Tolkien Gateway

Letter 204

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 204
RecipientRayner Unwin
Date7 December 1957
Subject(s)Support for The Silmarillion, Dr. Ohlmarks' bad translating, an index of names needed

Letter 204 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Lord Halsbury had sent a letter to Tolkien with commentary and criticism of The Silmarillion. Tolkien told Rayner that this showed that there was at least some audience for this work. Lord Halsbury said that Tolkien must get it published while The Lord of the Rings sales were hot, although he could see a struggle ahead for re-moulding it for publication. Tolkien acknowledged that needed to do re-moulding, but first he needed to get copies of all copyable material. Since most of it was in sole, irreplaceable copies he thought the best course was to get a typist and keep everything at hand until it was multiplied.

The Swedish enclosure brought by Rayner puzzled and irritated Tolkien. There was a huge nine-page list of names in The Lord of the Rings that had been altered. His impression of Doctor Åke Ohlmarks was of a conceited person, less competent than Max Schuchart.[note 1] Ohlmarks had lectured Tolkien in his letter about how the Swedish language had an antipathy to borrowed foreign words. This was beside the point and over one-third of his letter consisted of "loan-word" from German, French, and Latin. The list was pointless unless Tolkien's opinion and criticism was wanted. Ohlmarks' translation appeared unskillful and riddled with errors. Tolkien hoped that if there were future translations that he should be consulted at an early stage. He could then save the translator time and puzzlement, and his remarks would appear far less like peevish criticisms.

Clearly the lack of an "index of names" was a serious handicap. If one existed then it would be an easy matter to indicate those names suitable for translation. Such a "handlist" would be of great use to him, said Tolkien, for future corrections and for The Silmarillion. He asked Rayner if he could do anything about this.

[edit] Note

  1. The Dutch translator of The Lord of the Rings.