'At last Mr Baggins
came to a place where the trees on either hand grew thinner. He could
see the paler sky between them. The dark river opened suddenly wide.'
Bilbo's transformation from respectable hobbit to burglar continued
apace with his daring rescue of the Dwarves from the dungeons of the
Elvenking. Stowed inside barrels the Dwarves were carried downriver
to the village of the Raft-elves, whilst Bilbo was forced to ride on
top of a barrel wearing the ring which renders him invisible.
watercolour illustration shows the scene as Bilbo finally escapes
from the darkness of Mirkwood. In the text he arrived at the Huts of
the Raft-elves in the dark during the middle of the night, rather
than in the early morning sun as shown in this illustration. In an
earlier version of this painting Bilbo was shown arriving by
This was Tolkien's
favourite watercolour out of the five that he painted for the
American edition and he was disappointed when it was omitted. It is a
beautifully composed piece with the sinuous river leading the eye out
from under the dark eaves of the forest to the pale sunlight beyond.
The view is framed by the dark trees overhead and the enormous tree
roots below. An art noveau border at the bottom with its tree and
river motif frames the title. Tolkien had strong views on
illustrations, stating in his lecture 'On Fairy-Stories',
'An enchanted forest requires a margin, even an elaborate border. To
print it conterminous with the page, like a 'shot' of the Rockies in
Picture Post, as if it were indeed a 'snap' of
fairyland or a 'sketch by our artist on the spot', is a folly and an
abuse.' MS. Tolkien Drawings
29. Reproduced with kind permission of The Tolkien Estate Limited for the Bodleian Libraries exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.
© The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.