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Moomin artist takes on Tolkien's The Hobbit

Tove Jansson's cover design for the Hobbit.
(Image credit: Tove Jansson/Future)

You may know Tove Jansson as the author and illustrator of the Moomin books. But recently her illustrations for JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit have resurfaced on the internet - and they are impossibly charming (as you'd expect). 

The children's book author was renowned for her unbelievably cute Moomin series which first brought her fame in the 1940s. As a result, she was asked to illustrate Tolkien's The Hobbit, as well as Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland. If you'd like to have a go at making your own kid's book, have a look at our nifty guide on how to illustrate children's books.

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A illustration from The Hobbit.

Click the arrows to browse through some of Jansson's illustrations. (Image credit: Tove Jansson)
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An illustration from The Hobbit.

Tove Jansson's depiction of Smaug. (Image credit: Tove Jansson)
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An illustration from The Hobbit

We love this dramatic storm scene (Image credit: Tove Jansson)
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An illustration from The Hobbit

Jansson's iconic Moomin style can be seen in this illustration. (Image credit: Tove Jansson)

The illustrations, full of character and charm, recently resurfaced online, but were originally made for the Swedish and Finish translations of the fantasy hit. Jansson used The Hobbit illustrations as a way to free herself from her Moomin style, so drew and redrew the characters up to 60 times over to make sure they were right. Subsequently, her illustrations formed into a collage of mis-match drawings, but the finished product is perfectly cohesive (as you can see below.) 

A comparison of the process Jansson used of collaging her drawings into one.

(Image credit: Moomin Characters)

Jansson predominantly illustrated using ink despite growing up as a painter. And while her Hobbit illustrations were never printed in colour, her genius use of contrast, blank space and intricate texturing makes each drawing full of life, detail and charisma.

The Hobbit wasn't the only famous book she illustrated — she also drew Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (see below.) The beautiful thing about Jansson collaborating with both Carroll and Tolkien is that all their beautiful stories are timeless and appeal to adults just as much children. You can tell Jansson understood this when she designed the illustrations for these books, as each of them are filled with a child-like wonder for the stories, while also being able to stand on their own as sophisticated pieces of art. 

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An illustration from Alice in Wonderland.

Alice with Absolem the Caterpillar. (Image credit: Tove Jansson)
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An illustration from Alice in Wonderland.

These works are hardly recognisable as Jansson. (Image credit: Tove Jansson)
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An illustration from Alice in Wonderland.

The use of colour makes these illustrations beam with life and character. (Image credit: Tove Jansson)

We adore these illustrations and can't get over Jansson's genius. Jansson's work is timeless and magic, leaving us feeling inspired whenever we see it. If you fancy having a go at illustrating yourself, then check out our best Adobe deals.

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Amelia Bamsey

Amelia Bamsey is the Staff Writer for Creative Bloq. Cornish born-and-bred, Amelia has a passion for all things art, design, photography and music.