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Letter 131

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"...It is a long tale..." — Aragorn
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Letter 131 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

After Allen & Unwin, under pressure from Tolkien to make up their minds, had reluctantly declined to publish The Lord of the Rings together with The Silmarillion, Tolkien was confident that Milton Waldman of Collins (= William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd.) would shortly issue both books under his firm's imprint. In the spring of 1950, Waldman told Tolkien that he hoped to begin typesetting the following autumn. But there were delays, largely caused by Waldman's frequent absences in Italy and his bad health. By the latter part of 1951 no definite arrangements for publication had yet been made, and Collins were becoming anxious about the combined length of both books. It was apparently at Waldman's suggestion that Tolkien wrote the following letter – of which the full text is some ten thousand words long – with the intention of demonstrating that The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion were interdependent and indivisible. The letter, which interested Waldman so much that he had a typed copy made (see the end of no. 137), is not dated, but was probably written late in 1951. (This is the headnote of Letter 131 as given in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien)

Publication history

In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, the part summarizing The Lord of the Rings has been omitted. This part was published and commented upon in Scull and Hammond's The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, pages 742-749. The letter as published originally, summarizing The Silmarillion, is also reprinted in the second edition of the book, pages x-xxix.