Tolkien Gateway

Letter 187

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 187
RecipientH. Cotton Minchin
DateUndated, April 1956 – Written at the top: "More or less as sent 16 April"
Subject(s)The rushed map for Volume III, the missing volume

Letter 187 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. The letter was partially published;[1] for more details about the full letter, see Letter to H. Cotton Minchin (16 April 1956).

[edit] Summary

As research students always discover, said Tolkien, however long they are allowed and careful their work, there is always a rush at the end. So it was with The Lord of the Rings and the maps. His son, the C.T or C.J.R.T of modest initials, was called in. Neither had had an entirely free hand. When it became apparent that the "general map" was insufficient for the final Book, Tolkien devoted many days (the last three virtually without food or sleep) to re-scale the large map and then Christopher worked 24 hours straight to produce the final map just in time. Inconsistent spelling was due to Tolkien, who had decided, for consistency, to spell Elvish names with a 'C' rather than a 'K' even though his son insisted that no one would ever pronounce Cirith correctly.

To Tolkien and his son the most absorbing interest was Elvish tongues, nomenclature based on them, and the alphabets. He had planned a "specialist volume" which would be largely linguistic, having an index of names with etymological interpretations that would provide a large Elvish vocabulary. He had worked at it for months until it was clear that its size and cost would be ruinous. The “production department” also cut out his "facsimiles" of the three pages of the Book of Mazarbul, without which the opening of Book Two, Chapter 5[2] was defective and made the Runes of the Appendices unnecessary.

Tolkien revealed what many wanted in an extra volume: Minchin wanted maps, others wanted geological indications (more difficult and perilous, said Tolkien, since he had very little knowledge), many wanted Elvish grammars, phonologies, specimens, some wanted metrics and prosodies. Musicians wanted tunes and musical notations. Archaeologists wanted ceramics and metallurgy. Botanists wanted more details of Tolkien's Middle-earth trees and flowers. Historians wanted the social and political structure of Gondor while others wanted information about the Wainriders, the Harad, Dwarvish origins, the Dead Men, Beornings, and the missing wizards. It would be a big volume, said Tolkien.


  1. Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: I. Chronology, p. 489
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"