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Christopher Tolkien, 30 Apr 1944

‘I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world’

My dearest:

I have decided to send you another air letter, not an airgraph, in the hope that I may so cheer you up a little more … I do miss you so, and I find all this mighty hard to bear on my own account and on yours. The utter stupid waste of war, not only material but moral and spiritual, is so staggering to those who have to endure it. And always was (despite the poets), and always will be (despite the propagandists) – not of course that it has not is and will be necessary to face it in an evil world. But so short is human memory and so evanescent are its generations that in only about 30 years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone goes really to the heart. The burnt hand teaches most about fire.

I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days – quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the heavens! And the products of it all will be mainly evil – historically considered. But the historical version is, of course, not the only one. All things and deeds have a value in themselves, apart from their ‘causes’ and ‘effects’. No man can estimate what is really happening at the present sub specie aeternitatis. All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labours with vast power and perpetual success – in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in. So it is in general, and so it is in our own lives … But there is still some hope that things may be better for us, even on the temporal plane, in the mercy of God. And though we need all our natural human courage and guts (the vast sum of human courage and endurance is stupendous, isn’t it?) and all our religious faith to face the evil that my befall us (as it befalls others, if God wills) still we may pray and hope. I do. And you were so special a gift to me, in a time of sorrow and mental suffering, and your love, opening at once almost as soon as you were born, foretold to me, as it were in spoken words, that I am consoled ever by the certainty that there is no end to this. Probable under God that we shall meet again, ‘in hale and in unity’, before very long, dearest, and certain that we have some special bond to last beyond this life – subject of course always to the mystery of free will, by which either of us could throw away ‘salvation’. In which case God would arrange matters differently! …

On Thursday I gave 2 lectures and had some troublesome business in town and was too tired to attend the Lewis séance. I hope to see him tomorrow, and read some more of ‘the Ring’. It is growing and sprouting again (I did a whole day at it yesterday to the neglect of many matters) and opening out in unexpected ways. So far in the new chapters Frodo and Sam have traversed Sarn Gebir, climbed down the cliff, encountered and temporarily tamed Gollum. They have with his guidance crossed the Dead Marshes and the slag-heaps of Mordor, lain in hiding outside the main gates and found them impassable, and set out for a more secret entrance near Minas Morghul (formerly M. Ithil). It will turn out to be the deadly Kirith Ungol and Gollum will play false. But at moment they are in Ithilien (which is proving a lovely land); there has been a lot of bother about stewed rabbit; and they have been captured by Gondorians, and witnessed them ambushing a Swerting army (dark men of South) marching to Mordor’s aid. A large elephant of prehistoric size, a war-elephant of the Swertings, is loose, and Sam has gratified a life-long wish to see an Oliphaunt, an animal about which there was a hobbit nursery-rhyme (though it was commonly supposed to be mythical). In the chapter next to be done they will get to Kirith Ungol and Frodo will be caught. Here is the rhyme cited by Sam: Grey as a mouse, / Big as a house, / Nose like a snake, / I make the earth quake, / As I tramp through the grass; / Trees crack as a pass. / With horns in my mouth / I walk in the South / Flapping big ears. / Beyond count of years / I’ve stumped round and round, / Never lie on the ground, / Not even to die. / Oliphaunt am I, / Biggest of All, / huge, old, and tall. / If ever you’d met me, / You wouldn’t forget me. / If you never do, / You won’t think I’m true; / But old Oliphaunt am I, / and I never lie. I hope that has something of the ‘nursery rhyme’ flavour. On the whole Sam is behaving well, and living up to repute. He treats Gollum rather like Ariel to Caliban…

Now we can only link with this flimsy bit of paper! But may it speed to you and arrive safely. I wish that it might be written in Runes beyond the craft of Celebrimbor of Hollin, shining like silver, filled with the visions and horizons that open in my mind. Though I have without you no one to speak my thought. I first began to write the ‘H. of the Gnomes’ in army huts, crowded, filled with the noise of gramophones – and there you are in the same prison. May you, too, escape – strengthened. Take care of yourself, in soul and body, in all ways proper and possible, for the love that you have to your own Father.