”En hobbit och ett mumintroll skulle kunna mötas i bästa sämja”: Receptionen av Bilbo, en hobbits äventyr (1962)
Abstract: When the publisher Rabén & Sjögren published a new Swedish translation of The Hobbit (1962) in the wake of the success with The Lord of the Rings (1959–1961) with illustrations by Tove Jansson, it was a publication that seemed destined to become a modern classic. Yet, the publication was not reprinted and was replaced by other versions, lacking Jansson’s artwork. The general view have been that critics, readers and, in particular, Tolkien fans, were averse to the lack of detail and realism in Jansson’s work, and that it was deemed too close to her own Moominland creation. In this article, based on an examination of extant reviews, a more complex picture emerges, however. Reviewers, including “Tolkienists,” were generally favourable to Jansson’s illustrations. Instead the reason why the publisher chose discontinue using her artwork has to be sought elsewhere. The hypothesis ventured in this article, and backed up by evidence from the reviews, is that on the one hand the reading public (including the reviewers) were uncertain about what they were reading and how The Hobbit could and should be visualized. Jansson seemed a good idea at the time. But the 1960’s was also a period of transition where (Tolkienian) fantasy emerged as a publishing genre in its own right, bringing with it a realistic mode of representing the fantastic which jarred with the expressive and non-realistic artistry of Jansson. At that point, the publisher chose the developing visual practices that were to be associated with fantasy over the rich and expressive vision of Jansson. Ultimately, the article makes a plea for a reassessment of Jansson’s Bilbo-illustrations on the basis of the visual diversity evident in much present day fantasy.
Keywords: J. R. R. Tolkien; The Hobbit; Swedish reception; fantasy;
Tove Jansson; illustrations
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