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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

We have chosen to present in this section the text of six letters selected from amongst the 354 “Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien”, edited by Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien and Douglas Anderson (1981).

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien covers the author's correspondence over 60 years, from 1914 to the days before his death in 1973, at the age of 81. It includes letters written by Tolkien to relatives or close friends (his wife, his four children, people like C.S. Lewis), to his publishers (Stanley Unwin, then Rayner Unwin), but also to journalists, fellow professors or writers (such as his friend C.S. Lewis, or the poet W.H. Auden), as well as many readers asking him questions about his work.

This book – worth many a biography! – will appeal to anyone wishing to reach a better understanding of J.R.R. Tolkien and his creation: beyond the story of his life, it takes the reader on a journey through the 20th Century, from World War I to its later decades, revealing a man in all his complexity, far from the simple image of the writer taking refuge in his imagination, or the world-weary and isolated philologist and academic.

These Letters shed a unique light... (read more)

  • Letters ~ Presentation

    We have chosen to present in this section the text of six letters selected from amongst the 354 Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien and Douglas Anderson (1981).

  • Letter to Christopher Tolkien

    “I am so glad you felt that 'the Ring' is keeping up its standard, and (it seems) achieving that difficult thing in a long tale: maintaining a difference of quality and atmosphere in events that might easily become 'samey'.”

  • Letter to Milton Waldman

    “A moral of the whole (after the primary symbolism of the Ring, as the will to mere power, seeking to make itself objective by physical force and mechanism, and so also inevitably by lies) is the obvious one that without the high and noble the simple and vulgar is utterly mean; and without the simple and ordinary the noble and heroic is meaningless.”

  • Letter to W.H. Auden

    The famous poet W.H. Auden, who had reviewed The Fellowship of the Ring in the New York Times Book Review and Encounter, had been sent proofs of the third volume, The Return of the King. He wrote to Tolkien in April 1955 to ask various questions arising from the book...

  • Letter to Rhona Beare

    Mythically these tales are Elf-centred, not anthropocentric, and Men only appear in them, at what must be a point long after their Coming. This is therefore an ‘Elvish’ view, and does not necessarily have anything to say for or against such beliefs as the Christian that 'death' is not part of human nature, but a punishment for sin (rebellion), a result of the ‘Fall’”

  • Letters to Michael Tolkien

    “Since I came of age, and our 3 years separation was ended, we had shared all joys and griefs, and all opinions (in agreement or otherwise), so that I still often find myself thinking 'I must tell E[dith] about this' – and then suddenly I feel like a castaway left on a barren island under a heedless sky after the loss of a great ship.”


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