Item #2799 Autograph Letter Signed [ALS] on The Lord of the Rings. J. R. R. TOLKIEN.
Autograph Letter Signed [ALS] on The Lord of the Rings
Autograph Letter Signed [ALS] on The Lord of the Rings
Autograph Letter Signed [ALS] on The Lord of the Rings
TOLKIEN, J.R.R.

Autograph Letter Signed [ALS] on The Lord of the Rings

”…[I]t is really on the theme which has always engrossed me and is the foundation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’: the noble and the ignoble. For hobbitry you have the plain farmer-soldier; for the chivalry, a young minstrel or poet.”

A REMARKABLY REVEALING LETTER: TOLKIEN DISCUSSES HIS SPECIFIC FEARS ABOUT THE TWO TOWERS AND DEFINES “THE FOUNDATION” OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS AND CONNECTS IT TO HIS LIFE’S WORK.

The Fellowship of the Ring (the first volume of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) was published on July 29, 1954. There were a number of rave reviews (mostly notably from Tolkien’s friend C.S. Lewis) but there were also enough harsh or critical assessments (particularly the reviews in the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Times) to concern Tolkien and make him anxious about the reception of the second volume, The Two Towers.

Professional reviews were one worry, but Tolkien always seemed even more eager to discover if his works connected with “regular” readers as well. One such reader whose opinion he held in high regards, was one of his early supporters, Miss F.L. Perry, whom he had corresponded with earlier about The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. The present letter was written on November 22, 1954 – only eleven days after the publication of The Two Towers – but the opening of the letter implies that Tolkien has already written her for her thoughts on his new book (“I did not mean to put you to any trouble”) and has been eagerly awaiting her reply.

Then, in a revealing passage that gives insight into Tolkien’s thinking on potential failures of The Two Towers, he confesses that he worried about how his readers would accept the return of Gandalf (who was presumed dead at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring), and more generally, “would feel a falling off on a failure of their expectations,” or “feel they had had enough after the novelty had worn off, and perhaps regret the decrease of hobbitry and elfishness as the darkness increases and war and terror come out of the East.”

With relief – and evidently pleased with Miss Perry’s previous response – he writes that “All this is answered! Though by no means all are so satisfied by Gandalf…”

It’s clear that Miss Perry was curious to learn more about Tolkien’s writing and the history of Middle-earth, for Tolkien then goes on a wonderful digression first focusing on The Lord of the Rings before shifting to a discussion of his previously published work grounded in Anglo-Saxon history (noting, interestingly, that he is at his best when he is writing “verses arising from the emotions of a story, and written to represent the feelings of other ‘characters’ than myself”). He concludes with an important statement identifying the theme that unites all his work, both reality-based and fantasy-based. The historical work, he writes, “is really on the theme which has always engrossed me and is the foundation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’: the noble and the ignoble. For hobbitry you have the plain farmer-soldier; for the chivalry, a young minstrel or poet.”

He concludes his letter with the hope that Miss Perry will stay with him through volume III, “when all the complicated plot, and many characters, must be drawn together.”

The text reads in full:

Nov. 22nd 1954

Dear Miss Perry

It was very nice indeed of you to write; but I did not mean to put you to any trouble, specially not when unwell. Still, I was anxious about one or two points: specially about the return of Gandalf; and generally whether my friends would feel a falling off on a failure of their expectations; or feel they had had enough after the novelty had worn off, and perhaps regret the decrease of hobbitry and elfishness as the darkness increases and war and terror come out of the East.

All this is answered! Though by no means all are so satisfied by Gandalf. However, all the reviews of the T.T. so far have been good, and Edwin Muir (Observer) is much less patronizing.

As for the Chronicles: it has been impossible to include all that I have written or sketched out in this book. But there is really quite a lot of stray information about Arwen scattered about. It was the northern Númenórean realm of Isildur with its capitals at Annúminas and Fornost of which a good deal is said in the ‘Council of Elrond.’ The King of Angmar becomes the Lord of the Ringwraiths, who appears in Book 1, and will appear again.

I have written a good deal of verse (of very varying merit), and some of it has been published here and there. But I have never collected it. I think I am best at the kind of thing seen in the present book – verses arising from the emotions of a story, and written to represent the feelings of other ‘characters’ than myself.

The very long narrative poems, I do not suppose will be ever published. They may! Of longer things a ‘Breton Lay,’ Aotrou and Itroun was published in the ‘Welsh Review’ (now deceased); and on Dec. 3 you can hear (if you wish) a dramatic dialogue in alliterative verse concerning the ‘Battle of Maldon (fought A.D. 991), broadcast by the B.B.C. It might interest you since it concerns one of the most heroic events in Anglo-Saxon history, and is the history of Essex; the death of the great Duke Byrhhnoth of Essex in battle with the Vikings of Anlaf (Olaf Tryggvason) of Norway. And also because it is really on the theme which has always engrossed me and is the foundation of ‘The Lord of the Rings’: the noble and the ignoble. For hobbitry you have the plain farmer-soldier; for the chivalry, a young minstrel or poet.

I hope you will soon be better. And I hope, too, that you will continue to approve of Vol III, when all the complicated plot, and many characters, must be drawn together.

Thank you once more for your kindness in writing, and for the great encouragement you have given.

Yours sincerely,

[signed] J.R.R. Tolkien

Autograph Letter Signed. Four pages on two sheets (170 x 132 mm) of Tolkien’s 76 Sandfield Road stationery. Custom presentation folder. Usual mailing folds, a few spots, particularly on last page; visually very attractive, showcasing Tolkien’s famous calligraphic handwriting. As far as we can tell, this letter is unpublished.

References:

Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Price: $48,000 .

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