THEMATIC DISCUSSIONS OF TOLKIEN STUDIES

3. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien

TheOneRing.net Reading Room

June 2005 - March 2006

 

 

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1. Tolkien Library Day, January 2002

2. The 2004 Marquette Conference, November 2004 - March 2005

4. The Tolkien Encyclopedia Reading Room Contributors, March 2006 - August 2006

5. 'Themes in Tolkien', September 2006 - January 2007

6. Tolkien Illustrations, January 2007 - June 2007

7. The Second Age of the Sun, May 2011 - November 2011

8. Tolkien: A Cultural Phenomenon (by Brian Rosebury), January 2012 - March 2012

9. Tertiary Characters in The Hobbit, February 2012 - April 2012

10. Law and Arda (by Douglas Kane), May 2013

11. The History of The Hobbit (by John Rateliff), June 2013 - August 2013

12. The First TORn Amateur Symposium, July 2013

13. Tolkien's Letter #131, September 2013 - October 2013

14. The Second TORn Amateur Symposium, November 2013

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15. The Third TORn Amateur Symposium, April 2014
 

1914-1939. Early Years to The Hobbit.
(Letters 1 - 38)

I think it is plain that quite apart from it, a sequel or successor to The Hobbit is called for. I promise to give this thought and attention. But I am sure you will sympathize when I say that the construction of elaborate and consistent mythology (and two languages) rather occupies the mind, and the Silmarils are in my heart. So that goodness knows what will happen. Mr Baggins began as a comic tale among conventional and inconsistent Grimm's fairy-tale dwarves, and got drawn into the edge of it – so that even Sauron the terrible peeped over the edge. And what more can hobbits do? They can be comic, but their comedy is suburban unless it is set against things more elemental.

JRRT, Letter #19 to Stanley Unwin, 16 December 1937

 

1940-1945. The War Years and writing The Lord of the Rings.
(Letters 39 - 97)

Humph, well! I wonder (if we survive this war) if there will be any niche, even of sufferance, left for reactionary back numbers like me (and you). The bigger things get the smaller and duller or flatter the globe gets. It is getting to be all one blasted little provincial suburb. When they have introduced American sanitation, morale-pep, feminism, and mass production throughout the Near East, Middle East, Far East, U.S.S.R., the Pampas, el Gran Chaco, the Danubian Basin, Equatorial Africa, Hither Further and Inner Mumbo-land, Gondhwanaland, Lhasa, and the villages of darkest Berkshire, how happy we shall be. At any rate it ought to cut down travel. There will be nowhere to go.

JRRT, Letter #53 to Christopher Tolkien, 9 December 1943 

         

1945-1951. Getting a publisher for LotR (and The Silmarillion?)
(Letters 98-131)

In one of your more recent letters you expressed a desire still to see the MS. of my proposed work, The Lord of the Rings, originally expected to be a sequel to The Hobbit. ... And now I look at it, the magnitude of the disaster is apparent to me. My work has escaped from my control, and I have produced a monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and very terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody); and it is not really a sequel to The Hobbit, but to The Silmarillion.... I can see only too clearly how impracticable this is. But I am tired. It is off my chest, and I do not feel that I can do anything more about it, beyond a little revision of inaccuracies. Worse still: I feel that it is tied to the Silmarillion.

JRRT, Letter #124 to Stanley Unwin, 24 February 1950

 

1952-1956. Publishing The Lord of the Rings.
(Letters 132-180; 182.)

But if you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link.... and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. ... So the essential Quest started at once. But I met a lot of things on the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the comer at the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than had Frodo. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlórien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there. Far away I knew there were the Horse-lords on the confines of an ancient Kingdom of Men, but Fangorn Forest was an unforeseen adventure. ... I have yet to discover anything about the cats of Queen Berúthiel.

JRRT, Letter #163 to W. H. Auden, 7 June 1955

         

1956-1959. Reception of Lord of the Rings.
(Letters 181; 183-216)

I suppose a difference between this Myth and what may be perhaps called Christian mythology is this. In the latter the Fall of Man is subsequent to and a consequence ... of the 'Fall of the Angels': a rebellion of created free-will at a higher level than Man; ... evil was brought in from outside, by Satan. In this Myth the rebellion of created free-will precedes creation of the World (Eä); and Eä has in it, subcreatively introduced, evil, rebellions, discordant elements of its own nature already when the Let it Be was spoken. The Fall or corruption, therefore, of all things in it and all inhabitants of it, was a possibility if not inevitable. Trees may 'go bad' as in the Old Forest; Elves may turn into Orcs, and if this required the special perversive malice of Morgoth, still Elves themselves could do evil deeds.

JRRT, Letter #212 (draft, not sent) to Rhona Beare, 14 October 1958

 

 

1959-1966. Retirement, and publishing later works.
(Letters 217-293)

I am doubtful myself about the undertaking [of publishing The Silmarillion]. Part of the attraction of The L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background : an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed. Also many of the older legends are purely 'mythological', and nearly all are grim and tragic: a long account of the disasters that destroyed the beauty of the Ancient World, from the darkening of Valinor to the Downfall of Númenor and the flight of Elendil. And there are no hobbits.

JRRT, Letter #247 to Colonel Worskett, 20 September 1963

 

         
 

1967-1973. Looking back. (Letters 294-354)

I never called Edith Lúthien – but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire .... In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing – and dance. But the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.
I will say no more now. But I should like ere long to have a long talk with you. ... Someone close in heart to me should know something about things that records do not record: the dreadful sufferings of our childhoods, from which we rescued one another, but could not wholly heal the wounds that later often proved disabling; the sufferings that we endured after our love began – all of which (over and above our personal weaknesses) might help to make pardonable, or understandable, the lapses and darknesses which at times marred our lives — and to explain how these never touched our depths nor dimmed our memories of our youthful love.

JRRT, Letter #340 to Christopher Tolkien, 11 July 1972