Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien

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'...If you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link. If then you wanted a large tale, the Ring would at once acquire a capital letter; and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. As he did, unasked, on the hearth at Bag End as soon as I came to that point. So the essential Quest started at once. But I met a lot of things along the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner of the inn was a shock, and I had no more

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

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Overview

'...If you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link. If then you wanted a large tale, the Ring would at once acquire a capital letter; and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. As he did, unasked, on the hearth at Bag End as soon as I came to that point. So the essential Quest started at once. But I met a lot of things along the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner of the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than Frodo did. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlorien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there.'—J.R.R. Tolkien to W.H. Auden, June 7, 1955

J.R.R. Tolkien, cherished author of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, was one of the twentieth century's most prolific letter writers. Over the years he wrote a mass of letters—to his publishers, his family, to friends, and to fans of his books—which record the history and composition of his works and his reaction to subsequent events.

By turns thoughtful, impish, scholarly, impassioned, playful, vigorous, and gentle, Tolkien poured his heart and mind into a great stream of correspondence to intimate friends and unknown admirers all over the world. From this collection one sees a mind of immense complexity and many layers—artistic, religious, charmingly eccentric, sentimental, and ultimately brilliant.

Now newly expanded with a detailed index, this collection provides an invaluable record that sheds much light on Tolkien's creative genius, his thoughts and feelings about his own work, and the evolution of his grand design for the creation of a whole new world—Middle-earth.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The old fellow's letters to friends, family, and fans offer insight into his life and writings. Fun but not essential. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395315552
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/1981
  • Pages: 464

Meet the Author

Humphrey Carpenter, the author of THE BRIDESHEAD GENERATION and THE INKLINGS, among other books, was given unrestricted access to all of Tolkien's papers for his biography of Tolkien, J.R.R. TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY.

J.R.R. TOLKIEN (1892-1973) was the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Húrin. His books have been translated into more than forty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.

Biography

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January, 1892 at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, but at the age of four he and his brother were taken back to England by their mother. After his father's death the family moved to Sarehole, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham. Tolkien spent a happy childhood in the countryside and his sensibility to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his pictures.

His mother died when he was only twelve and both he and his brother were made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward's School, Birmingham, where Tolkien shine in his classical work. After completing a First in English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien married Edith Bratt. He was also commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the battle of the Somme. After the war, he obtained a post on the New English Dictionary and began to write the mythological and legendary cycle which he originally called "The Book of Lost Tales" but which eventually became known as The Silmarillion.

In 1920 Tolkien was appointed Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds which was the beginning of a distinguished academic career culminating with his election as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Meanwhile Tolkien wrote for his children and told them the story of The Hobbit. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel to The Hobbit and gradually Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, a huge story that took twelve years to complete and which was not published until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement Tolkien and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife's death in 1971. He died on 2 September 1973 leaving The Silmarillion to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins (UK).

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 3, 1892
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (South Africa)
    1. Date of Death:
      September 2, 1973
    2. Place of Death:
      Oxford, England

Customer Reviews

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( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2002

    Tolkien on Tolkien

    This is a wonderful compilation of letters written by Tolkien to various people (friends, fans, media, etc.) that includes Tolkien thoughts on questions and criticisms of his work. Subjects such as the basis for Middle-earth, the untreated subject of the entwives, and many, many more are discussed by the man who knew them best - Tolkien himself. Entertaining to read and humorous more often than not, I highly recommend this book for fans of all types and ages.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Real Authorial Intent

    As a student that has been in more English courses than are good for an individual, I know only too well that we often know what the author "intended" or "really meant" by a specific word, situation, or person more than the actual author! Too often writers assume that objects or characters or plot lines symbolize something far from what the author had in fact intended to symbolize. "Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien" details the purpose behind everything Tolkien every wrote. The book is a collection of letters actually written by Tolkien to various correspondents including his son Christopher, publishers Allen & Unwin, and Unwin's son Rayner. This book is a must for any and every Tolkien fan! If you want to learn more about the origins of Hobbits or need a simplified explanation of "On Fairy Stories" this is the place to get it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2008

    Insightful

    Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien presents a look into the evolution of Tolkien's legendarium, as well as a glimpse into Tolkien's personal life. A worthy addition to the library of any Tolkien reader.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2007

    Revealing Collection of Letters

    The reader is given an overview of Tolkien's life and relationships through excerpts from his letters, the letters spanning his adult life. A brief bit of context is given at the start of each letter, footnotes are also used to add important information. The bulk of the collection covers the role that Tolkien's writing, as well as his efforts to have his works published, played in his life. Of special interest are several lengthy letters giving an overview of The Lord of the Rings, stressing the main points, as Tolkien saw them. The book is recommended for those wanting to know more about Tolkien. By the way, the review editor seems to have an odd dislike for certain punctuation items, notably semicolons and parens.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 7, 2014

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    Posted October 26, 2012

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    Posted June 16, 2009

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    Posted March 5, 2010

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    Posted December 10, 2014

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