Tolkien Gateway

Letter 116

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 116
RecipientAllen and Unwin
Date5 August 1948
Subject(s)Dissatisfaction with Milein Cosman's illustrations

Letter 116 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Allen and Unwin had chosen Milein Cosman to illustrate Farmer Giles of Ham and, after many delays, sent Tolkien samples for his opinion. Tolkien was not interested in the fashionableness of the drawings, being more concerned with their lack of resemblance to the text. His story had been definitely located with places named or fairly plainly indicated, but the illustrator did not attempt to represent this.

The giant was passable, said Tolkien, but the trees were poorly drawn and the dragon was absurd, ridiculously coy, and incapable. One drawing showed the dragon looking away when the dog was leaving, but the dog in the story found the dragon's tail first, not its head. The farmer was a blusterer bigger than his fellows, yet he lived in a shambling hut when he was a prosperous yeoman or franklin.

Tolkien declared that he was in his publishers' hands if they thought that illustrations wholly out of keeping with his style or manner were necessary. But, he asked, would they ever get Miss C. to finish? And when would the book ever come out?