‘The Hobbit’ illustrated by Maurice Sendak? The 1960s masterpiece that could have been.
Maurice Sendak’s “The Hobbit,” in pen and ink, 1967 (Credit: Maurice Sendak/Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University)
As I eagerly await Peter Jackson’s return to Tolkien with his adaptation of “The Hobbit,” I can’t help but wonder what the film would have become had Guillermo del Toro remained in the director’s chair. Though the story of Bilbo Baggins takes place in a more halcyon Middle-earth than the later “The Lord of the Rings” books, there are pockets of darkness that foretell what is to come.
I’ve observed a gravitational pull toward the dark in film adaptations of books primarily published for children, especially in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and in the latest installment of Harry Potter. Traditional fairy tales abound with dark themes and places for the hero to adventure, and rightly so — the world can be a dark place. This author cannot think of any better way to broach these notions and address these fears with his daughter than through a story, and “The Hobbit” sits in perfect company with these types of fairy tales.