Story behind the pictures . . . University of Otago senior
lecturer Paul Tankard displays some of the Lord of the
Rings illustrations he has discovered. He will tell the
intriguing story behind them at the Dunedin Public Library
on Wednesday, at 6pm. Photo by Dan Hutchinson
Tolkien may have never wanted his Lord of the Rings
trilogy illustrated but a discovery by Otago man Paul Tankard
may give a glimpse into how he pictured his own fantasy.
Dr Tankard, a University of Otago senior lecturer, loves to
trawl through libraries and old books looking for the stories
behind the stories - journeys that have taken him around the
His latest find shows that while Tolkien thought little of
the copious amount of unsolicited art that was sent to him,
there was one artist who hit the mark.
''He had no interest in Lord of the Rings being illustrated.
Literary works travel from mind to mind. He wanted people to
have their own vision.''
However, when Mary Fairburn (78), who now lives in rural
Victoria, sent Tolkien a series of nine illustrations in
1968, depicting various scenes from the trilogy, Dr Tankard
said correspondence between the two showed that Tolkien took
a liking to the works and they were quite similar to drawings
he had done himself.
Tolkien bought one one of the pictures and indicated he might
be interested in using them in some form. When he realised
his publishers were not going to use them he became less
enthusiastic and Ms Fairburn asked for them back.
Dr Tankard said she got ''quite over-excited'', although she
was prone to having disagreements with people.
Dr Tankard said he would like to publish a calendar from the
prints. Lord of the Rings illustrated calendars were quite
common when the books were first popular, although Dr Tankard
said Tolkien himself probably would not have approved of the
He said Ms Fairburn was doing another three pictures to make
up a calendar and it would be nice if she got some
recognition from it.
''I would like Mary to be the person who gets some
recognition from it. I get some academic street cred and
recognition from the university.''
Dr Tankard will speak at the Dunedin Public Library on
Wednesday at 6pm.