Fantasy Reads: Things you didn’t know about The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien #1

Did you know that celebrated American children’s book writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak (1928 – 2012) nearly ended up working on the 30th anniversary deluxe edition of The Hobbit?

Sendak was first approached for the opportunity when his 1963 picture book Where the Wild Things Are had just been published.

Why didn’t the imminent creative partnership happen?

The only surviving Maurice Sendak illustration 

The alleged occurrence 

As the story goes, once upon a time Tolkien requested samples from Sendak as a selection process for the esteemed job.

Sendak drew two images, one featured dancing Wood-elves in the moonlight and the other, the only image that survives, featured Bilbo’s first encounter with Gandalf outside his home.

Now the plot thickens.

An erroneous editor is said to be the proverbial, fire-breathing dragon of destruction in this story. As the tale goes, the editor wrongly labelled the Wood-elves image as those featuring hobbits. When Tolkien noticed this grave error he assumed that Sendak hadn’t read the book and clearly didn’t know anything about hobbits.

Tolkien subsequently didn’t approve of the drawings, causing Sendak to be furious.

A meeting was later scheduled between Sendak and Tolkien, set around the Where the Wild Things Are UK release, but Sendak is said to have suffered a heart attack, a day before the meeting! It was weeks before Sendak left the hospital.

Sendak never worked with Tolkien or on any of his books again.

The sole illustration is all that remains of a what-might-have-been yarn.

Attributed sources 
While there is no reliable documented evidence to suggest what exactly happened, Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull’s weblog contains a detailed article on the entire matter.

Wayne’s article attributes a piece American children’s writer and movie producer Tony DiTerlizzi wrote for the Los Angeles Times about the events (on which the above article is based).

DiTerlizzi claims to have received the information from American novelist Gregory Maguire, who had interviewed Sendak about the so-near-yet-so-far collaboration.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

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