Jansson is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children. The first such book, The Moomins and the Great Flood, appeared in 1945, though it was the next two books, Comet in Moominland and Finn Family Moomintroll, published in 1946 and 1948 respectively, that brought her fame. It was because of these books that she was asked to also illustrate The Hobbit.
Morgan Thomsen writes that when the Swedish publishing house Rabén & Sjögren was planning for a new translation of The Hobbit, the publisher wrote to Tove Jansson in November 1960:
“When reading the book, one can clearly see the illustrations, made by Tove Jansson; it is evident that this will be the children's book of the century, which will continue to live a long time after we are dead and buried.”
Jansson, who had illustrated a translation of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (1959), saw in Tolkien a large challenge and she accepted the commission within a week. Jansson then invented a new method for drawing the illustrations for The Hobbit as she tried to get away from her famous Moomin-style.
Concerning the approach of illustrating The Hobbit, Jansson wrote to her life partner, Tuulikki Pietilä, just after accepting the commission:
“The figures are banal: dwarves, gnomes, fairies, dark-elves. But the scenery is luring in its macabre cruelty ... Haunted woods, pitch-dark rivers, a moon-lit moor with burning wolves.”
In 1992 she wrote to Mikael Ahlström of the Finnish Tolkien Society that “for me, illustrating The Hobbit was an adventure”. It will be a big pleasure and adventure for us, Tolkien fans, to have this artwork hanging on our wall the upcoming year. What a fine idea to make a Tolkien Calendar of one of the most beloved Tolkien illustrators. While it is not known whether Tolkien liked or disliked these illustrations, even though he might have laughed with Gollum's crown of weeds, it is now officially being supported by the publishers and the Tolkien family. We can only be glad to see this calendar gives the attention to these illustrations that they truly deserve!
Spread the news about this J.R.R. Tolkien article: