It really is a great shame that fate felled Maurice Sendak's chance of illustrating J R R Tolkien's 'The Hobbit'. Sendak's ability to create believable dreamlike worlds would, I'm sure, have added another layer of magic to Tolkien's Middle Earth. Above is one of two sample pieces that Sendak presented to Tolkien, depicting Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf shooting the breeze outside 'Bag End'. The other, now lost, was an illustration of wood-elves dancing in the moonlight.
It was 1967, Tolkien was 75, but still very much in control of his literary creations. A publishing house, I don't know which, planned a 30th-anniversary deluxe illustrated edition of 'The Hobbit' be published to celebrate. From what I have read, I suspect that Tolkien was not keen on the publisher's choice - Sendak was best known as a children's book illustrator and Tolkien was mightily prickled that many considered 'The Hobbit' to be a children's book. But I'm sure the publisher was super keen to use Sendak... he was a Caldecott medal winner and a hugely respected and extremely capable illustrator. Tolkien wanted to see Sendak's take on his characters and so asked for samples. Sendak begrudgingly produced the two samples mentioned above. Unfortunately, the editor mislabeled the wood-elves as 'hobbits'. Tolkien assumed that Sendak had written the notes on the samples and concluded that he had obviously not read the text properly and was definitely not the man for the job.
Sendak was visiting Britain for the UK release of 'Where the Wild Things Are', and so the editor arranged for the two prickled men to meet up to try to smooth out the runkled rancour. Just one day before they were to meet up in Oxford, Sendak suffered a heart attack and spent several weeks recovering in hospital. The meeting never took place and the project was abandoned :(
Maurice Bernard Sendak- June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012) was an American illustrator and writer of children's books. He became widely known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, first published in 1963. Born to Jewish-Polish parents, his childhood was affected by the death of many of his family members during the Holocaust. Besides Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak also wrote works such as In the Night Kitchen and Outside Over There, and illustrated Little Bear.