10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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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