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Previously unpublished letter written by JRR Tolkien!


Jan 23 2011, 2:39am

Views: 1256
Previously unpublished letter written by JRR Tolkien! Can't Post

I have come into possession of a typescript (only, alas) of a letter written by Tolkien on Christmas Day, 1963. Here's the backstory from the cousin of mine who had it:

I was an undergraduate at Radcliffe (aka Harvard) 1962-66. I read LR as a freshman, with many friends through the Episcopal chaplaincy. I can remember that I finished vol. 2 before Christmas vacation (as I remember it) "Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy." and couldn't find vol. 3 anywhere (it just wasn't available in bookstores) until returning to campus in mid-Jan. Anyway there was a lot of buzz, even in pre-PC times (yes, just phones and letters).

I vaguely remember a visit from a crew from Life magazine; they decided we weren't pictorial enough. But there was an effort to bring together a group; a friend drew a poster featuring a dragon as I recall announcing a meeting in our dorm.That happened, I believe, in the fall of 1963.

Somewhere along the way I met Nancy Smith, who had done the index for LR; her husband was in graduate school in English. And we then agreed to invite Nancy to address our group-- that's the Occasion on Jan 8 referred to in the letter.

Apparently Nancy wrote to JRRT in anticipation of meeting with us, and this is his reply. Nancy must have handed this to me at some time. But what I remembered possessing was a shorter card to the group from JRRT himself, including part of the material in the letter (I remember the comments about waistcoats and fish) and that's what I've been hunting for all this time.

She has not found the card. Do note the final "item" !

Herewith the letter itself:

75 Sandfield Road, Headington, Oxford
Christmas Day, 1963
& Octave

Dear Mrs. Smith,
It was delightful to hear from you; and in spite our dislocated posts your letter arrived on Christmas Eve: or rather I retrieved it then from my son's house, in the midst of a C. Eve turmoil of grandfathers (Cam. and Ox.) grandmother, great aunts, aunts, uncles, dog, grandson and others...

With regard to the Occasion on January 8th I am greatly honoured to hear of it, and wish I could be there... I have, however, only once attended any such Occasion. In Rotterdam Hobbits have (or had for a while) a fascination for the Dutch, and of course tobacco. Through the hazes of memory I recall that a large part of the company smoked large clay-pipes, and that the walls were decorated with large coloured posters of a tobacco firm in which the name of the brand had been altered to Old Toby and Longbottom Leaf...

I am happy to announce anyway that Jan. 8 is the anniversary of my baptism in the Anglican Cathedral, Bloemfontein, Orange River Colony; and of my engagement to my wife (in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire) shortly after my 21st birthday Jan 3rd, 1913. In spite of the confusing accidents of the place of my birth*, and of bearing a German name, I am a West-midlander (and my wife also) by taste, habitat, and the major part of my descent.


I do not (and never did) much enjoy the reading of 'literature'. For amusement and relaxation I like to read accounts of the structure and history (if known) of languages, though these accounts commonly offer a sense of disappointment similar to my experience of 'literature', the languages described seem seldom to "come off". '...I eventually, and by slow degrees [word missing from copy?] to write The Lord of the Rings to satisfy myself: of course without success, at any rate not above 75%. But now (when the work is no longer hot, immediate, or so personal) certain factions of it, and espec. certain places still move me very powerfully. My heart remains in the description of Cerin Amroth (end of Vol. I, Bk 11 ch. 6), but I am most stirred by the sound of the horses of Rohirrim at cockcrow; and most grieved by Gollum's failure (just) to repent when interrupted by Sam; this seems to me really like the real world in which the instruments of just retribution are seldom themselves just or holy; and the good are often stumbling-blocks.

...the mythology (and associated languages) first began to take shape during the 1914-18 war. The Fall of Gondolin (and the birth of Eärendil) was written in hospital and on leave after surviving the ‘Battle of the Somme’ in 1916. The kernel of the mythology, the matter of Lúthien Tinúviel & Beren arose from a small woodland glade filled with ‘hemlocks’ (or other white umbellifers) near Roos on the Holderness peninsula – to which I occasionally went when free from regimental duties when in the Humber Garrison in 1919.

Nothing has astonished me more (and I think my publishers) than the welcome given to the L.R. But it is, of course, a constant source of consolation and pleasure to me... I have taken some time at intervals to write this since Christmas; I hope not hopelessly illegible; and if it is to reach you before Jan 8, it had better take wing tomorrow.

With warmest greetings to all hobbit-fanciers, and special wishes to you, your husband, and your daughter.

Yours sincerely

J.R.R. Tolkien.

P.S. The index is of the greatest use to me personally. It will eventually be used I think in some form of new edition. I have in mind a reduced form – reduced by cutting out (say) some of the Prologue, and Appendices (especially C.D.E) and substituting an index. But bringing out a fourth volume for fanciers containing the information excised, & a great deal more that was jettisoned, E.g. the facsimiles of the Book of Mazarbul, that should have faced pp. 335 and 336 of Vol. I. What do you think?

Item. ‘Rembrandt’ films are thinking of producing a “Hobbit”. ??


The way we imagine our lives is the way we are going to go on living our lives.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967

(This post was edited by Altaira on Jan 23 2011, 4:31pm)

Subject User Time
Previously unpublished letter written by JRR Tolkien! Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 23 2011, 2:39am
    OMG... dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Jan 23 2011, 3:09am
        for real Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 23 2011, 3:20am
    This is wonderful! Silverlode Send a private message to Silverlode Jan 23 2011, 3:27am
        that part made me laugh Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 23 2011, 5:19pm
    Simply a treasure! Thanks for sharing. // NottaSackville Send a private message to NottaSackville Jan 23 2011, 3:43am
    He has such a naughty-boy sense of humour. Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua Jan 23 2011, 4:21am
        I didnt get it: macfalk Send a private message to macfalk Jan 23 2011, 1:10pm
            She's quoting from Tolkien's letter. dernwyn Send a private message to dernwyn Jan 23 2011, 1:48pm
    Absolutely Speechless!!!! Ethel Duath Send a private message to Ethel Duath Jan 23 2011, 4:43am
    That's fairly amazing Eledhwen Send a private message to Eledhwen Jan 23 2011, 12:45pm
    A previously unpublished letter Findegil Send a private message to Findegil Jan 23 2011, 1:59pm
        Thank you for your input! I edited the post Altaira Send a private message to Altaira Jan 23 2011, 4:39pm
    This should be removed Voronwë_the_Faithful Send a private message to Voronwë_the_Faithful Jan 23 2011, 4:08pm
        The editing that Altaira did entmaiden Send a private message to entmaiden Jan 23 2011, 4:59pm
        Sorry, I thought it was "fair use" Annael Send a private message to Annael Jan 23 2011, 5:04pm
    !st, a very Happy Birthday to you silneldor Send a private message to silneldor Jan 23 2011, 9:12pm
    What do I think? *swoon* grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Jan 24 2011, 1:56am
    This is gold... One Ringer Send a private message to One Ringer Jan 24 2011, 3:51pm
    That was wonderful Frenz Send a private message to Frenz Jan 30 2011, 9:15pm


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