Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien” as Want to Read:
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  3,963 Ratings  ·  148 Reviews
'...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 ...more
Paperback, 502 pages
Published June 6th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1981)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jason Koivu
Feb 29, 2016 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I discovered The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien back in '96 when I moved to an LA suburb and was searching through the library for something interesting to read while I took advantage of their free A/C during the blistering summer heat.

This was definitely something interesting, but only because I was a Tolkien fanboy. Who else would find joy in pouring over mostly mundane letters to friends, family and publishers? Me, I pored over over them, so happy to read even the most minuscule detail of the man
Dec 04, 2008 Anthony rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 30, 2015 Daniel Ionson rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 16, 2010 Stephanie Ricker rated it really liked it
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
Sherwood Smith
Mar 31, 2016 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: letters
One of my favorite rereads.

Not only does one catch a glimpse of Tolkien's personality, life, and times, but deep in this book are buried letter-essays that provide the kernels of his ideas "On Fairy Stories" and the poem Mythopoeisis.
Apr 22, 2015 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 it was amazing
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
Mar 31, 2012 Nikki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Apr 01, 2016 Jenna (Falling Letters) rated it it was amazing
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
Jacob Aitken
Dec 07, 2014 Jacob Aitken rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inklings
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
Nov 09, 2012 Sandrus rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2014 Allison rated it really liked it
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
Jun 25, 2010 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
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.
Douglas Wilson
Feb 01, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Mia Parviainen
Feb 05, 2016 Mia Parviainen rated it really liked it
I love Tolkien's work. I haven't read every single thing he's written, and can't get through all of the The Silmarillion without stopping from information fatigue, and yet I still find something very appealing about the worlds that he created in his literature. I'm fascinated by his love for language, etymology, and story.

This tome contains a wide selection of Tolkien's letters: to his children, to publishing companies, to fans, to colleagues. Some letters are short, with quick details about hi
Jun 29, 2007 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 04, 2013 Radu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Edward Waverley
Aug 15, 2013 Edward Waverley marked it as to-read
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
Mar 06, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This book was fascinating, primarily because with about 60 years of fans and critics publishing their ideas on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, it was interesting to read the ideas of the man himself. I have not read his biography, but I cannot imagine it could be nearly as detailed as the letters collected in this volume. Granted, this book should not be read by folks just interested in The Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, or Silmarillion. There is plenty of that (and it is FANTASTIC AND JUICY!), but the ...more
Sep 13, 2015 Kailey rated it really liked it
Wonderful insight into Tolkien's life and times.
Oct 16, 2016 Kate rated it really liked it
how i'm love tolkien :'(
Nonethousand Oberrhein
Oct 04, 2016 Nonethousand Oberrhein rated it really liked it
Shelves: tolkieniana, british
Being John R.R. Tolkien
A unique opportunity to have explained the author’s vision on his works: The Hobbit , The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion are here reviewed in full detail through the long and very accurate letters Tolkien sent answering his readers inquieries. As a backdrop and binder to the authorial compendium, a good number of letters addressed to his family, friends and publishers show a lively portrait of the “man holding the pen”, confronted with economical, logistical
Luciana Darce
Oct 30, 2014 Luciana Darce rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Mar 28, 2015 Matias rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 15, 2016 Jaclyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and insightful. I've always appreciated that Tolkien was against people seeing LOTR as a allegory or trying to use his biography to understand his work while acknowledging that things outside his mind inevitably seeped in to his work, if vaguely.

If you have questions about the world of Middle-Earth, the languages, the peoples, this is the first place to come for answers. What better source than from the author himself!
Tim Nargi
Jun 24, 2015 Tim Nargi rated it it was amazing
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
Michael Burge
Feb 13, 2015 Michael Burge rated it really liked it
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
Seth Murray
Nov 04, 2012 Seth Murray rated it really liked it
Can I just begin by saying how incredibly coincidental it is that as I begin this review, my classical music Pandora begins to play a song from the Fellowship fo the Ring soundtrack itself (The scene where they're crossing the Misty Mountains, if I recall correctly). Anyways, now to the book. If you're reading this only for the sole purpose of finding some obscure LotR facts, you'll be disappointed. If, however, you're in search of a deeper understanding of the man behind the books, as well as ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Studi Tolkieniani: le 'Lettere' di Tolkien fuori catalogo 3 12 Jul 03, 2013 04:47AM  
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
  • Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life
  • The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth
  • Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
  • Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
  • Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
  • On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature
  • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  • The Map of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • Tolkien's Ring
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
More about J.R.R. Tolkien...

Share This Book

“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.” 420 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).” 137 likes
More quotes…