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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (ISBN 0-618-05699-8) is a selection of J.R.R. Tolkien's letters published in 1981, edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and the biographer Humphrey Carpenter. The selection contains 354 letters, dating between October 1914, when Tolkien was an undergraduate at Oxford, and August 29, 1973, four days before his death.

The letters can be roughly divided in four categories:

  1. Personal letters to Edith Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien and his other children,
  2. Letters about Tolkien's career as a professor of Anglo-Saxon
  3. Letters to his publishers at Allen & Unwin explaining his failing to meet the deadline and related topics
  4. Letters about Middle-earth

The last category is especially of interest to Tolkien fans, as it provides a lot of information about Middle-earth which cannot be found anywhere in the works published by Tolkien himself.

A few letters of interest

German translation

In letters 29 & 30, it appears that a German translation of The Hobbit was being negotiated in 1938. The German firm inquired whether Tolkien was of 'arisch' (aryan) origin. Tolkien was infuriated by this, and wrote two letters as a response. In the first one Tolkien apparently refused to give any declaration whatsoever of his origin. In the second one he proudly protested on the inquiry and, among other things, replied that "... I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted Jewish people". He gave his editor the choice on which reply to use. This second letter is the only one preserved and it is probable that the first one was sent.