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The Lord of the Rings book covers

Doubtless most readers of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings have their own favourite cover. For those of a certain age, myself included, it is the 1968/9 single edition paperback, published by George Allen and Unwin (at the unbelievable price then of £1.95!) with the cover by the late Pauline Baynes. It’s seeming simplicity, colour and content have made it one of the most attractive and recognisable Lord of the Rings covers ever. Both front and back successfully conjured up the mystery, strangeness and delights that would unfold to the reader.
Sadly, many people have come to and will continue to come to the book via the trilogy of films by Peter Jackson and probably never bother reading the book regardless of its cover, but that’s a different matter.
There have been countless dozens of covers worldwide and yet this one for me always stands head and shoulders above them all. In fact, I don’t recall any other fantasy book cover having quite the same impact. It was like a defining moment, a bit like coming across Chris Foss’s science fiction covers, or a Roger Dean album cover.
It is said one should never judge a book by its cover; well, there are always exceptions to rules, and Pauline Baynes cover for The Lord of the Rings is most certainly one of them.
1a.


Radagast the Ravaged

For a lot of people, myself included, Peter Jackson’s characterisation in his Lord of the Rings trilogy was fairly accurate, ably capturing how most people had envisaged them from reading the book. However, his adaptation of The Hobbit for me was a different matter. And the most unforgiveable character interpretation is Radagast the Brown. His first introduction to readers is in The Hobbit when Gandalf introduces himself to Beorn, saying: “I am a wizard,”continued Gandalf. “I have heard of you, if you have not heard of me: but perhaps you have heard of my good cousin Radagast who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood?” And then in the Lord of the Rings, at the Council of Elrond, when Gandalf tells his audience that he ‘… came upon a traveller sitting on a bank beside the road with his grazing horse beside him. It was Radagast the Brown…’ Later in the book when in conversation with Saruman the White the wizard reveals his scathing dislike of Radagast, describing him thus: ‘”Radagast the Brown!” laughed Saruman, and he could no longer conceal his scorn. “Radagast the Bird Tamer! Radagast the Simple! Radagast the Fool! Yet he had just the wit to play the part I set for him…’” And it’s from these few lines that Peter Jackson conjured up and elaborated upon this character interpretation, making him out to be some eccentric, mushroom doping, sylvan oddity. Then to compound it further he has him travelling in a sleigh pulled by giant hares! Why, Mr. Jackson? What was wrong with a horse? If it was to add to his eccentricity then for me it failed miserably, for it served only to make him and the story appear even more ridiculous.
Radagast as a character deserved far more gravitas.


Radagast the Brown



Beyond Bree Calendar 2019
Yesterday the 29th July 1954 saw the first publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. Little did the Professor and indeed the publishers realise what a phenomenal success it would go on to be. I sometimes wonder what he would have thought of it all were he still alive. What he would have made of the films, the games et al. I can’t help thinking that somehow, he would not have been overly impressed.
It’s that time of the year again when one’s thoughts turn to, among other things, next year’s Tolkien calendar. And there’s certainly enough around to take your pick. However, if you want to purchase some fine artwork and help support the charity that produces it, then you can’t go far wrong with the Beyond Bree calendar for 2019. For those interested please see the attached.




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