Tolkien Gateway

Letter 142

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 142
RecipientRobert Murray
Date2 December 1953
Subject(s)Comments on The Lord of the Rings before publication

Letter 142 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien was delighted to receive a long letter from Murray and apologized if his casual words had induced Murray to labour at criticizing his work. While expressions of pleasure were pleasant, Tolkien was especially cheered by Murray's comments that were more perceptive than anyone else, even revealing things to him about his own work. Murray had a strong sense that The Lord of the Rings showed a compatibility with the order of Grace, which Tolkien said he thought he knew exactly what he meant.

The Lord of the Rings was a fundamentally religious and Catholic work, explains Tolkien. He had deliberately excluded almost all references to "religion". The religious element was absorbed into the story and the symbolism, which Tolkien said sounded too self-important for he had consciously planned very little. He had been raised since age eight in a nourishing Faith which he owed to his mother, who clung to her conversion and died young from the poverty resulting from it. He had not been nourished by English Literature which had nothing upon which to rest his heart or head.

Murray that critics would not know what to make of the book since it defied pigeon-holing. Tolkien feared he was right and dreaded publication since it would be impossible to not care about critical comments.

Murray was currently without a cello, which Tolkien was sorry to hear since he had heard that Murray had some way with the instrument. Having no aptitude for music he viewed anyone capable of playing a stringed instrument as a wizard worthy of deep respect. Tolkien felt the same about Slavonic languages.