Comparing the Indonesian Edition Covers of Lord of the Rings

Gramedia Pustaka Utama, a Jakarta-based publisher, has announced the republication of Indonesian edition of Lord of the Rings on 29 August 2016. The books have new covers like these: 




The covers clearly cater to movie fans, using movie imagery as the base of the illustrations. When the new covers were announced a couple of weeks earlier, comments were kinda mixed. Some were pleased with the new covers, which understandably look simpler but fresh, bright, and eye-catching. I even saw someone commented about how The Return of the King cover reminded him of some kind of samurai-themed novel. Others were not so pleased with the fact that they are movie-based (although I have to say, these new covers are much more pleasant than the ones with actual movie stills as covers, republished several years earlier).

As for me, there are things that I like and don’t like about the new covers. Things I like: they are bright, colorful without being tacky, fresh-looking, have “contemporary” visual, and will definitely catch the eyes of younger readers quickly. Things I don’t like: I think new covers could have been an opportunity to display artworks by popular Tolkien illustrators. I mean, look at my versions of Indonesian edition:

old cover

These are the first Indonesian editions of Lord of the Rings, published in 2002. The covers use illustrations by John Howe, an artist who has illustrated numerous Tolkien books and calendars, including the translated versions. So, based on this, I think it’s still plausible to buy illustrations from another Tolkien-related artists, although this is obviously not my decision to make (and I have no idea how the publisher acquire illustrations for covers, so it’s definitely just a personal opinion). But what I like about these illustrations is the “classic” image look, which befits a fantasy fiction story, and they’re definitely better than LOTR books that used movie stills, which were republished several years later.

The same goes with The Hobbit. Near the time when The Hobbit movie was released, Gramedia republished Hobbit novel, but using movie still imagery like this:

book the hobbit j.r.r. tolkien a major motion picture gm scan cover

Which is why I’m glad that I bought the first Indonesian edition of The Hobbit, published in 2002 by the same publisher, using the colored dragon illustration made by J. R. R. Tolkien himself. In the original drawing, there is a monogram that reads “Conversation with Smaug,” but it is not used in the cover. This is also the same cover with the first American edition.


Of course, I don’t overlook the fact that most Tolkien readers in Indonesia got exposed to Tolkien through Peter Jackson’s movies. With the hype of The Hobbit movies (and the hot actors in them, of course) still rather fresh in mind, the publisher needs precise way to attract young readers when they visit the bookstores. Therefore, I think choosing movie-based imagery is the logical choice here.

Extra info: according to Poppy D. Chusfani, Gramedia editor and translator and also admin of Indonesian Tolkien Society, there was an Indonesian version of The Hobbit published in 1977. It is very rare now, and she still has no idea who was the original illustrator for the cover, which kinda reminds me of local folklore books popular in the 90’s (I remember reading a bunch of those books at my elementary school library). The book looks like this:


Conclusion? I think the new covers are great in their own ways, and surely better than simply using movie stills as covers. They are also great to attract even more young readers to read Tolkien. However, if personal opinion counts, I will just stick to the 2002 editions for the Indonesian edition of LOTR and The Hobbit.


One thought on “Comparing the Indonesian Edition Covers of Lord of the Rings

  1. Kak Putri,

    Regarding these new book covers of LoTR, overall, it’s refreshing and I like the idea of using an art picture cover (how I love Tolkien art pictures!), though it’s based on movie reference. The fact that they still use this theme is nothing but for ‘business’ purpose only, a marketing strategy and it’s kinda irritating to some people. The good thing is, at least there are no more movie poster covers (somehow, being in a bookstore these days feels like as if I’m somewhere in DVD/CD rental store. Duh!). Also the colours are pretty attractive and a good choice of typography. I think it will be amazing if the iconic One Ring inscription also appears in these covers (I wish I could post an image on comment section here to show you the picture). As for me, the green cover is definitely catch my eyes. The layout of beautiful landscape as a background with those two adorable main characters is simply the best. Love the tone of the colours too.

    So yeah, my personal taste of book cover in general and especially for Tolkien books is forever NO to movie reference cover attached and it’s a must!☺. I wonder if they can publish The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit in Indonesian edition without a movie-based cover once again (high hopes?). To me, an art picture with no movie referenced cover is more elegant and giving historical value added to the book rather than just an ordinary movie-based cover. I could only imagine how delightful it would be to have these books covered with Ted Nasmith, Alan Lee or John Howe artworks or even from other notable illustrators artworks in my own native language version. Also, I’m a big fan of natural Tolkien artworks which means it’s created by conventional method; drawing/painting by your OWN hand and no computer graphic design included or ‘CGI’ content applied on it. Perhaps, it’s just me; my first impression on these new covers was, they’re not natural art pictures (notice that I haven’t read through your ‘assessment’ before. For I didn’t know that it’s called ‘contemporary’ visual covers, lol).

    By the way, can’t wait to have your review on the upcoming Beren and Luthien book… And pardon me for my bad English!😂


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