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The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981)

by J. R. R. Tolkien

Other authors: Humphrey Carpenter (Editor), Christopher Tolkien (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,297164,724 (4.16)32
A comprehensive collection of letters spanning the adult life (1914-1973) of one of the world's most famous storytellers. 'It is not possible even at great length to "pot" The Lord of the Rings in a paragraph or two. It was begun in 1936, and every part has been written many times... the labour has been colossal; and it must stand or fall, practically as it is.' J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the most prolific letter writers of this century. Over the years he wrote to his publishers, his family, to friends (including C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden and Naomi Mitchison) and to fans of his books. The letters present a fascinating and highly detailed portrait of the man in many of his aspects: as storyteller, scholar, Catholic, parent and observer of the world around him. They also shed much light on his creative genius and grand design for the creation of a whole new world - Middle-earth.This collection will appeal not only to the legions of Tolkien fans, but will entertain anyone who appreciates the art of letter-writing, of which Tolkien was a master. 'I am nearly always written to as Tolkein (not by you): I do not know why, since it is pronounced by me always -keen.'… (more)
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» See also 32 mentions

English (13)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Dear Unwin,
the Hobbit will be ready tomorrow, honest.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear Unwin,
I've been swamped by illness, work, exams, more work, more exams, lectures, more work and more exams. I can't possibly get it ready this decade.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear Unwin,
did you like it?

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear Unwin,
glad you liked it. The illustrations will be ready tomorrow.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

...this decade, etc.

Dear Unwin,
I may have no taste but the American cover art is appalling and did they even read the book?

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

[Repeat all of the above w.r.t LoTR]

Dear [Inkling]
the other Inklings' work is mostly rubbish but I like it in parts and even though they are annoying I like them really.

Yours,

Tolkers.

[repeat with every other Inkling]

Dear [somebody acquainted with me]
that critic is impertinent and did he even read the book?

Yours, annoyed,

JRRT

Dear Christopher,
you are the only one who understands me! I love you! Sob!

Your
Father.
[Above written in Anglo-Saxon.]

Dear Nazi scum,
you, Apartheid supporters, Colonialists and other racist groups are all intellectually and morally defective. The Jews are a fine people and I would be proud to have Jewish ancestry but as far as I know I don't.

Yours with no respect at all.

Tolkien.

Dear [any translator of LoTR]
your translation is rubbish; why do you translate names that are not in English? Your translations are unnecessary and show a poor grasp of [your native language]. [Demonstrates a superior knowledge of the translator's language.] Here's a book I wrote about how to translate my book.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear {Member of public]
thank you for your interesting questions. Enclosed is a set of answers in obsessive detail that I worked out prior to my 5th birthday. It includes philological details unintelligible to any person lay in the subject.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear {Critic I like]
thank you for your encouraging, perceptive review.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear [prospective interviewer]
leave me alone.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear [Reader who said something stupid]
as any one with a modicum of understanding of [Old Ancient High Low North Western Indo-European Obscure Language], which is surely everybody, knows, you are completely wrong. Enclosed is a detailed explanation, incomprehensible to anyone lay in philology. And anyway it says you're wrong in the Appendices.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

Dear Christopher,
the Roman Catholic Church is axiomatically right about everything even though most of its priests are idiotic, uneducated, corrupt, morally defective, politcally-minded perverts.

Your

Father.

----------------------------------------

That, if repeated many times over, is this book. It's interesting in parts and dull (because repetitive) in others. It shows a man jealously protective of his work, easily irritated (although by things that would probably wind up many an author) in search of an unmechanised rural idyll that never existed in the same way as [a:Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1189902685p2/15905.jpg]. Enormously erudite, he struggled to understand why other people might find Anglo-Saxon difficult - a common problem with people of enormous talent in any intellectual discipline being the inability to conceive of it being anything but simple to grasp.

Worthwhile for anybody who wants to know more of what Tolkien the person was like. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
Tolkien, non-fiction ( )
  bettyetters | Nov 21, 2019 |
I felt it was a bit too invasive to be reading someone's letters that were never supposed to be for the eyes of anyone who wasn't the person it was addressed to, but this was an interesting read about the man who created the Lord of the Rings series. ( )
  Tarklovishki | Oct 31, 2014 |
Well, an author like any other artist, is best experienced through the art they produce. Too close an acquaintance, as some of these letters reveal, may be disillusioning. One should not rely too heavily on one's mental picture of JRRT as the kind and loving father to anyone other than Christopher Tolkien. I was surprised to discover that he had other children, and his wife did not die sometime in the 1930's but was his lifelong companion. Perhaps the wife and other children didn't wish to expose any more of their lives to the gawping public, and that certainly is their right. But it does add a little depth to the figure presented by this selection of the letters. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 15, 2014 |
Fascinating, insightful, and often touching. Sometimes repetitive and sometimes over the head of any non-philologist, it can take a bit of patience, but the many gems are well worth it. ( )
  Ceora | Mar 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Tolkien's letters are really the best source for what the author thought about the world he devised and the characters he created to populate it.
added by Shortride | editSalon, Laura Miller (Dec 19, 2002)
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolkien, J. R. R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carpenter, HumphreyEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tolkien, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ebert, DietrichCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krege, WolfgangTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sylwanowicz, AgnieszkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valkonen, TeroTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
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Towards the end of his life, J. R. R. Tolkien was deprived for a few weeks of his right arm. He told his publisher: 'I found not being able to use a pen or pencil as defeating as the loss of her beak would be to a hen.' [Introduction by Humphrey Carpenter]
My Edith darling: Yes I was rather surprised by your card of Sat. morning and rather sorry because I knew my letter would have to wander after you. [Letter no. 1]
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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A comprehensive collection of letters spanning the adult life (1914-1973) of one of the world's most famous storytellers. 'It is not possible even at great length to "pot" The Lord of the Rings in a paragraph or two. It was begun in 1936, and every part has been written many times... the labour has been colossal; and it must stand or fall, practically as it is.' J.R.R. Tolkien was one of the most prolific letter writers of this century. Over the years he wrote to his publishers, his family, to friends (including C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden and Naomi Mitchison) and to fans of his books. The letters present a fascinating and highly detailed portrait of the man in many of his aspects: as storyteller, scholar, Catholic, parent and observer of the world around him. They also shed much light on his creative genius and grand design for the creation of a whole new world - Middle-earth.This collection will appeal not only to the legions of Tolkien fans, but will entertain anyone who appreciates the art of letter-writing, of which Tolkien was a master. 'I am nearly always written to as Tolkein (not by you): I do not know why, since it is pronounced by me always -keen.'

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