Monday, May 20, 2024

The Tolkien Years Of The Brothers Hildebrandt!

That said, with all things Tolkien on my mind, I was moved to finally pick up the relatively recent volume The Tolkien Years of the Brothers Hildebrandt. I was among those fortunate folk who was able to collect up the famous Hildebrandt Tolkien calendars as they appeared in 1976 through 1978.

Sadly, I wasn't prescient enough to hang onto them, but those classic images remained burned into my imagination. So, it's neat to finally have a collection of them to look at and examine alongside a raft of the prepping materials the brothers used.

This cover for Tolkien's Smith of Wooton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham from Ballantine was the Hildebrandt's first foray in Middle-Earth. It was evidently a test they were given, and they passed with flying colors, literally. I picked this paperback up at the time and it's still quite charming. 

Since the untimely passing of Tim Hildebrandt back in 2006, we are left limited insights from him, but his brother Greg is on hand to inject some behind-the-scenes perspective. The bulk of the text though in this volume is by Greg Hildebrandt Jr. who was a mere lad when the classic images were created, and he offers up a novel look at the work itself. Sadly, his perspective is not to my mind worth the space it is permitted in this volume, so I skipped over a lot of it. 

That said, the art is still the point of this book, and all the classic stuff is here presented as they were created for the three calendars and beyond. Looking at the Hildebrandt stuff now, it seems stiff and oddly fixed in time and the attempt at what the Brothers dubbed "Frodorealism" doesn't work as often as I remember. Their renditions of certain characters have been superseded by other artists over the decades, but there is no denying their lasting impact on the overall imagination, at least my imagination.

The Brothers produced the 1976, 1977, and 1978 calendars. The 1976 calendar is regarded as the best-selling calendar of all time. After that, multiple artists were brought in to create these annual celebrations of Professor Tolkien's creations. 

The Brothers were working on a fourth calendar while they were also working on Ushurak, an original fantasy tale they concocted themselves. They thought something had to give in their schedule and they called and backed out of the calendar work. The work done for the proposed 1979 calendar is included in this volume. 

It's nice to have this artwork in my mitts again, reminding me of the first times I traveled to Middle Earth.

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  1. I notice in your side column there's a photo of the late Bernard Hill from Lord Of The Rings but to people of my generation in the UK he's more famous for playing Yosser "gizza job" Hughes from the TV drama series Boys From The Black Stuff in the early 1980s.

    1. That's a new one on me. I looked it up and was immediately transported back to the 1980's when Reagan was screwing with the economy here just like Thatcher did over there. Tragically we have been reaping the results of those years slowly but steadily ever since. Bernard Hill's character was representative of many men and women who were robbed of their dignity by a system designed to push them down.

      As I watched LotR this time I was struck by Hill's Theoden, a man who sees he's fighting his last battle and charges ahead despite his fear. He has a choice and chooses the future for his people, if not for himself. We need more selflessness in our leaders.