Fabian and Tolkien: What Might Have Been

As I noted in a previous post, today is Stephen Fabian's eighty-eighth birthday. Recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, Fabian's work as an artist was also nominated nine times for Hugo awards. He shares a birthday with someone else who never won a Hugo: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. As it turns out, Mr. Fabian is a fan of JRRT. Here's what he said in late December 2014: 

...I thought about the works of the great fantasy writers like Tolkien, Leiber, Howard, Merritt, and Hodgson. I must tell you something though, I have been fortunate to have illustrated the works of those great writers, with the exception of one; J.R.R. Tolkien. But I was offered a chance to do so by a book publisher who was going to reprint ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.

”Tolkien however, objected, he wanted to illustrate the books himself! Later on I learned that Tolkien had also objected to Frank Frazetta illustrating his books. That is truly a sad thing, Frazetta’s artwork would have added immensely to the books.

Fabian actually did a spec drawing for the project. It can be found here:

http://www.batsoverbooks.com/product/699/STEPHEN-FABIANJRR-TOLKIEN-THE-HOBBIT-Original-art-signed-FABIAN-Stephen

The details of this whole thing are murky. Murky enough to perhaps provide fodder for a future post. Suffice it to say that Steve certainly had an interest in illustrating Tolkien. What might the LotR project--or, perhaps, some illustrated edition of JRRT's other Middle-earth writings--have looked like? Let's take a gander at the mighty Fabian's catalog, shall we?

It would take little tweaking, if any at all, to make Fabian's rendition of Howard's Dark Agnes into Eowyn of the Rohirrim.

It would take little tweaking, if any at all, to make Fabian's rendition of Howard's Dark Agnes into Eowyn of the Rohirrim.

Once again, this cover to a Basil Copper collection could be easily morphed into the Black Riders. By the way, according to Fabian, Ron Turner at Arkham House asked for a cover prelim. Steve sent it and Turner made it the cover, paying Fabian only for a prelim.

Once again, this cover to a Basil Copper collection could be easily morphed into the Black Riders. By the way, according to Fabian, Ron Turner at Arkham House asked for a cover prelim. Steve sent it and Turner made it the cover, paying Fabian only for a prelim.

This painting for Eisenstein's Born to Exile demonstrates Fabian's ability to paint evocative landscapes. He would've had no problem with Rivendell or Lothlorien.

This painting for Eisenstein's Born to Exile demonstrates Fabian's ability to paint evocative landscapes. He would've had no problem with Rivendell or Lothlorien.

Speaking of Lothlorien... This painting for a Jack Vance novel could almost be Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel was blonde and Celeborn was a brunet. He was also quite tall. Up around the seven foot mark, according to Tolkien.

Speaking of Lothlorien... This painting for a Jack Vance novel could almost be Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel was blonde and Celeborn was a brunet. He was also quite tall. Up around the seven foot mark, according to Tolkien.

Moving on from The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion... The main panel in the illo above closely resembles the scene in The Silmarillion where Fingolfin defies Morgoth before the very gates of Angband. The main thing needing modified would be the giant's sword becoming Morgoth's mace.

Moving on from The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion... The main panel in the illo above closely resembles the scene in The Silmarillion where Fingolfin defies Morgoth before the very gates of Angband. The main thing needing modified would be the giant's sword becoming Morgoth's mace.

This unpublished painting from Fabian is entitled "Battle." It could depict several battles of the First Age where the Dunedain fought against the minions of Morgoth.

This unpublished painting from Fabian is entitled "Battle." It could depict several battles of the First Age where the Dunedain fought against the minions of Morgoth.

This final piece was commissioned for a story in Weird Tales. It gives a good taste of how Fabian might have depicted elven lords of the First Age in all their might and glory.

This final piece was commissioned for a story in Weird Tales. It gives a good taste of how Fabian might have depicted elven lords of the First Age in all their might and glory.

Well, there you have it. I have to say that I think Fabian, if given the chance, would've stood tall amongst the Tolkien illustrators we've seen over the decades. He possesses a certain mix of talents that fit him well in regard to Middle-earth. We know from his other projects that he strives for accuracy to the texts. He can bring the blood n' thunder and sensuality while also being a master at depicting wistfullness and the beauty of nature. He also brings a certain touch of class to everything he does. It's a pity he never got his shot.

Mr. Fabian's official website can be found here:

http://www.stephenfabian.com/

His contact information is there. Feel free to drop him a line. He replied when I wished him happy birthday.