Human stories are practically always about one thing, really, aren't they? Death. The inevitability of death. . .. . . (quoting an obituary) 'There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that ever happens to man is natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die, but for every man his death is an accident, and even if he knows it he would sense to it an unjustifiable violation.' Well, you may agree with the words or not, but those are the key spring of The Lord Of The Rings
I first read and when I was eighteen. It felt as though the author had taken every element I'd ever want in a story and woven them into one huge, seamless narrative; but more important, for me, Tolkien had created a place, a vast, beautiful, awesome landscape, which remained a resource long after the protagonists had finished their battles and gone their separate ways. In illustrating I allowed the landscapes to predominate. In some of the scenes the characters are so small they are barely discernible. This suited my own inclinations and my wish to avoid, as much as possible, interfering with the pictures being built up in the reader's mind, which tends to be more closely focussed on characters and their inter-relationships. I felt my task lay in shadowing the heroes on their epic quest, often at a distance, closing in on them at times of heightened emotion but avoiding trying to re-create the dramatic highpoints of the text. With , however, it didn't seem appropriate to keep such a distance, particularly from the hero himself. I don't think I've ever seen a drawing of a Hobbit which quite convinced me, and I don't know whether I've gotten any closer myself with my depictions of Bilbo. I'm fairly happy with the picture of him standing outside Bag End, before Gandalf arrives and turns his world upside-down, but I've come to the conclusion that one of the reasons Hobbits are so quiet and elusive is to avoid the prying eyes of illustrators.