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GEEKERY: The Art of The Lord of the Rings

3 Minute Read
Oct 22 2015


JRR Tolkien created vast lands and timeless characters with his words… and his art.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Return of the King’s publication Harper Collins has released a new volume with 192 – 100 of them new and previously unpublished – pieces of art created by JRR Tolkien while he created the trilogy.

As he wrote The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien’s mental pictures often found expression in drawing, from rough sketches made within the manuscript to more finished illustrations. Only a few of these were meant for publication; most were aids to help Tolkien conceive his complex story and keep it consistent. Many do not illustrate the final text, but represent moments of creation, illuminating Tolkien’s process of writing and design. In addition to pictorial sketches, numerous maps follow the development of the Shire and the larger landscape of Middle-earth, while inscriptions in runes and Elvish script, and ‘facsimile’ leaves from the burned and blood-stained Book of Mazarbul, support Tolkien’s pose as an ‘editor’ or ‘translator’ of ancient records.

The Art of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien collects these drawings, inscriptions, maps, and plans in one deluxe volume. More than 180 images are included, all of them printed in colour from high-quality scans and photographs, more than half not previously published. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, two of the world’s leading Tolkien scholars, have edited the book and provide an expert introduction and comments. Readers who have enjoyed The Art of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, with which the new book is uniform, will find much of interest also in The Art of The Lord of the Rings.

A few examples of what you’ll find between the volume’s covers:

Art of The Lord of the Rings final revised.indd

“Helm’s Deep & the Hornburg” Tolkien doodled on almost anything he could get his hands on. Here, he drew this view of Helm’s Deep, the fortress retreat of the Rohirrim people, on a half-used page of an Oxford examination booklet.

Art of The Lord of the Rings final revised.indd


 “Moria West Gate” This colored pencil drawing of the Doors of Durin, the secret entrance to the mines of Moria with its famous “Speak, friend, and enter” riddle, captures the scale and majesty of the location.The tiny tentacle of the Watcher in the Water, poking out of the water, hints at the Fellowship’s trouble ahead.

Art of The Lord of the Rings final revised.indd

“Map of Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor” Tolkien used maps such as this one to compute the exact locations of Frodo and Sam as they walked across Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes and arrived at Mount Doom, so their arrival coincided with the parallel plotlines of other members of the Fellowship.


Want a beautiful copy to call your own? It’s now available at Amazon and other booksellers. The same pair of editors did a volume for the 75th anniversary of the Hobbit’s initial printing. Both volumes demonstrate the author’s love of nature, and his deep connection with Middle Earth.





What is your favorite Tolkien piece?

  • GEEKERY: Miniatures Artist Randy Hage