Tolkien Letter Describing his Vision of Hobbits to Sell for $25,000

by Feb 26, 2021Other News

A letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to illustrator Doris Sykes will be sold by Hermitage Fine Art Monaco for £15,000 ($25,0000).

Tolkien Hobbit Letter

Letter from Tolkien Doris Sykes

The letter, a response to Miss Sykes Hobbit illustrations sent earlier to the professor, gives some wonderful details about how Tolkien precisely viewed Hobbits.

“The best way of doing hobbits is to make them absolutely ordinary human beings (except for a neat goatee or buskin of hair), and not too childlike, round-eyed etc.”

He also discusses his reluctance to be in possession of her art without compensating her, and even expresses interesting in purchasing some for himself:

I like some of the drawings so much that I should like to consider asking you to allow me to purchase some for myself.

Here is the entirety of the letter:

Dear Miss Sykes,

You are more than justified in writing, and I ask your forgiveness for causing you anxiety. I have been neglectful, I fear, but I am a dreadfully married man, having a v. full-time job and to stick all The Lord of the Rings business in extra and plus. I have done nothing further in the matter since the publishers are not at present inclined to consider any edition illustrated or more “de luxe” and costly than the one just issued. I have been prevented, by illness earlier in the year and other difficulties, from going to London for a long while ; and though you were obliged to send your drawings to me (and I must return them) by post, I have a great reluctance to send them into an office in that way, while under my care.

I have shown your drawings to other ‘readers’ and the response has been good; though most agree that the best way of doing hobbits is to make them absolutely ordinary human beings (except for a neat goatee or buskin of hair), and not too childlike, round-eyed etc. I cannot remember what notes I mentioned (having no secretary, I have no copies, unless I type). But I think what you need is a copy of the book. I am sorry that I have nothing left (save my own copy!); but I will if you like send some copies that would do to work from. I. a defective American copy pp.321-336 omitted – but should be supplemented perhaps by copying the missing bit from a library copy. Or/alternatively a paper-bound uncorrected proof copy (minus the drawings of Mordor Gate and Runes). II. A copy (with one defective page) of the English edition – defect amended. III A perfect copy with two errors (appearing in all edns.) amended by hand of the American edition. These you could keep for the present, though for purely ‘historical’ sentimental and bibliographical reasons I should like to have them back eventually. The Americans you could keep, if you wished.

I should be very pleased to see any further drawings you make; though I cannot encourage any great hopes of your labour being rewarded in a practical way in the near future. Also, as long as you are willing to take the risk of posted transmission. Would you like your former set back now? They are here quite safely for the moment, but I am a bit nervous of being responsible for them so long (…). Except that – if and when I get any money from the book after the vast costs are defrayed : I have had none at all yet – I like some of the drawings so much that I should like to consider asking you to allow me to purchase some for myself, in the event of an illustrated edition being indefinitely postponed

 

 

1 Comment

  1. parmakenta

    Unfortunately the transcription here is terrible. Error-ridden.

    E.g. a more correct transcription where Tolkien speaks of the appearance of hobbits is,
    “I have shown your drawings to other ‘readers’ & the response has been good; though most agree that the best way of doing _hobbits_ is to make them absolutely ordinary human beings (except for a neat gaiter or buskin of hair), and not too childlike, round-eyed etc.”

    No “goatee”, but rather information that not just their feet, but also their lower legs were covered in hair …

    Honestly, how anyone can make that word “goatee” is beyond me …

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