Letter to L.M. Cutts

From Tolkien Gateway

On 26 October 1958, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a letter to Mrs L.M. Cutts.[1]

Description and excerpts

Apologising for the cost of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien notes that the book "cost a v. great deal to produce (about £4,000 pounds), and the publisher deserves to make some profit on what was, for him, a very risky adventure, the success of which has, I think, surprised him as much as anyone (except, perhaps, me myself)..."

Discussing sources for the work, the author states "I did no study or research for my tale. It is an 'invention' from beginning to end... If it is 'English' - (not British, please) - that is because I am English..." However, Tolkien notes his "professional calling as a philologist" and that his study of "early English" has been "digested". Noting that analysis would be "very complex" he also suggests it would be "...not (in my opinion) worth while..." Tolkien states his belief that "no one of us can really invent or 'create' in a void, we can only reconstruct and perhaps impress a personal pattern on 'ancestral' material...

Tolkien then discusses names ("...I invented the word hobbit, and can say no more about it than it seemed to me to fit the creatures that I had already in mind... or rather it generated them: they grew to fit it...") and discusses connections between the Ents, Great Birnam Wood in Macbeth, and George MacDonald's Phantastes. Tolkien notes the origin of "barrow" and states "the belief that 'undead' physically potent creatures abode in grave-mounds is ancient..." The author then discusses the origin of the name Gandalf.

Concluding, Tolkien notes that "...if I may say so, with humility, the Christian religion (which I profess) is far the most powerful ultimate source. On a lower plane: my linguistic interest is the most powerful force..."

3 pages ("air letter aerogramme" stationery) with 1 page of address panel, 8vo, 76 Sandfield Road, Oxford, 26 October 1958, creases and minimal spotting.