 1928. A drawing of the fortified doors leading to the underground stronghold of the Noldorin Elves in Beleriand. In later years the Elves built a stone bridge across the river which ultimately led to the downfall of their kingdom.
‘Tanaqui’, 1915. This painting of the city of the Elves in Valinor is from the Book of Ishness; a sketchbook started by Tolkien when he was at university. The vivid colours and surreal style were later used by Tolkien in illustrations of the north pole by ‘Father Christmas’.
‘Halls of Manwe on the Mountains of the World above Faerie’, July 1928. The tallest peak, Taniquetil, is so high it appears to reach above the sun and moon into the upper atmosphere where it’s crowned by stars.
‘Glórund sets forth to seek Túrin’, September 1927. The mesmerizing eyes of the wingless dragon, Glórund, stare straight at the viewer as he slithers disturbingly across the border of the painting.
‘Mithrim’, 1920s. This beautiful pastel landscape of Lake Mithrim in the land of Hithlum is further enhanced by the addition of a striking black and white border design.
Originally entitled, ‘Beleg finds Flinding in Taur-na-Fuin’, July 1928, this painting illustrates a scene from the Tale of Túrin. Much later Tolkien gave it the title ‘Fangorn Forest’ and used it as an illustration for The Lord of the Rings, with the Elves Beleg and Flinding presumably becoming the hobbits Merry and Pippin.
‘The Vale of Sirion looking upon Dor-na-Fauglith with Eryd Lúmin (the Shadowy Mountains) on the left and The Eaves of Taur-na-Fuin on the right’, July 1928. A tower stands alone on the steep-sided island in the middle of the river Sirion, facing the might of Thangorodrim in the distance with its black reeks of smoke overhead.
‘The Hills of the Morning’, November 1969. The word ‘Ambaróna’ can be seen top left and is also written in Elvish letters on the left-hand side. It translates as, ‘uprising’ or ‘sunrise’.