In the world of children’s literature few names leap off the page Like Maurice Sendak, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Even for people who don’t pay attention to the authors names, Where the Wild Things Are, The Hobbit. both titles stand on their own, and to the legions of fans of both the mere mention of one of the two titles brings up an array of beautiful and wonderful memories.
Before we go much further… Read to your children, it makes posts like this happen later on.
In the midst of the counter-culture revolution of the 1960’s J.R.R. Tolkien’s works were getting a lot of airplay, for books. That is to say with their release into paperback the volumes lowered in price and became more widely available. There was a renaissance of interest in Middle Earth. The Hobbit was originally a bedtime story told to Tolkien’s children by the master himself. Later written down and finally published in 1937, it was designed and published as an illustrated kids book (sad considering it is now considered a 9th or 10th grade reading level)
Publishers approached Sendak in 1967 an asked him to work on a an illustrated version of the Hobbit, one of the sample illustrations seen above is a tiny glimpse into what could have been a beautiful world. Sadly, a miscommunication for the ages happened. When the two sample panels were sent to Tolkien for approval, the publisher mislabeled the Scene where the wood elves dance in Mirkwood, as ‘Hobbits Dancing’.
Tolkien was incensed by what he saw as an artist with no familiarity with the work putting forward something which did not fit with the world Tolkien had created. he didn’t approve the drawings which made Sendak furious, and the project was never completed. Shortly after this Sendak suffered a stroke at the age of 39 curtailing his Reading the account from the LA times, and even typing it myself. I feel like a great work was lost to the sands of a bad movie plot.
Sitcoms have screw ups like this, bad movies and crime dramas are built on this type of misunderstanding. Sadly the master passed in 1973, and the project never happened.
I’m not sure if Mr Sendak is still active in illustrating but I would desperately love to see this miscommunication corrected.
Do yourself a favor and read the wonderful piece in the LA Times for even more bits of information i may have not translated.