Tolkien Gateway

Letter 269

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 269
RecipientW.H. Auden
Date12 May 1965
Subject(s)Irredeemably wicked Orcs a heresy?
Defeating pirates

Letter 269 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

W.H. Auden asked if the notion of Orcs as an irredeemably wicked race was heretical or not. Tolkien said he lacked sufficient theological understanding to say whether or not his notion of orcs was heretical, but he did state that he felt no obligation to make his story fit with formalized Christian theology. The Lord of the Rings was intended to be consonant with Christian thought and belief. Frodo asserted that the orcs were not evil in origin.[1] We believe that of all humans, though some as individuals or groups appeared unredeemable.

Tolkien had been sending to press a revised translation of Gawain with a translation of Pearl when he had to switch to the desperate problem of the U.S.A. copyright issue. He now had to devote all efforts to revisions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for copyrighting and defeating the pirates.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Tower of Cirith Ungol"