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A Visual History Of Bilbo Baggins

Shall we go there and back again? Thanks to the soon-to-be-released Hobbit movie, images of Martin Freeman as Bilbo may dominate our consciousness. But Bilbo has had many different incarnations! Let’s take a look at them.

1. 1937: J. R. R. Tolkien’s original drawings

This black and white drawing appeared in the true first edition of the book.

2. 1942: Children’s Book Club edition’s dust jacket

The dust jacket of the book’s popular edition portrayed a very un-Hobbit-like Bilbo.

3. 1957: First German edition of The Hobbit

With illustrations by Horus Engels.

4. 1960: The Dutch edition of The Hobbit.

Bilbo, those dwarves are giving you side eye.

5. 1960: The Polish edition of The Hobbit

An abstract Bilbo brandished the cover of the first Polish edition.

6. 1962: The Portuguese edition of The Hobbit

And the Portuguese version of Bilbo, perhaps inspired by the local title translation, looked a bit gnomish.

7. 1962: Tove Jansson’s illustrations

Tove Jansson, Finnish artist and creator of the Moomins, provided her stylized illustrations for the Swedish edition of The Hobbit.

8. 1966: William L. Snyder’s The Hobbit

The first authorized film adaptation of The Hobbit was produced in 1966. Watch the short here.

9. 1967: Maurice Sendak’s unpublished drawings

In 1967, J. R. R. Tolkien was considering having Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) illustrate The Hobbit. Sendak drew two sample images, one of which is pictured above. Sadly, an editor mislabeled an image of wood elves as hobbits, which Tolkien interpreted as evidence of Sendak not taking the project seriously, so the collaboration never came to fruition.

10. 1973: Tove Jansson’s cover for the Finnish edition of The Hobbit

OK, OK, Bilbo is actually kind of a tiny speck on the cover and the interior illustrations were recycled from the earlier Swedish edition, but I would be doing you a great wrong by not showing you this magnificent illustration.

11. 1975: Frank Frazetta’s illustrations

Frank Frazetta, best known for his work on Heavy Metal, issued a limited edition portfolio of Tolkien-inspired images in 1975.

12. 1976: Mikhail Belomlinsky’s illustrations

The first U.S.S.R. edition of The Hobbit featured fanciful artwork by Mikhail Belomlinksy.

13. 1976: Hildebrandts’ Tolkien Calendar

The Hildebrandt brothers’ illustrations for the Tolkien calendar are very popular.

14. 1977: Rankin-Bass’s The Hobbit

This version of The Hobbit is perhaps the best known of all the animated adaptations.

15. 1978: The Lord of the Rings Animated Feature

Ralph Bakshi adapted The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in 1978, but sadly never followed up with Return of the King.

16. 1979: The Bulgarian edition of The Hobbit

Petar Chuklev provided the fanciful illustrations for this edition.

17. 1980: Rankin-Bass’s The Return of the King

Rankin/Bass’s second attempt at adapting Tolkien also (kind of) wrapped up Bakshi’s unfinished project.

18. 1985: U.S.S.R. film adaptation of The Hobbit

In 1985, the U.S.S.R. produced a live-action adaptation of The Hobbit. Bilbo and Gollum are pictured above. See the entire film here.

19. 1989: The Hobbit comic book adaptation

In 1989, Eclipse Comics released a three-issue adaptation of The Hobbit by Chuck Dixon, Sean Deming, and Dave Wenzel. Wenzel’s illustration is pictured above.

20. 1990: Lord of the Rings, Vol. I for PC

Bilbo, old-school gaming style.

21. 1995: Alan Lee’s The Hobbit illustrations

A new illustrated edition of The Hobbit was issued in 1995, with beautiful paintings by Alan Lee, who would later become one of the lead concept artists for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

22. 2001-3: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy

As portrayed by Ian Holm.

23. 2003: The Hobbit by Sierra Games

In response to the popularity of the Jackson movies, Sierra Games issued a game based on The Hobbit.

24. 2012: Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit

We’re all eagerly waiting!

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