Tolkien Gateway

Letter 186

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 186
RecipientJoanna de Bortadano
DateAround April 1956
Subject(s)Allegory, Atomic power

Letter 186 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Joanna De Bortadano had asked Tolkien whether The Lord of the Rings was an allegory of Atomic power. Tolkien told her it was not; if there was any power-related theme in the book, it would rather be the abnegation of power: just because a thing can be done, does not mean it must be done. The actual theme of the book, he told her, was Death and Immortality: Elves were "doomed" to leave and Men were "doomed" not to leave.

Tolkien continued by stating he was not a "democrat", because its main concepts, humility and equality, lose their meaning by attempts to mechanize and formalize them. This would lead to greatness and pride rather than smallness and humility, and turn into slavery when "some Orc gets hold of a ring of Power".

The fragment ended with some brief details about the costs of producing The Lord of the Rings: £4000 after it left his hands. He did manage to save £200 by typing it himself.