Darrell K. Sweet Cover Art for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (1981)

Hobbit DKS 1981

Fellowship DKS 1981

Towers DKS 1981

King DKS 1981

Ballantine’s Silver Jubilee Edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was the first paperback edition to appear after the 1978 animated feature, and the first edition I read. I have very strong memories of reading Fellowship every morning as my dad drove me to school, and, later, ignoring my mom’s calls to dinner as I sat in my room, transfixed by Boromir’s death in The Two Towers.

Sweet’s art was taken from the 1982 LOTR calendar. You can see all the images in high resolution at The One Ring. The Fall of Numenor was used for the cover of Ballantine’s 1982 edition of The Silmarillion. These are still the definitive covers for me, and I think his Fellowship painting is particularly brilliant.

Sweet painted all the covers but one for Robert Jordan’s inexcusably long Wheel of Time series. He passed away in 2011 before he could finish the final piece. Irene Gallo gave him a fine eulogy, featuring some of his outstanding work, at Tor.

7 Responses to “Darrell K. Sweet Cover Art for <em>The Hobbit</em> and <em>The Lord of the Rings</em> (1981)”


  1. 1 leftylimbo February 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Wow. Totally brings me back to 5th Grade, at a time when a handful of my friends (whom all tried to get me into D&D) would constantly be fetching or placing their worn, well-read Tolkien paperbacks from or into their Jansport backpacks at recess or after school on the bus. Sometimes they’d be so immersed in the book that it’d take a few attempts to “snap them out of it.” I’d swear that for some, these books were closer companions than any living being.

  2. 2 J February 27, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    I like the art for older Lord of the Rings books. These in particular. In the mid-90’s, FPG reused some of Darrel K. Sweet’s classic artwork for their Companion Collector’s cards for the Everway game. None of these however. They released alot of fantasy art card sets back then. Much of it reproduced from book and game covers from the 70’s and 80’s. Unfortunately, it was mainly of the Keith Parkinson, Larry Elmore variety, which I’m not that into.

    I’ve had people recommend Robert Jordan to me before, but I’m just not interested. I usually just point them towards William Morris, Arabian Nights, or some old gothic romance… “I retired to my tower, well satisfied with having performed an act of justice and equity, and made two amiable creatures happy. And thereupon I passed a delightful night.”

  3. 3 April December 12, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Does anyone know where I can find copies of these versions?

  4. 5 Tom June 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I bought this set back in the ’80’s. Sadly, I sold them at a garage sale in the ’90’s.


  1. 1 Kids Using Library Computer, 1982 | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on April 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm

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