Customer Review

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars never meaning to send, 23 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (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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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Aug 2011 20:52:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 23 Aug 2011 21:14:27 BDT
M. Jolliff says:
Hi Gille
Nice review though to be fair Middle Earth dominated his thinking, not LotR (he's not alone in his pedantry), but that is what made the whole so immersively impressive. Read this more than half a lifetime ago and shall dig it out again for a perusal. Thanks
Talking of the Prof, have you read his Leaf by Niggle (at the end of his essay on Faerie -Tree and Leaf)? One of the most beautiful and spiritually uplifting stories I've ever read.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Aug 2011 22:32:06 BDT
gille liath says:
Yes, I like it a lot; a strange piece for someone who claims to hate allegory, though!

You're right, ME rather than LotR; but the latter is most dwelt on in the letters, because of the huge chunk of his life spent writing and publishing it, and also because Silmarillion had not then been published.
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