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The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  3,455 ratings  ·  139 reviews
This collection will entertain all who appreciate the art of masterful letter writing. The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien sheds much light on Tolkien's creative genius and grand design for the creation of a whole new world: Middle-earth. Featuring a radically expanded index, this volume provides a valuable research tool for all fans wishing to trace the evolution of THE HOBBIT a ...more
Hardcover, 463 pages
Published May 1st 1981 by Houghton Mifflin (T) (first published 1981)
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Tolkien, as popular as he is, is too often misunderstood. His works and world are wrongly interpreted and crazy assumptions are made about the man himself. Worst is when people use The Lord of the Rings to make a point that Tolkien himself would have disagreed with. For instance, after Obama was elected one political commentator happily declared, "The shadows are lifting from Mordor" — being apparently completely unaware that Tolkien was politically against big government and that Obama's moral ...more
Dear Unwin,
the Hobbit will be ready tomorrow, honest.

Yours faithfully,


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,


Dear Unwin,
did you like it?

Yours faithfully,


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

Yours faithfully,


...this decade, etc.

Dear Unwin,
I may have no taste but the American cover art is appalling and
Daniel Ionson
What better way to enter the mind of a mentor you'll never get to meet than to read his letters?

There are so many facets I gleaned about the man by reading these letters--his humor, sadness, fear & humility.
Stephanie Ricker
An excerpt from a letter to Walter Hooper, 20 February 1968:
"I remember Jack [C.S. Lewis:] telling me a story of Brightman, the distinguished ecclesiastical scholar, who used to sit quietly in Common Room saying nothing except on rare occasions. Jack said that there was a discussion on dragons one night and at the end Brightman's voice was heard to say, 'I have seen a dragon.' Silence. 'Where was that?' he was asked. 'On the Mount of Olives,' he said. He relapsed into silence and never before hi
“It is a curse having an epic temperament in an overcrowded age [1944] devoted to sappy bits!”

A treasure trove of insightful material into the life and writings of Tolkien, but not for everyone. Readers uninterested in Tolkien’s writings need not waste their time.

Where to start? With the negatives, since they’re so few. Tolkien is opinionated, peevish and pedantic. He hated the appellation “professor.”

Among these letters covering most of his adult life, we learn how he viewed his world, his writ
Mar 16, 2010 Samuel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All fans of Tolkien
This book is simply a must-read if you're a Tolkien fan. Most of the letters in this book are really interesting and they certainly changed the way I see Tolkien. The letters contain fascinating information on the absolutely huge creation process of LoTR and the whole mythology, which was probably the most interesting part of this book. But even more important, they shed light on the mind and thoughts of this great man.

After reading this, I feel like I know Tolkien a lot better than I did from j
Reading Tolkien's letters has to be fascinating for anyone interested in the man and/or his works. He reflects on what he wrote, gives advice to his sons, reports on the progress of his work, and sends irritated letters to Germans who have asked if he's of Jewish descent. It's a pretty exhaustive collection, with an index and little bits of context to go with each letter. Worth reading!
Jacob Aitken
This could be described as "the glory of Germanic culture without Naziism." Tolkien saw a number of items that are either not noticed in the world, or not harmonized: 1) Germanic literature has an austere cultural beauty about it; 2) Modernism has no beauty; 2) Hitler rightly reacted to the decadence of democracies; 3) Hitler's actions would destroy the beauty of Germanic culture; 4) There would be no winners in WW2.

Besides brilliant commentary and background on the LotR, we gain insight into JR
What a ride!

I really enjoyed this. This book is for ppl really interested in Tolkien and his masterpieces chiefly those on Middle Earth.

I came to know a lot more about the man behind the books and also about Middle Earth and it's myths. There are answers for very interesting matters, like hobbits, ents and the Elvish tongues.

It was such a pity that he couldn't publish the Silmarillion during his life time as I can feel that through out his letters this was in his mind all the time and he did wo
Tolkien speaks often in these letters about his distaste for the over-analysis of literature. He says that trying to learn more about the author and his life and trying to fit the literature into that outside environment is unwise, and basically, annoying. So, as I read these letters of Tolkien I tried not to let what I learned about him, his life, and his views color the stories, particularly those, of course, of the Legendarium. As I am apt to over-analyze things, especially those for which I ...more
Edward Waverley
Look up CS Lewis in this book's index, as you were probably already thinking of doing. Tolkien's letters to his friend Lewis, as well as his incredibly frank remarks about Lewis in letters to others, are enough to make this collection very valuable. Tolkien states unequivocally that he detests volumes two and three of Lewis' Space Trilogy, and attributes the failure of "That Hideous Strength" in particular to Lewis' friendship with Charles Williams during its composition. (You will see also that ...more
I don't think I can relay just how much I loved reading this. A lot of information about the characters, themes, and linguistic elements in his writing, as well as a nice glimpse into his role as father, husband, and professor. As a more-than-casual fan of Tolkien, I found this book to be extremely insightful, and can't believe it took me this long to finally read it.
Reno (Falling Letters)
Review originally posted 4 January 2013 on Falling Letters.

I thought I would breeze through this book and finish it in two days maximum. Not because it would be an 'easy' read, but because I had lots of time to read and I am highly interested in the subject matter. Not so! The book contains 430 pages of letters so dense and filled with so much that it took me much longer to read. This is not at all a complaint. I was absolutely delighted to have so much to sink my teeth into.

I don't read books a
The letters are curated as such that the letters herein have been chosen for giving some kind of insight into Tolkien’s works – namely: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and his short stories and verses. Happily, we follow his life through the lens of his writing life – creating his myth – instead of letters focusing on his very successful and (to me) interesting academic career, though we do get snippets of it throughout.

Full review to come.

Essential Tolkien:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien Tales from the Perilous Realm With Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien Bilbo's Last Song by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien The Book of Lost Tales, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two (The History of Middle-earth, #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth, #3) by J.R.R. Tolkien The Shaping of Middle-Earth (The History of Middle-earth, #4) by J.R.R. Tolkien The Lost Road and Other Writings (The History of Middle-earth, #5) by J.R.R. Tolkien The Return of the Shadow The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One (The History of Middle-Earth, #6) by J.R.R. Tolkien The Treason of Isengard The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two (The History of Middle-earth, #7) by J.R.R. Tolkien The War of the Ring The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Three (The History of Middle-earth, #8) by J.R.R. Tolkien
I've greatly enjoyed this book because it gives a small yet very interesting insight into the mind of one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. From his letters to the editors of Allen and Unwin, to those to close friends such as C.S. Lewis, or family, you get a fairly good picture of what Tolkien was like as an author, a friend and a father. Somewhat modest regarding his own works, but at times very proud, you can tell he really loved languages and their creation and evolution, since he ...more
While Tom Shippey’s more recent bio on Tolkien, J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, was a slightly more grandiose read -- the title itself being much less modest than Carpenter’s simple one -- Carpenter’s straightforward biographical narrative belies a time before the cinematic treatment of The Lord of the Rings dominated twenty-first century fantasy. First published within mere years after Tolkien’s passing in ’73, Carpenter was one of the lucky few to actually interview the Oxford don. Hi ...more
This is not, of course, an epic fantasy on the scale of his Rings Trilogy. But because Tolkien is artistically and imaginatively bound up with his work, these personal letters bear something of the same magic. They may be read, on one level, as a "making-of" to his novels: the drafts and revisions and plotting are sketched out here, with exciting intimacy. The philology (Tolkien is fascinated with language) is hashed out, the minor details of foreign editions and illustrations are painstakingly ...more
Jun 29, 2007 Kevin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien & Fantasy Fans
Shelves: fantasy
Sick and tired of your pompous friends claiming they know and understand what Tolkien meant, only to shoot off at the mouth some bizarre, mid '90s goth kid trash about the real meanings of the metaphors used in Tolkien's work?

Then buy this book and put them in their place.

This book details Tolkien's real meanings in personal letters he wrote to the publishers and others.

Everything from stating that Elves are close biological cousins to man, through to real issue Elves had with Men (in compari
Michael Burge
Tolkien reveals himself to be less the crusty Oxford don and more the attention-seeking artiste in this fascinating collection of his correspondence, replete with the insecurities and blind aspiration of all writers, especially those who work for years fuelled by nothing more than faith in their storytelling abilities.

I found my eyebrows lifting in admiration for the man who typed the entire manuscript of Lord of the Rings - twice - on his old typewriter, keeping his story together with nothing
Supongo que el placer de la lectura de estas cartas puede variar mucho entre los lectores dependiendo de las expectativas que tengan ante las mismas. Las mías eran las más obvias: comprender y conocer algo más de su obra principal El Señor de los Anillos pero, especialmente, de su creación: la Tierra Media. A diferencia de lectores que pudieran encontrar interesante el tema de las lenguas inventadas por el escritor británico, yo buscaba detalles referidos a sus fuentes, su inspiración, la vincul ...more
Rossrn Nunamaker
May 08, 2015 Rossrn Nunamaker rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious Tolkien fans only
Shelves: bio-autobio
As many others have noted, this a book for fans of JRR Tolkien, okay, more than fans.

As the title notes, it is a book of excerpts (for the most part) of letters that Tolkien wrote throughout his life time edited by Humphrey Carpenter with help from JRR's son Christopher.

As such, this is framed with the 'blessing' of the family and 'estate'.

Having said that it was a wonderful read that gave tremendous insight into not only Tolkien as a person, but his thoughts about his stories as well as the pu
Martina Frammartino
Molte lettere parlano della realizzazione del Signore degli anelli e della sua storia editoriale, e quelle erano davvero affascinanti. Creare un mondo così ricco e complesso non è stato certo facile, e poter dare uno sguardo al “dietro le quinte” è illuminante. E poi mi piace molto l’umiltà di chi, nonostante il successo, continuava a essere la stessa persona di sempre. Ottimo libro, la cui lettura è fondamentale per chiunque si occupi, in vario modo, di fantasy.
Il testo completo: http://librola
Tim Nargi
The Letters of Tolkien is a window into the famous philologist, for he was a philologist before he was a prolific writer. From his study and love for words, came the fantasy world of Middle-Earth, with all its races, customs, history and unique names. The Letters provide valuable insights into Tolkien's writing processes of the Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion, and his other short works. Such insights are usually responses to fan questions, or clarifications on certain items to hi ...more
Garrett Cash
It is a privilege to be able to spend time with and better understand one of the greatest genius's of the twentieth century here through his letters. From what I've seen, reading the letters of an author is the best way to get "intimate" with their true personality. Tolkien was definitely a complex fellow and it's difficult to describe him in all of his self-contradicting idiosyncratic behaviour, but this makes him and his work all the more fascinating. The vast majority of (and the best parts o ...more
Luciana Darce
Tolkien, uma biografia e As Cartas de J. R. R. Tolkien estavam lado a lado na estante da livraria quando me deparei com eles algum tempo atrás. Dúvida não havia que, se era para ler sobre alguma figura histórica, eu leria sobre um dos meus autores favoritos. A questão agora era só escolher se que forma eu preferia fazer isso.

Ler uma biografia, escrita por outra pessoa que não a própria figura-objeto da mesma, significa enxergar o biografado pelo olhar de outra pessoa, filtrada pelas opiniões e p
Bryana Johnson
Tolkien’s son has put his father’s letters into a quite extensive collection that gives us a better feel for John Ronald Reuel’s own mind than any biography could do. It includes letters to Edith, to family members, to publishers, inquirers, scholars, fans of all kinds, and – my personal favorites – letters to his two sons, as they attended university and later fought in the Second World War. There are many letters that have to do with publishing hassles and squabbles and domestic arrangements, ...more
Really enjoyed learning about both Tolkien and Middle Earth through his letters! With just these letters, you can clearly see Middle Earth's development over many years. What started off with just the children's book The Hobbit soon became the wonderful Middle Earth mythology! It took on a life of its own, one that even surprised Tolkien at times:

“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 R
Bart Breen
Great Insight available here!

JRR Tolkien is one of the most celebrated treasures of the 20th century without a doubt. His impact upon Western Culture through his writing, continues to grow.

The Letters of JRR Tolkien offer the reader the opportunity to sit beside him at his desk and hear much of what he had to say in his voluminous and thorough correspondence.

The insight offered here is great. You see the personality and passion of this witty carmudgeon spill out in what otherwise could have been
Jul 27, 2012 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans.
Shelves: middle-earth
The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien is an incredibly fascinating book, containing letters from Tolkien's student days to four days before his death. I was a bit wary of it, thinking it would end up a long read. Instead, I whipped through pretty fast. I admit to skimming through some letters when they didn't seem that relevant to my interests (lengthy discourses on religion and/or language are not my strong point).

For fans of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, there is plenty of material about those
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Studi Tolkieniani: le 'Lettere' di Tolkien fuori catalogo 3 12 Jul 03, 2013 04:47AM  
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
  • Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth
  • Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
  • The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
  • Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
  • A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
  • The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English lan
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“For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more--remembering my own sins and follies; and realize that men's hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words.” 396 likes
“Criticism - however valid or intellectually engaging - tends to get in the way of a writer who has anything personal to say. A tightrope walker may require practice, but if he starts a theory of equilibrium he will lose grace (and probably fall off).” 132 likes
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