Tolkien Gateway

Letter 58

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 58
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
Date3 April 1944
Subject(s)Work on The Lord of the Rings, clashing with an American, Tolkien visiting his home town

Letter 58 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien explained that he wrote an airgraph[note 1] but that it took days to send. After a few details about wartime hardships he reported picking up the adventures of Frodo and Sam again, after having polished the chapter on the Orthanc-stone.[1]

Tolkien told a story about finding himself in a carriage with an R.A.F. officer and a very nice young American Officer. When the Yank burbled about “Feudalism” and its results on English class distinctions and social behaviour Tolkien opened a broadside. An Englishman’s relations with working men was as connect to "Feudalism" as skyscrapers had to wigwams. Tolkien told the American that his "Oxford accent" was not "forced" but a middle-class invention. After telling the American that his "accent" sounded like English wiped with a dirty sponge and that the American habit of slouching indicated a slovenly and ill-disciplined people they got along quite friendly.

A stroll around Tolkien's home town revealed only one piece of war wreckage but much more damage due to great flat featureless modern buildings. If Christopher could imagine building better than most Oxford colleges replace by girls' council schools he would understand. He had met with old school chums and found that he was chiefly remembered for rugger-prowess (!!) and his taste in coloured socks.

[edit] Note

  1. An airgraph consisted of a letter photographed and delivered in small print that the addressee could read with a magnifying glass.


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Palantír"