John Howe

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"I shan't call it the end, till we've cleared up the mess." — Sam
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John Howe
Biographical Information
Born21 August, 1957

John Howe is a Canadian illustrator most known for illustrating many works of J.R.R. Tolkien as well as working on both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series. Most recently he has worked as a concept artist for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power television series. [1]


John Howe was born in Vancouver, Canada.[2] He graduated from the École des Arts Dècoratifs of Strasbourg[2] in 1981, having obtained a Diploma in Illustration.[3] He now lives in Neuchatel with his wife Fataneh and his son Dana.[2]

Howe first read The Lord of the Rings in high school, borrowing them from his school library. He started with The Two Towers, because "everyone who started the first volume never got any further" and The Fellowship of the Ring was rarely available to borrow.[4] He was inspired by artwork from The Brothers Hildebrandt to start creating illustration of Tolkien's works.[4]

Howe's version of Boromir is based on his own face.[5]

Involvement in Peter Jackson's Middle-earth film series

John Howe and Alan Lee worked as the chief conceptual designers on The Lord of the Rings trilogy.[6] Howe is also credited as a carpenter in the first two films.[6] [7] He has a cameo as one of the nine Kings of Men in the Prologue of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Howe and Lee returned to work as conceptual designers for The Hobbit film series. They both make an uncredited appearance as a men-musicians of Laketown in The Desolation of Smaug.[8]

Artwork theft

In the night of 18 May 1997, 11 of Howe's originals were stolen from the Médiathèque of Sedan in Belgium. The thief's father contacted the Médiathèque a couple weeks later promising to try to retrieve the stolen works from his son. 8 originals were finally returned, one (Minas Tirith) was damaged beyond repair. Éowyn and the Nazgûl, Gandalf the Grey, and The Uruk-hai were never recovered.[9]

Published Artwork

Howe is one of HarperCollins' most used artists, and his cover art is frequently featured on translations as well.

Multiple editions

Calendars and books

Map books (with Brian Sibley)




Illustrating Tolkien means treading warily, dipping one's brush in shadow and rinsing them in light. Battle and balance, down the impossible path between the clear and the obscure.

Somewhat shamefully I am obliged to admit that I first read The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and finally The Fellowship of the Ring. [...] Thus, I plunged directly into the world of Tolkien just above the Falls of Rauros and have been swimming diligently ever since.

It was this place in North Island, and we wandered round these fields saying, well, Bag End can go here, that can be our party tree; it was very exciting. It's almost even more fun to have a location imposed upon you, because you really have to get down to brass tacks and figure it out, imagine it on paper. It's a real illustrator's job.

See also

External links


  1. "Showrunners and John Howe reveal more of Rings of Power" dated 10 June 2022, (accessed 19 January 2023)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Biography at (accessed 8 June 2023)
  3. The Tolkien Diary 1995
  4. 4.0 4.1 Foreword, Myth and Magic: The art of John Howe
  5. Image of Boromir on (accessed 8 June 2023)
  6. 6.0 6.1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring at IMDB
  7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at IMDB
  8. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at IMDB
  9. The Great Art Robbery at (accessed 8 June 2023)
Illustrators of The Hobbit
Internal art J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Eric Fraser (The Folio Society: 1979, 1992-present) · Michael Hague (1984-1992) · David T. Wenzel (graphic novel: 1989-present) · Alan Lee (1997-present) · David Wyatt (1998-2001, 2012-2013) · John Howe (pop-up: 1999) · Jemima Catlin (2013-present)
Cover art only J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Pauline Baynes (1961) · Roger Garland (1987-1989) · John Howe (1991-present) · Ted Nasmith (1989-1991) · Barbara Remington (1965 US)
Illustrators of The Lord of the Rings
Internal art J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Eric Fraser/Ingahild Grathmer (The Folio Society: 1979, 1992-present) · Alan Lee (1997-present)
Cover art only J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Pauline Baynes (1970-1989) · Roger Garland (1983-1991) · John Howe (1991-present) · Ted Nasmith (1990) · Geoff Taylor (1999)
Illustrators of The Silmarillion
Internal art Francis Mosley (The Folio Society: 1997-present)· Ted Nasmith (1998-present)
Cover art only J.R.R. Tolkien (1937-present) · Roger Garland (1983-1991) · John Howe (1992-1995)
Illustrators of official Tolkien calendars
Emily Austin (2023) · Pauline Baynes (1973, 1974) · Cor Blok (2011, 2012) · Jemima Catlin (2014) · Jenny Dolfen (2023) · Inger Edelfeldt (1985) · Mary Fairburn (2015) · Roger Garland (1984, 1987, 1988, 1989) · Spiros Gelekas (2023) · Justin Gerard (2023) · Donato Giancola (2023) · Michael Hague (1986) · The Brothers Hildebrandt (1976 US, 1977 US, 1978 US) · John Howe (1987, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2013, 2021) · Tove Jansson (2016) · Michael Kaluta (1994) · Tim Kirk (1975) · Alan Lee (1987, 1993, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2013, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2024) · Ted Nasmith (1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2021, 2022) · Kip Rasmussen (2023) · Darrell Sweet (1982) · J.R.R. Tolkien (1973, 1974, 1976 UK, 1977 UK, 1978 UK, 1979, 2005, 2006, 2017)