Tolkien Gateway

Letter 151

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 151
RecipientHugh Brogan
Date18 September 1954
Subject(s)Comments on The Lord of the Rings: fascination, translation, Middle-earth

Letter 151 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien opined that part of the fascination with The Lord of the Rings was the incomplete vistas of legend and history. He thought Part I was overweighted with attempts to depict the setting and historical background (which did "exist" and were written first). But he could not get the whole set of stories published in chronological order.

Brogan preferred goblins to orcs, which Tolkien said was a large question. Personally he preferred Orcs. Tolkien deeply regretted using "Elves" though its original meaning was suitable. The word had been disastrously debased, partly and unforgivably by Shakespeare, with regrettable overtones. Tolkien hoped in an Appendix to Volume III[1] he could make clear terms from a "forgotten epoch" that had no precise modern equivalents.

Tolkien was very grateful to Brogan because only he and the Manchester Guardian seemed to have noticed the verses in the book. He told Brogan that Frodo was not another Bilbo and that Frodo had been broken by fear and horror. Neither he nor all the other hobbits came out in purely Shire-fashion.

Middle-earth was just the archaic inhabited world of men. It lay as it did since the beginning of the Third Age, round and inescapable, leading to ordinary history. If you traveled west you would just circle the globe for the "mythological" time of Valinor, Eressëa, and Númenor is gone.

Tolkien thanked Brogan for remembering him and bracing him with his letter. An awful number of the books had to sell before expenses were paid and then he would get paid, but the important fact was that if a lot sold then he would be able to publish more. Pictures were far too expensive to include and his facsimiles of the burned pages of the Book of Mazarbul had been rejected to keep the price down to 21 shillings.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F, "On Translation"