Tolkien Gateway

Letter 235

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 235
RecipientPauline Baynes
Date6 December 1961
Subject(s)Discussing illustrations for The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

Letter 235 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Pauline Baynes was willing to create pictures for The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and had been reading typescripts of the poems. Tolkien commented that the poems sent to her (except for "The Sea-Bell", which he called the poorest and one he would not wish to include) were conceived as definite, clear, and precise pictures – not dreamlike. This had caused him to think of her because she could produce wonderful pictures, touched by "fantasy", but primarily clear visions of things that one might see. Both Baynes and Tolkien agreed on the value (or lack thereof) of illustrations for fairy stories, but Tolkien said there was a case for illustration applied to small things like verses.

Tolkien supposed that "The Hoard" was also not light-hearted, but the woes of the successive, nameless inheritors were merely pictures and did not deeply engage individual pity. He found it interesting that it was Baynes' favourite. It was the least fluid, written to resemble the oldest English verse. It had been inspired by the line iúmonna gold galdre bewunden, "the gold of men long ago enmeshed in enchantment" (from Beowulf).

Tolkien appreciated that it would be a tricky task to illustrate the poems and hoped that she would attempt it. He noted that she had seen the main difficulty, that the poems were not unified from any point of view.