This beautiful rendering of the ‘Last Sight of Hobbiton‘ by Ted Nasmith (2002) is one of my favourite works of Tolkien art.
Nasmith tends to capture the essence of the tale in his artwork: it retains the enchantment of Middle-earth, and often conveys more by depicting less.
This painting says a great deal and speaks to some of the core themes of the book, but in a subtle and quiet way – a moving depiction, combining tranquillity, anticipation and pathos.
One of those themes, I would argue, is the theme of ‘Home’ (I discuss the subject in relation to The Hobbit here). What represents home? What does it mean to leave it behind? How does Home, and the hope you’ll one day return to it, continue to motivate and inspire in the darkest of times? When and why does ‘home’ change – indeed can anywhere in this strange, temporary world ever be home?
Frodo’s journey, from the beginning of the tale to its very last page, encapsulates all these questions. Reflecting on that journey, his attachment to Home and the never-truly recovered loss of it, is bitter-sweet.
For me, Nasmith’s painting conveys that poignant knowledge.
Hobbiton sleeps as Frodo steals away in the stillness of a peaceful Autumn’s eve – there is no fanfare, no farewell party, no-one notices. Frodo wonders whether he will ever see Hobbiton again. He considers the perils that may be involved. But he cannot have any idea of what he is about to face on his path away from the Shire; or that he, and his relationship with the home he loves, will irrevocably change.
The calm stability of the town below, and the safety of the Baggins’s beloved Bag-End now left behind, contrasts with the hobbits’ unsettling journey into the unknown. The vastness and mystery of the starry night sky that fills much of the painting evokes a cosmos beyond our comprehension; it reveals the reality of an archaic, untamed wider world that belies the cosy parochialism of the Shire, a world which now awaits the hobbits and us. And there in the corner: Frodo’s position on the edge of the painting mirrors his eventual displacement from the Shire where he was born and lived all his life – even when he returns, he will forever remain on the periphery, an onlooker, as if forgotten.
We know what Frodo does not know, as we see him wave goodbye, and cannot help but feel a sadness. The weight of the War of the Ring, its noble deeds and terrors, and the eventual sacrifice of a humble hobbit’s life, whisper upon the gentle breeze as we look in upon the simple and quiet moment of Frodo’s ‘Last sight of Hobbiton’.