The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  2,565 ratings  ·  109 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 1980)
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Anthony
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
Robert
Dear Unwin,
the Hobbit will be ready tomorrow, honest.

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

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,

Tolkien.

Dear Unwin,
did you like it?

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

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

Yours faithfully,

Tolkien.

...this decade, etc.

Dear Unwin,
I may have no taste but the American cover art is appalling and...more
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...more
Nikki
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!
Samuel
Mar 16, 2010 Samuel rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Sandrus
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...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
Lindsay
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
Outstanding.
Allison
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
Radu
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
Erik
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
Nathan
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
Kevin
Jun 29, 2007 Kevin rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
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
Sebina~☆~ClassicMaiden
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 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 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 The End of the Third Age  The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four (The History of Middle-earth, #9) by J.R.R. Tolkien ...more
Tori
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...more
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...more
Lisa
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...more
Jenny
I am so grateful for this book of Tolkien's letters and what they reveal about his life and heart. Reading his letters I feel that I know him better as a teacher, author, friend, father, and Christian, the next best thing to actually communing with him face to face. It is particularly delightful to read his own commentary (he responded faithfully to fans and critics alike) on passages in his books that I have long loved and puzzled over.

Today we have no time to write real letters to each other,...more
David Todd
I love letters as literature! Letters from politicians. Letters from writers. Letters from preachers. Letters from other famous, infamous, or not so famous people will do. When I ran across The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien at a used book store, I snatched it up and read it right away. Actually, I started right away. I find reading letters as a sole diet of intellectual intake is a very unbalanced diet, and can become unpalateable. So I read this in bits and snatches over a four month period.

I belie...more
Douglas Summers-Stay
When I first read Lord of the Rings, I was uncomfortable with Frodo's change of heart at mount Doom. In one of the letters in this book, Tolkien explains that it was no more Frodo's moral fault than if a rock had fallen on him. It was simply too great a weight for any mortal to bear for too long.
There are lots of insights like that. How did he reconcile the gods of his mythology with his Catholicism? Where did the Ents come from? What was he trying to do with those (very different from folklore)...more
Seth Murray
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
Kirsten
This is an absolute must-read book for dedicated Tolkien fans. It has been very well edited from what must be a huge volume of letters so that those that are included are of special interest to people studying Tolkien's works.

Tolkien was a relatively private person, and above all felt that studying the biographical details of an artist did not contribute anything to the appreciation or understanding of their work. However, in his letters Tolkien describes, clarifies and even invents new aspects...more
Sofia
I couldn't have said it any better: review from "a costumer" posted on Amazon:
"One of the greatest literary figures of modern times, Tolkien is principally known as a novelist, scholar, mythologist, poet, essayist and philologist. However an element of the man that tends to go unnoticed is the fact that, on the basis of this volume at least, he was one of the greatest letter writers of the 20th century. Whether the reader is an avid consumer of all things Tolkien, or is just looking for an enjoy...more
Titus Hjelm
This should be on the reading list of everyone who's ever struggled with writing. Tolkien spends a lot of time explaining to various people why especially LOTR is late. First these read like amusing documents of a pedantic professor, but get a more melancholy sense towards the end of his life when it starts to look like Silmarillion would bever be completed. As a person Tolkien comes off like a remnant of an age long gone: his rustic dislike of pretty much anything to do with 'modernity' is clea...more
Justin Wiggins
This was a very fascinating and challenging read! I just marveled at J.R.R.Tolkien's genius as a philologist and writer. There were many letters that were rather hard to follow when he went into detail with words, their sounds and languages. I laughed at his criticism of his critics and saying C.S.Lewis could be "irritating at times." Yet he definitely showed his love for him, and his gratitude for encouraging him to publish The Lord of the Rings. Towards the end of the letters one cannot help b...more
Lucretius
I took my time with this book, reading a few letters or sometimes just one most nights before going to sleep. If you're interested at all in Tolkien's work, this is a fascinating book. There are insights into Middle Earth and it's creator I suspect not to be found elsewhere. These letters are also a peek into Tolkien's life that feels not a bit voyeuristic. (Tolkien's son, Christopher, had a say about letters that were not published for discretion's sake, such as early love letters to his wife.)...more
Deanna
Sometimes kind of dense (I'm not a philologist!), sometimes terribly funny (Tolkien's response to an American columnist asking what makes him tick: I am not a machine. I don't tick.), sometimes terribly sad (The letter he writes to one of his sons detailing how hard it is to experience something and not have Edith to tell damn near broke my fucking heart and I may or may not have teared up in the library), Tolkien's letters are well worth a perusal for any fan. The attention to detail the man co...more
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Studi Tolkieniani: le 'Lettere' di Tolkien fuori catalogo 3 10 Jul 03, 2013 04:47AM  
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
  • Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
  • A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
  • The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth
  • The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-Earth
  • The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • Meditations on Middle Earth: New Writing on the Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The History Of Middle Earth Index
  • Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet,WWI veteran (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 language and literature from 1945 to 1959. He was a cl...more
More about J.R.R. Tolkien...
The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe) The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3) The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

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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.” 340 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).” 121 likes
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