Tolkien Gateway

Letter 27

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 27
RecipientHoughton Mifflin Company
DateProbably March or April 1938
Subject(s)The physical appearance of Hobbits

Letter 27 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Houghton Mifflin seemed to have asked Tolkien for drawings of Hobbits for some future edition of The Hobbit. The following summarizes an extract from a letter apparently addressed to them.

Tolkien stated that such drawings should be left in the hands of someone who could draw and said that his own pictures were an unsafe guide. He then gave verbal instructions for illustrators, warning that a hobbit was fairly human and not a “fairy” rabbit. They should be depicted with fat stomachs, short legs, round and jovial faces, slightly pointed ears, and short brown curling hair. Their feet are to be covered with fur from the ankle down. Typical hobbit clothing (for a male) was described. The size, important if other objects are shown, should be three to three and a half feet tall. In Tolkien’s own picture of Bilbo in the gold-hoard the hobbit was drawn enormously too large, but the rationale was that he was in a separate “plane”, being invisible.

Tolkien also stated that while there was no mention of Bilbo wearing boots in the text, he did acquire them in Rivendell and only went bootless again after leaving Rivendell on the way home. However, Tolkien did say that since being unshod is an essential hobbit feature, Bilbo ought to appear unbooted except in special illustrations of episodes.