So, my great-nephew Eden is eight years old and currently reading Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. I figured if he can handle that, he can certainly handle The Hobbit. And about time he does read it! I told him so, and yesterday I popped into the Avenue bookshop in Elsternwick and asked for it. I had hoped to find a copy of the classic edition illustrated by the author - you know, four or five colour plates, depending which edition it is(I think the U.S. edition is the one with only four plates)and drawings. But they didn't have it, only one without art and the one you see above, illoed by Jemima Catlin.
I didn't want to wait - I knew I would be seeing him today - so I bought the illoed copy. And what a beautiful piece of work it is too! The cover, as you can see, looks like something from an illuminated manuscript, and better still, the internal art is very reminiscent of Pauline Baynes, who was a friend of Tolkien and C.S Lewis and who illustrated both Tolkien's other children's books and Lewis's Narnia novels.
I am rather tempted to buy a copy for myself. You see, I have several copies, different editions. I have the Tolkien illustrated version, of course, my first. I have an annotated Hobbit, given to me as a farewell gift from Heathmont College, where I worked before going to my current school. That one is lovely, and fascinating. I have the Alan Lee edition, and gorgeous it is; you probably know that Alan Lee and John Howe worked on the LOTR movies. I have the very rare anniversary Michael Hague edition, which is exquisite. It was brought to my school by a ruthless bookseller who knew I would have to buy it! It cost me $75 and was worth every cent. And there is my ebook edition, which has a lot of extra materials - fold-out maps, Tolkien drawings that can be coloured, earlier drafts of some scenes and Tolkien's voice singing and reciting the poems.
So the idea of having an edition with art that reminds me of Pauline Baynes is very hard to resist.
How did young Eden react to this book? He drooled over the art! He started to read it till his Dad told him to stop and wait till he got home. He asked questions - I have mentioned it before. I told him that Gandalf was a bit like Dumbledore. He asked me if any of the good guys died at the end. "Sorry, spoilers!" I said. "Just read it." It will be nice to see him discover a classic.
If he does enjoy it, the lady at the shop suggested The Sword In The Stone. I hadn't thought of that, but nice idea! What do you think?