Tolkien Gateway

Letter 309

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 309
RecipientAmy Ronald
Date2 January 1969
Subject(s)Explaining the parts of his name

Letter 309 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

As to his name, it was John, much loved and used by Christians, said Tolkien. He had been born on the Octave of St. John the Evangelist and took him as his patron. His parents had not thought of anything so Romish; he was called John because of family custom, in which the eldest son of the eldest son was called John.

His father had favored John Benjamin Reuel. His mother, confident that she would bear a daughter, decided on Rosalind. When he arrived, prematurely and a boy, Ronald was substituted. He used John, his near kin used Ronald, friends at school used John or John Ronald or J.R-squared. As for an “Elvish” name he could invent one but he did not nor wish to be inside his invented history.

As for Master: he was not one – in high uses it would be presumptuous and profane and in low uses it would be conceited. He was a "professor", now a customary social title.

So it seemed that John or Ronald was not pleasing to Amy then they had to fall back on "Professor" (and he would call her Lady).

Then there was Reuel, which Tolkien believed was the surname of a friend of his grandfather. The family believed it to be French. Tolkien thought he would call her Aimée, which he liked better than the Anglicization.

As a postscript, Tolkien added a short verse:

J.R.R. Tolkien
Had a cat called Grimalkin:
Once a familiar of Herr Grimm,
Now he spoke the law to him.