Tolkien Gateway

Letter 69

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 69
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
Date14 May 1944
Subject(s)Writing The Lord of the Rings, moon problems, human iniquity, new story idea

Letter 69 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien had written a certain amount of The Lord of the Rings the day before but he had been hindered by needing to clean up his study and dealing with the moon. It was doing impossible things, such as rising in one part of the country and setting simultaneously in another, and the fixes had absorbed all afternoon.

Fr. Douglas Carter had given a sermon suggesting that his flock were untutored robots for not saying Grace and pronounced Oxford deserving to be wiped out with fire and blood in the wrath of God for the abominations and wickedness there perpetrated. Tolkien agreed with his assessment and wondered if it were especially true now. Tolkien felt the mass of everlasting human iniquity: old, dreary, endless repetitive unchanging incurable wickedness. One knew there was good but much more hidden. He feared that in almost all individual lives the balance was debit.

Tolkien saw C.S. Lewis and heard two chapters of his Who Goes Home?[note 1] and Tolkien read his new chapter, "Journey to the Cross-Roads".[1] Now the nub was coming, he said, when threads had to be gathered, times synchronized, and the narrative interwoven. The story had grown so much that earlier sketches of the concluding chapters were quite inadequate.

In church the day before Tolkien had gotten an idea for a story. A man sitting at a high window would see one small piece of land (garden sized) but would see it all through the ages from the Palaeolithic to Today. While the plants and animals changed fantastically the men would not change at all (except for dress). Whenever conversation occurred the people would always say the same thing, such as "It oughtn't to be allowed…").

[edit] Note

  1. Later re-titled The Great Divorce.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "Journey to the Cross-Roads"