Interview with Hari Istvan who created the real Red Book of Westmarch - a handwritten The Hobbit (27.02.12 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

Hári István is a remarkable person. One day he wondered how the Red Book of Westmarch really must have looked like, three years later he had the result in front of him.

Many may recall the interview with Benjamin Harff about the edel The Silmarillion, and this takes us back to the same concept. One person with enough passion, love for art, creativity and endurance can create miracles. It reminds us of the monks who spend hours creating handwritten manuscripts and of scribes noting down the histories of long forgotten tales and legens. But above all it reminds us of Bilbo, Frodo and Sam who wrote down the original Tales of Middle-earth. I have not edited the interview below but I believe the message will be well understood and I hope enjoyed!
The Hobbit facsimile edition by Hari Istvan


TL: Can you please tell me a little about yourself?

HI: I was born in 1966 in Budapest, Hungary. I am a father to three children and a happy husband to a beautiful woman. In my age 18 i was tried to take studies in the university of arts in Budapest but they opinion was negative about me. I was dismissed five times so I gave up and turned away from arts awhile. Now I am working at a trading company and making my handwritten books in my spare time.

TL: I wanted to talk to you about the handwritten Tales from Middle-earth you created. what prompted you to make it?

HI: It is happened so. Every evening I used to read tales to my children and I decided to read the Lord of the Rings. I chose it for its longness and for the good memories after my first reading. During these evenings I had an idea, how would a book look like as Tolkien said about the Red Book. It is very important to me that I did not want to create an illustrated edition of the LOTR. I was looking for the original view.

TL: All the art was created by yourself?

HI: Yes, except of making bind.

TL: How long did it take to make this book?

HI: It took three years and I worked on it three, four hour long every day or almost every day.

TL: What were the biggest problems you faced in making this book?

HI: When I started to work on this book - I remember the first day very well, after four hours I did not feel my finger and my back but the first page lied in front of me on the table and I felt that this is what I want. This is what I wanted to see and what I imagined, so when I started to work I thought about Time and Patience and Endurance as my biggest enemies. But it were not so. To find a binder! This is the most difficult thing.

You can imagine when I stepped in with almost ten kg of paper into a binder’s shop and asked them to bind it. The knowledge of the bookbinding by traditional ways is falling, it seems to me. To find the right person took circa one year. His name is Zoltán Nagy and that time he was a teacher of binding in a highschool. He understood me very well and we could work together. It is very important to note that I did not want this book to compare to any other style or age or anything.

In my mind I saw this book for years as a simply, rough one, without any needless finery and Zoltán has given many ideas to my dream. So it was created during months and weeks and months again, when one day I had got the call it was ready and I hold my precious in my hand in the very same hour.

TL: How many copies did you produce?

HI: The original book is the first and last copy. If anybody needs a second one that must to write it down her/himself. But I produced few facsimile versions for showing how would it look like in standartized production.

I send one of these to HarperCollins and though they liked it very much and it caused a lot of joy to them (I saved their letter), unfortunatelly they do not see any opportunity in this adventure.

Telling the truth they are right because to produce a copy is very costly thing. It needs to simplify the outlook of the books very much to make large series, but then, I think, something would dissappear.
handwritten pages of the hobbitNice metal work on facsimile The Hobbit


TL: Did you have permission from the Tolkien Estate to make this book?

HI: No, I have got not any. Though there is a note on every „officially –made” book about needed permissions - I think, and I hope that I am right: I did not do anything for what I should have to ask anything from anybody. Look, I am not a lawyer, I only had an idea, a dream and I had to make it. It was a must.

TL: Did you ever plan to create The Silmarillion?

HI: Yes I did. On the last page of the first volume of my book I wrote few words about following contents. Then I planned a third volume with the Appendix and the Silmarillion.

After more than a year I changed my mind and closed the story at the end of the Return of the King. I „only” wanted to re-create the Red Book and I made it.

The history of Middle-earth is waiting for another „writer”.



TL: Did you see Benjamin Harff's The Silmarillion and what do you find of that project? (http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/press/902-Benjamin-Harff-Interview-Edel-Silmarillion.php)

HI: Hat off ! Great, I am not alone! Welcome to the mad men’s group!
A view on the handwritten book


TL: One final question, do you look forward to The Hobbit movies?

HI: My opinion, I think, is not too popular. I am sad about these films. You may ask why. My strong feeling is, as I’m a simple little man, cannot talk about knowing, so according to my strong feeling the story of the ring is more than a simply (though the story of the book is very rich, maybe the richest in its imagination and actions and performers and I do not know in what) and entertatining tale. Here I must say I like tales and I do not think they are only silly stories.

But Tolkien’s tale is warning us, people of our days. The story is very true, word by word, and happening now! There is, around us, a world, full of things, creatures, spirits, little and great angels, powers, etc. A part of them are visible another part of them are unvisible. Some of them are in the part of the good side, some of them are on the dark side. A lot of them stand between the two parts. The good powers, God, need deeds for His plan of the success of Creating. He has strong enemies that fight against him. But the problem is, only the human race is able to do these deeds.

The human race, we as we are, with our faults and morality, must help to God. That is why are so strong and many temptations in the world. We have to be stronger than these temptations, we need to win through the dark lord and his rings of power. We are lucky because we are not alone. There are many of friends that wait for us and are full of love with us. They help when we step, send to us everything they have, sacrifice themselves with a smile on their faces, but we are that can do step. If we can do this, we will be praised by the whole created world and will be able to scoure our privately, personally, and wider shires. This is more than any religion, named them whatever you want. This ethos is over religions as the man is more than his shadow. Through forgiveness, love, braveness, good-will we have to go till we reach the end.

This is, very briefly, what tells Mr. Tolkien about to me). And the film, unfortunatelly, makes the things too simple, kills the imaginations that may have to appear in the readers’ spirits. That is how things and temptations work. Filmmakers are good fellows and do not want to hurt anybody. But they destroy something eventually. After all is said and done I do not wait the Hobbit film at all. I have my own inside pictures.


Enjoyed this post? Click to get future articles delivered by email or get the RSS feed.


Spread the news about this J.R.R. Tolkien article: