Tove Jansson freed herself from the “Moomin style” when illustrating The Hobbit

During her career, Tove Jansson also illustrated books written by other prestigious authors. This was an opportunity for her to free herself from the "Moomin style".

The two most important authors whose stories Tove Jansson illustrated were J. R. R. Tolkien (The Hobbit) and Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) – both in the 1960s. In 1959, Tove was also asked to illustrate the Swedish version of Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.



Unique opportunities to illustrate books by other authors were interesting projects for Tove, and the illustrations were – like her illustrations usually – stunning and personal. Astrid Lindgren, the author of the universally popular Pippi Longstockings, worked as the editor and publisher of the Stockholm publishing house Rabén & Sjögren at the time and asked Tove to illustrate the Swedish edition of The Hobbit.

Tove ended up illustrating both the Swedish and Finnish editions of Tolkien’s classic book The Hobbit. The first edition of the Swedish Bilbo – en hobbits äventyr was published in 1962 and the second in 1994. The first Finnish translation in 1973 was named Lohikäärmevuori and the next two editions in 2003 and 2011 were named Hobitti eli Sinne ja takaisin.

“Moomin style” and a new style

When illustrating The Hobbit, Tove found it very important to free herself from the “Moomin style”, which lead to changing the way she drew.

Jansson tried different techniques and drew each figure freely again and again, 20 to 60 times, until she was happy with the result. From the book vignette illustrations (the first image below), you can see how the individual figures were pasted together into “a patchwork” that made up each vignette.

A vignette for J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Tove Jansson:
The individual figures and the final version of the illustration

The majority of the full-page illustrations in the book follow the characteristic style of Jansson’s illustrations for the Moomin books.

The 80th anniversary edition of The Hobbit in 2017

In 2017, Finnish publisher WSOY celebrated J. R. R. Tolkien’s 125th anniversary and the 80th anniversary of The Hobbit by releasing a new edition of the book in Finnish, Hobitti eli Sinne ja takaisin, illustrated by Tove Jansson.

The Hobbit’s 80th-anniversary edition in Finnish includes Tove’s illustrations and a cover previously only seen in The Hobbit‘s first Finnish edition Lohikäärmevuori, with an epilogue from Brian Sibley about how the illustrations on The Hobbit brought together three literary masters – J. R. R. Tolkien, Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson.