The Hobbit was not meant to be an illustrated book but when the publisher saw Tolkien’s drawings and paintings, they were deemed the perfect accompaniment to the text and were quickly added to the book.
‘The Hill: Hobbiton-across-the Water’, August 1937. A black and white version of this picture appeared in the first edition but not long afterwards Tolkien revised the picture slightly and painted this colour version for the first American edition.
‘Rivendell looking West’, early 1930s. This partial sketch of Rivendell was probably made as Tolkien was writing the text. He often drew scenes to clarify his description as he was writing.
‘Rivendell looking East’, early 1930s. This drawing became the basis for the 1937 watercolour of Rivendell in which the mountain walls are drawn closer together, intensifying the depth of the chasm and the secret location of the ‘last homely house’.
‘The Misty Mountains looking West from the Eagles’ Eyrie towards Goblin Gate’, January 1937. This picture was not used in the book. The final illustration is almost identical but Tolkien replaced the stylized trees shown here with more realistic pine trees.
‘Firelight in Beorn’s House’, January 1937. Tolkien drew two preparatory sketches and two finished drawings of the hall in Beorn’s house. They resemble the mead halls where Anglo-Saxon warriors would have gathered to feast, drink and sleep.
‘Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves’, July 1937. Tolkien was disappointed when this illustration was left out of the American edition as it was his favourite one, where he felt he had captured the scene most successfully.
‘The Front Gate’, December 1936. This stark black and white illustration captures the desolation of the landscape in front of the Lonely Mountain: barren and lifeless after the dragon’s long habitation. The scorched tree in the foreground seems to be raising its branches in a gesture of warning or surrender.
‘Conversation with Smaug’, July 1937. This richly coloured painting shows Smaug with his tail curled possessively around the treasure. Although Bilbo is invisible (indicated by the surrounding cloud), he is taking no chances and makes a deep bow to appease the dragon.
‘Death of Smaug’, c.1936. Tolkien did not intend this rough illustration to be published but many years afterwards, the sketch was used as the cover design for the Unwin paperback edition of The Hobbit in 1966.
‘The Hall at Bag-End, Residence of B. Baggins Esquire’, January 1937. Bilbo’s cosy hobbit hole contains the trappings of a typical, well-to-do English household of the 1930s: except of course for its round door and circular shape!