Letter to Iona and Peter Opie

From Tolkien Gateway

On 25 November 1951, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a letter to Iona and Peter Opie.

  • Publication: Excerpts from the letter were published in The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. A small excerpt was published in The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology, p. 379.
  • Background and contents: On the occasion of several letters, concerned with the word 'faynights',[note 1] having been published in Sunday Times, Iona and Peter Opie sent a letter to the newspaper, explaining the use of the word (published on 25 November 1951). Tolkien read their letter, and wrote a long letter in reply, discussing the etymology of 'faynights'. He wrote that he read their letter "today, just as I had been puzzling over a curious Chaucer usage" apparently connected with the issue.[1]. In their work The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, Iona and Peter Opie quoted from Tolkien's letter, that states, amongst other things, that the terms 'fains I', 'fains' and 'fainites' are survivals of medieval English from the 14th Century.[2]
  • Archive: Held at the archive of Tolkien Papers, Bodleian Library.


  1. Faynights! (also: fainits!; fain I!; fains!; fain it!; fainites!): A shout (often accompanied by crossed fingers) used by UK schoolchildren to call a playground truce. (Source: Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor (Eds.), (2007), The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English.)