Bilbo’s Last Song, by J.R.R. Tolkien, and first published nearly 20 years after his death, is full of beautiful artwork, delightful verse, and interesting insights. It was written by Bilbo as he was headed to the the Grey Havens so he could travel to the Undying Lands with Gandalf and the elves.
The poetic verse is simple and powerful. The lyrical style lends itself to being set to music, and it would be fun to hear it that way. The words used show Tolkien’s masterful grasp of the English language, evoking beautiful, magical landscapes and a simple longing for what lies ahead. After everything Bilbo had been through, I can imagine his desire to rest.
Pauline Baynes‘ beautiful full color art graces the cover and interior pages of this small book. While not the same style, it has a whimsical feel that reminds me of the Alison Jay covers of Shannon Hales’ Books of Bayern series. The details also bring to mind the intricate works of Kinuko Y. Craft, and it has hints of what I love about Charles Vess’ lovely works. This is my favorite part of Bilbo’s Last Song.
At the end of the poem, there are several pages of explanations and references to the various works such as The Hobbit and The Return of the King. These provide context for the various images used throughout the text.
Bilbo’s Last Song is a really quick read, but you may find yourself spending a lot of time closely examining the artwork (like I did). It works wonderfully as a short picture book to share with the younger crowd and introduce them to Middle-Earth. The book’s price is quite reasonable, so I recommend getting at least two copies: one for the kids and one to display and not be beaten up by the kids.
Release Date: September 1990 (USA)
ISBNs: 0375823735 (9780375823732)
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf