Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves
J.R.R. Tolkien

1937

'At last Mr Baggins came to a place where the trees on either hand grew thinner. He could see the paler sky between them. The dark river opened suddenly wide.' Bilbo's transformation from respectable hobbit to burglar continued apace with his daring rescue of the Dwarves from the dungeons of the Elvenking. Stowed inside barrels the Dwarves were carried downriver to the village of the Raft-elves, whilst Bilbo was forced to ride on top of a barrel wearing the ring which renders him invisible.

Tolkien's watercolour illustration shows the scene as Bilbo finally escapes from the darkness of Mirkwood. In the text he arrived at the Huts of the Raft-elves in the dark during the middle of the night, rather than in the early morning sun as shown in this illustration. In an earlier version of this painting Bilbo was shown arriving by moonlight.

This was Tolkien's favourite watercolour out of the five that he painted for the American edition and he was disappointed when it was omitted. It is a beautifully composed piece with the sinuous river leading the eye out from under the dark eaves of the forest to the pale sunlight beyond. The view is framed by the dark trees overhead and the enormous tree roots below. An art noveau border at the bottom with its tree and river motif frames the title. Tolkien had strong views on illustrations, stating in his lecture 'On Fairy-Stories', 'An enchanted forest requires a margin, even an elaborate border. To print it conterminous with the page, like a 'shot' of the Rockies in Picture Post, as if it were indeed a 'snap' of fairyland or a 'sketch by our artist on the spot', is a folly and an abuse.' MS. Tolkien Drawings 29. Reproduced with kind permission of The Tolkien Estate Limited for the Bodleian Libraries exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.

© The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.

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Image total size 19.6 x 25.0 cm
Print total size 23.6 x 29.0 cm

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