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Letter 190

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Letter 190 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.


This fragment of a letter, dated July 3, 1956, was written to Rayner Unwin. Tolkien had been sent a list of translations to the nomenclature for the first translation of The Lord of the Rings, into Dutch by Max Schuchart. Tolkien writes that he objects to translations of personal nomenclature; the Shire is based on (or, as he calls it himself, "a parody of") rural England; plus, the toponymy of the Shire is wholly different from that of the Netherlands.

Concerning the map "A Part of the Shire", Tolkien thinks translating it to "Een deel von 'The Shire'" sufficient. By not translating the Appendices, the Translator (this word is capitalized throughout the letter) got himself into problems; Anglo-Saxon is not like Dutch, as Schuchart had translated, it is related to English.

Tolkien sent back a letter containing a detailed commentary, and suggests leaving the maps untranslated, and leave personal nomenclature alone as much as possible. He could provide a list of etymologies that could be included.

Tolkien's most important demand is that the word hobbit stays unaltered; no more "Hompen".

He closes this letter with an apology to his rigidity, but translations into French of Beatrix Potter turned out not so well. For example, Mrs. Tiggywinkle became Poupette à l'épingle.


  • Schuchart did translate the placenames.
  • Poupette à l'épingle means as much as "Puppet of a pin".
  • To show that translating Shirenames is not necessary, Tolkien translates several Dutch cities into English. There are two puzzling forms: Hedge, a translation of 's Gravenhage, instead of *Count'shedge (this city is commonly known as The Hague), and Applethorn, a literal translation of Apeldoorn, where *Appledores would be more correct.