It’s a legend among die-hard Tolkienites: the version of The Hobbit we almost got, the one illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The revered author/illustrator behind Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen was commissioned to work on the 30th anniversary edition of the novel, but before he could complete more than a pair of sketches, Tolkien himself put a stop to the project. Apparently, an editor mislabeled a sample drawing of wood elves as featuring hobbits, offending Tolkien, who believe Sendak hadn’t bothered to read the book he’d been hired to illustrate. Attempts were made to mend fences between the two, but no more images were completed.
It’s one of the most frustrating missed connections in literature, these days little more than the stuff of internet lore. But it got us wondering: what would Tolkien’s beloved work look like if illustrated by other well-known artists? We asked Grant Lindahl to help us imagine the answer. Here are 7 drawings that will never appear in The Hobbit, to our great chagrin.
What illustrator would you love to see tackle Tolkien?