J.R.R. Tolkien, Conversation with Smaug

J.R.R. Tolkien

1936

Watercolour

In this illustration to The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, rendered invisible by a magic ring, converses with the dragon, Smaug. Tolkien’s fantasy world, Middle-earth, is populated with creatures that owe much to the literary tradition of northern Europe. A Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, Tolkien had an expert knowledge of this tradition. In the year he drew this watercolour, he wrote: ‘A dragon is no idle fancy. Whatever may be his origins, in fact or invention, the dragon in legend is a potent creation of men’s imagination, richer in significance than his barrow is in gold.’

Comments

What makes this a treasure?

Rather late submission, but sincere. I've been reading and rereading the work of the great author since age 13 when a friend of my older sister, another military dependent stationed in England, sent a paperback copy of The Hobbit to me. At age 57, I still enjoy and immerse myself in Middle Earth and despair at the corruption of the story by Peter Jackson in his movies, while enjoying the parts which he retains Mr. Tolkien's original work.

Posted by Charles Vernon Waller

On 12/12/2013

Tolkien's illustrations, like his writing, are works of genius and illustrate how often under-appreciated he is. I believe he should be rated as one of the greatest writers in the English language.

Posted by Johanne Tournier

On 09/09/2012

Dear friends, of course, that it is a treasure... enjoy the books of master J.R.R.T from my childhood, thanks for posting it...Greetings from Mexico.

Posted by Jose Luis

On 26/08/2012

We are in the process of discussing options for Tolkein related displays in light of upcoming anniversaries and film releases. Watch this space! http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/about/exhibitions

Posted by Bodleian Libraries

On 03/08/2012

An absoloute treasure. Will there be a display of Tolkein and the Hobbit for the 75th Anniversary of it's publication since 21st Sept 1937?

Posted by Jason Partridge

On 02/08/2012

jrrt was the ultimate fantasy writer of the last half of the 20th century. LOTR was voted the book of the century. he should be represented!

Posted by debbie poynter

On 12/06/2012

There is a special thrill to seeing the originals of beloved works, from Shakespeare's first folio at the Bodleian to the draft of a Beatles' song at the British Museum. For me, a section showing the movement from first drafts to published versions of favourite works would be wonderful

Posted by Christopher Starr

On 15/12/2011

There is no question that this is a treasure. This needs to be displayed for all to see.

Posted by Darko Vusir

On 04/12/2011

The Professor's 'Hobbit' illustrations make much magical noise, adding a real sparkle to the special magnificence of his works. A real treasure!

Posted by Mr Reindeer

On 30/11/2011

I saw this painting in 1992 and I remember that I was very much impressed. It adds to the craft of Tolkien, as one of the many aspects of his work. For the Bodleian it is important to show this (and other Tolkien material I hope), because it will be attractive for a greater group of people, people who otherwise would not be visiting the Bodleian.

Posted by Johan Vanhecke

On 28/11/2011

This vibrant illustration is one of a set of five, painted by Tolkien in the summer of 1937 for the first American edition of The Hobbit. It is full of vivid details, including the Arkenstone gleaming on top of the treasure trove, the skeletons of those who had attempted previous thefts, and a curse written in Elvish script on the large amphora. A feast for children’s eyes!

Posted by Catherine Parker

On 05/09/2011

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