Friday Faceoff – Thunder is the sound of hoofbeats in heaven…


This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is horses, so I’ve chosen Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. Obviously I was spoilt for choice, so I picked a couple of covers because they featured horses and the rest of my selection are covers I particularly liked.


This cover produced by Houghton Mifflin Company in June 2001 is one of a number generated in the wake of the films. While most film-of-the-book covers tend to fall short, I think most of the covers for LOTR work really well – and this is no exception. The horse and mysterious cloaked rider outlined in the odd lighting that falls somewhere between daylight and night really evokes the otherworldly and sense of danger I recall feeling when first reading the book another lifetime ago.


This centenary edition, produced in 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, is clearly special. What caught my eye is the illustration on the front. Initially I assumed this was another cover generated by the movie – until I realised that it was released a decade before the film… I love this one – particularly the runic detail and the cool font. A pity about that ugly blue box, though.


Published in 2001 by Harper Collins, this is another film tie-in cover. I also like this one – the horses galloping in a posse provide plenty of movement and drama and the red lettering of the font provides a pleasing contrast. It’s not my favourite, but there’s nothing to hate about it either.


Produced in June 2005, by Mariner Books, I had initially assumed this was a much older edition as it harks back to the feel and look of much earlier covers, which I think is a smart move. It may well have used one of the earlier covers, but I couldn’t find it elsewhere on what was – admittedly – a fairly cursory search. Again, this one caught my eye as I love the artwork and overall design.


Published in May 1978 from Unwin Paperbacks, this is something of a curiosity – as the film they are talking about clearly isn’t the franchise we all know and love. I like the impact the drama of the ringwraiths galloping towards us, but as ever, I deeply dislike the horrible text box plonked right in the middle of the action.


This cover is included because it is the one we used to own before Himself loved it to death. It features Gandulf in a dramatic pose without some of the epic backdrops we have become used to seeing with the film tie-ins. I like how the title and author have been handled and think the dark green is attractive – it’s certainly an easy book to spot around the house. What about you – which is your favourite?

26 responses »

  1. Gosh, I can only imagine how many different covers you had to choose from this week, with LOTR! The one I own isn’t shown here, but it’s a film-centric cover, with Elijah Wood (Frodo) holding Sting for the first time in Rivendell.

    As for which one I’d choose from this bunch… I’m tempted to go with the HMC and Harper Collins covers from 2001, because of the creepy vibe from the Ringwraiths. But I like the final one with Gandalf, too.

  2. The 1978 film was the Ralph Bakshi cartoon. It only covered “The Fellowship of the Ring” and the planned sequels were never filmed, due to disappointing box office.

  3. Hmm, I have to go with the second- I enjoy Alan Lee’s work illustrating Tolkien’s world. (We have a hardcover set of the three volumes with his paintings which we found for a steal- love em!) The Gandalf one is striking too. I wonder if the ‘film’ mentioned for the Unwin edition is the animated version- it was…an experience 🙂

  4. I have watched the movies, but haven’t read the books yet. I only had seen the dutch covers before I think. The dark green one at the bottom does look great. But the first one looks great too and I like how they both emphasize another part of the story.

    • There is a real spread of different covers – over 300 for the single volume, alone… The books have dated somewhat, but I’ve been reading The Hobbit to my small grandson and they do hold up surprisingly well.

  5. Bugger! I was looking for the cover my dad had, and the one I now have somewhere. It’s a paperback from the 60s, and is filled with that curious pulp-style of stark color contrasts and landscapes without depth, if that makes sense.

  6. I agree that the first one is very nice… for a film cover. 😉 I love the details in the second one and from the selection here I’d say this one is my favorite.

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