Tolkien Gateway

Letter 192

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 192
RecipientAmy Ronald
Date27 July 1956
Subject(s)Discussing Frodo’s Failure, Walter de la Mare

Letter 192 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien told Ronald that he had just gotten another letter about Frodo's failure (see Letter 191). Few had observed it, he said, but from the logic of the story it was inevitable. He felt it had been a more significant and real event than a "fairy-story" ending with an indomitable hero. Even the saintly could be overcome by overwhelming evil power. In this case the cause and not the hero triumphed due to pity, mercy, and forgiveness. Gandalf foresaw this when he told Frodo that it was Pity that stayed Bilbo's hand,[1] although he did not mean one must be merciful because it will be useful later. We must be extravagantly generous if we hope to receive the slightest easing of our follies and errors.

Frodo deserved honour because he spent every drop of his power. The Writer of the Story (not Tolkien) took over. A third commentator had reviled Frodo (and Tolkien) as a scoundrel who should have been hung. It was sad, said Tolkien, that in this evil time when people are tortured that anyone could be so fiercely simpleminded and self-righteous.

Tolkien did not think that Walter de la Mare had either read his works or inhabited a similar world (as Amy Ronald had suggested). Tolkien said that he inhabited a darker and more hopeless world than his.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Shadow of the Past"