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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien Hardcover – 20 Aug 1981

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: George Allen & Unwin; 1st edition (20 Aug. 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0048260053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0048260055
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 15 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 649,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892. After serving in the First World War, he became best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, selling 150 million copies in more than 40 languages worldwide. Awarded the CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University, he died in 1973 at the age of 81.

Product Description


‘So rich, it reads like an autobiography’

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Humphrey Carpenter was born in Oxford in 1946 and spent most of his life in that city. He read English Language and Literature at Keble College, Oxford, and met Professor J.R.R. Tolkien on a number of occasions. For some years he worked for the BBC as a radio producer and broadcaster and won acclaim as a top biographer, including the recent and controversial biography of Robert Runcie. He died in 2005.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By gille liath on 23 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
To judge by these letters, Tolkien was the most incorrigible shop-talker there ever was. Although the editor says he wanted to `demonstrate the huge range of [T's] interests', about three-quarters of it is devoted to discussing every conceivable aspect of Lord of the Rings, from whether the orcs are heretical to whether Shadowfax went with Gandalf to the Blessed Realm (no and yes, if you're interested). Admittedly, many of the more arcane items, like the two mentioned, were in response to queries by over-enthusiastic readers; but it is evident that for the second half of his life, Tolkien's magnificent octopus engrossed most of his thought and permeated everything he did. In a couple of cases he even felt himself that he'd gone over the top, and didn't send what he'd written - though apparently he still kept hold of it.

I daresay his taking his own work too seriously is better than not taking it seriously enough, though; and the committed student of Middle Earth will find a wealth of material helpful to an appreciation of it. Though he vehemently disclaimed any intention of point-for-point allegory, and though he was happy for others to find their own meanings in his work, Tolkien did naturally develop his own ideas on `what it was all about'; and anyone who has enjoyed guessing what the models were for various aspects of his world will find quite a few clues. There are also a few interesting passages on linguistics and ancient literature - not as many as I'd expected - and a few on what he himself calls `deeper (and higher) matters'. His letter to his son about marriage is one of the most sensible, thoughtful things I've ever read on the subject.

The man's titanic pedantry, and his irritation at the modern world, come through loud and clear; but also his loyalty, sincerity, his endearing love of homely comforts, and determination to keep up the fight for decency. No-one need fear that, in these pages, they will discover someone with feet of clay.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback
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 enjoyable book, this collection of letters will not fail to delight. There is much intriguing information on his writings to be gleaned from 'The Letters of JRR Tolkien' but there is a lot more besides. Even if one were to skip all letters refering to Middle Earth there would remain a large and fascinating chunk of the book to explore. We knew that Tolkien's literary imagination was remarkable, but what is revealed here is the staggering depth and breath of Tolkien's thought on all matters. The letters deal with an immense range of topics: religion, language, politics, art, literature, philosophy, current affairs, theology, history - the list is endless and wonderfully diverse. His style is lively and never bland or cumbersome to read. Original ideas and phrases that stick in the mind, seem to flow from his pen without effort.
The author that emerges from 'The Letters of JRR Tolkien' is a very human man, deeply religious, humble, affectionate and witty.
This is a delightful volume, relevant to anyone who has the remotest interest in literature or indeed any aspect of human affairs. It will provide enormous pleasure through many readings and re-readings
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mike London on 8 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
Of the plethora of Tolkien books available on the market, not only is this one of the most essential, it is also one of the most highly enlightening. Naturally, that's because it was written by Tolkien himself.

Highly illuminating, frequently entertaining, and always interesting, Tolkien's LETTERS give us a remarkable look into one of the 20th century's most popular and widely read authors. Whether he is talking to his son about marriage, struggling to publish LORT in the early 1950s, addressing fans' various questions and concerns, writing about his scholarly life or his books, Tolkien is sharp-witted, engaging, and extremely intelligent. To his credit, he never sounds condescending, and ultimately, of all the writing about Tolkien, this is ultimately the most humanizing of them all.

What makes some of the most interesting to the letters are when Tolkien is discussing his own works. Much like UNFINISHED TALES, the LETTERS are a wonderful sumplement and a great source of information about Middle-earth that cannot be found elsewhere and is incredibly enlightening, whether it be a die-hard Tolkien researcher or a first time reader.

For those familiar with the older editions of LETTERS (I have a hardback version, well before this came out), the newly revised index, prepared by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, make this alone worth purchasing. The index is so much better and makes this edition a lot easier to navigate through

What makes Tolkien's LETTERS such a valuable addition to the Tolkien canon is because, of all his books, this is the most intimate, naked look we will ever have into his mind other than through a mythological lens of his core books.
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