FFB: Hildebrant Brothers’ The Tolkien Years

The Hildebrandt Brothers: The Tolkien Years, Expanded Edition, Watson-Guptill, 2002 oversized trade paper, with fold-out poster

this is the 50th in my review series of “forgotten” books

It seems to be Lord of the Rings week, what with my New Arrivals post including a DVD of Howard Shore’s The Making of the Lord of the Rings Symphony, and George Kelly’s post on The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films by Doug Adams. So here’s the hat trick, a book of the art of the Hildebrandt Brothers from their much-loved Tolkien calendars.

The brothers did the art for four Tolkien calendars: 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978. I bought them all, and wish now I’d saved them. There were some sketches done for a 1979 calendar, but the brothers had by that time written and illustrated their fantasy novel Urshurak and moved in the direction of other illustration and writing. Sadly there was no sequel to Urshurak, a book I enjoyed quite a bit and one deserving of a FFB post of it’s own. If I’d had it at hand I would have done so here.

Meanwhile back to this book. It’s all about the artwork here, and whether you like or dislike these interpretations of the Tolkien books, the artwork itself is accomplished and the scenes depicted quite accurate to the text. It’s not what we saw in the Peter Jackson films, but for me it works and it was great seeing it again, re-reading this for FFB.

I do have a gripe about this one, however. The text is by Gregory Hildebrandt Jr. one of the artists son, and at the beginning of the time these paintings were being made he was just five years old. At first it’s kind of cute reading how he was fascinated with the make-believe world his father and uncle were painting, and how people came to the house and dressed up like characters and so on. That gets old very, very quickly, and you will soon find yourself, as I did, skipping this infantile chatter and just enjoying the artwork and reading the comments from the artists which are scattered about. Oh how I wish the entire text had been by the artists, instead of someone remembering back to his boyhood and gathering those impressions.

Still, it’s an interesting look at the calendar art, and brings back a time long before there was much realistic hope of a full length film of the books. No, I don’t count the animated, semi-musical version, which was barely better than nothing. If you remember the calendars, this is something you may want to seek out. NOTE: the image here is for the original edition, not the expanded, updated one I review. This is the only one I’ve seen, so what was expanded and updated I don’t know.

~ ~ ~ ~

Series organizer Patti Abbott is away from her desk, so this week George Kelley is hosting Friday Forgotten Books. See other FFB reviews at Abbott’s blog Pattinase, and a list of this week’s participating blogs at George Kelley’s blog.

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9 Responses to FFB: Hildebrant Brothers’ The Tolkien Years

  1. Chris says:

    I had all those calendars too, though I think the first two I stole from my older sister. I’m definitely going to have to get this. Those images are a huge part of my youth. I used to hike through the hills and woods where I grew up and imagine seeing those images come to life, moving through the trees. Great stuff.

  2. Todd Mason says:

    I liked the BH work, but I think I liked JRRT’s own even better. (BTW, he telegraphed, you have Tolkien down as “Tolkein” a few times in the post…).

    So who was the best of our double-threats in visual art and literary fantasy? Aside from the cartoonists, with such folks as Walt Kelly, Harvery Kurtzman, and Jules Feiffer beckoning, I’ll plump at this hour for Keith Roberts.

  3. randy Johnson says:

    I had one of the calenders, don’t remember which, and let it get away as you did. Oh, the things we all wish we’d did differently. Another favorite artist, Boris Vellajo, suffered the same fate alas.

  4. Like you, I had these calendars, too, Rick. But inexplicably I did not save them (and I save EVERYTHING). I’m going to have to pick this lovely book up at BORDERS. They sent me a 40% OFF coupon and I can’t think of a better way to redeem it.

  5. Charles Gramlich says:

    I don’t have the calenders. I’m more of a Frazetta man. But i do remember many of the images and did they the brothers had a very nice and fetching style.

  6. Jean Scrocco says:

    I have represented the Hildebrandt art for 32 years. Those calendars were reissued in the 80’s and 90’s. All the art was rescanned and they are available at spiderwebart.com.

    You can also get the art book at spiderwebart.com

    Thanks

  7. Richard says:

    Todd – Thanks, I seem to always want to make that spelling error. Now corrected.

    Jean – thanks! I appreciate you coming by and giving us that information. Wonderful.

    Charles, I like the work of Frank Frazetta a lot too, but we’re talking very different styles and subject matter. It’s interesting to think what the calendars might have looked like if Frazetta, Howard Pyle, or – especially – Hal Foster had done them.

  8. Carl V. says:

    I like the Hildebrandts’ work, but not a big fan of their LOTR stuff, mostly because, long before the films came out, Alan Lee was the artist I most associated with the books and I am such a BIG fan of his. It is odd, because for so many films, books etc. I am very open minded and like a lot of artistic interpretations of it, but for LOTR I seem to be much harder on artists. Lee is the best, for me personally, and I like John Howe’s interpretations and many of Donato’s LOTR paintings. But again, the Hildebrandts are very talented, a fact which I readily admit.

    And I desperately want that book about the music of the LOTR!

  9. Richard says:

    I have a print of Rivendell by Lee that is a huge favorite of mine.

    The book on LOTR music just came in at the library – or rather my hold just came up.

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