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Letter 78

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 78
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
DateAugust 12, 1944
Subject(s)Hardening one's skin, African nostalgia, Lord of the Rings inertia

Letter 78 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Tolkien told his son that he carefully read his letters and that it was right for him to open his troubled heart, but not to think that any part of his exterior life was not of interest. He was glad that Christopher was finding it easier to "rub along". Do not worry about any declension of your high standards, said Tolkien; a little thickening of the outer skin would protect the more sensitive interior and be of value in later life. One discovery was that values often lurk under dreadful appearances. Urukhai is only a figure of speech; there are no genuine Uruks, or folks made bad by their maker's intention or so corrupted as to be irredeemable. Tolkien admitted that many humans seemed irredeemable short of a special miracle, especially in Deutschland and Nippon, but no country had a monopoly on such.

Christopher's writings about African, the dryness, dust, and smell of the satan-licked land, reminded Tolkien of his mother. She hated it as a land and was alarmed that Tolkien's father was growing to like it. It was said no English-born women could ever get over this dislike but that Englishmen (in peacetime) did get to love it. Christopher's writings, even those detrimental, increased in Tolkien a longing to see it all again. Much as he loved the English countryside he was most stirred by space and barrenness, and his heart still lingered in high stony wastes of mountain-wreckage. Man cannot live on bread alone and without bare rock, pathless sand, and unharvested seas he would grow to hate all green things as fungoid growth.

Tolkien felt dry of any inspiration for the Ring, feeling nothing but inertia to be overcome. One reason he missed his son was for the will to get it done. He would send more chapters and was eager to get Christopher’s opinion since the book was more and more addressed to him.