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Letter 76

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 76
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
DateJuly 28, 1944
Subject(s)Samwise Gamgee and Hamlet

Letter 76 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Tolkien assured his son that he would not dream of altering Samwise Gamgee's name without his approval, but the object of altering it was to bring out the comicness, peasantry, and Englishry of this jewel among the hobbits. If he had thought of it at the beginning he would have given all hobbits English names to match the Shire. First came the Gaffer and then Gamgee from Lamorna.[notes 1] He doubted that Gamgee was English, having been the name of cottonwool, invented by a man of that name in the last century.

Hamlet had been performed at the Oxford playhouse, and emphasized for Tolkien the folly of reading Shakespeare without seeing the plays acted. It had been a very good performance with a young, fierce Hamlet, played fast without cuts. The most moving part had been one that he had always found a bore when reading – mad Ophelia singing her snatches.

Note

  1. In 1932 in Lamorna Cove in Cornwall, Tolkien amused his children by nicknaming a local character as "Gaffer Gamgee".