Letters not published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

From Tolkien Gateway
The name Letters refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Letters (disambiguation).

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is a large collection of letters of Tolkien, but it is far from complete. Below are some letters that did not make it into the collection, or only partially.

Individual letters










Unknown year

Unexposed collections and rumours

Correspondence between Tolkien and Sigurður Nordal

A couple of letters from Tolkien to Sigurður Nordal, writer and Professor of Icelandic Language and Literature, are kept at the National and University Library of Iceland.[7]

Correspondence between Tolkien and R.W. Burchfield

During the years 1953-72, Tolkien corresponded with R.W. Burchfield. The collection of letters is kept at the Bodleian Library:[8]

Correspondence between J.R.R. Tolkien and R.W. Burchfield, 1953-72. / Shelfmark: MS. Eng. c. 7284, fols. 1-16. / Extent: 16 leaves. / Comprises ten manuscript, and typescript letters, and one copy letter from Tolkien to Burchfield, relating to Burchfield's attendance at tutorials, his search for housing in Oxford, his application for funding for his research, his search for an academic post, his congratulations on the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, an extension for his work on 'Ormulum', and Tolkien's edition of Ancrene Wisse: The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle, and one letter from Burchfield to Tolkien relating to the printing of Ancrene Wisse. Also a description of the letters by Elizabeth Burchfield, widow of R.W. Burchfield. / Acquisition: Bequest of R.W. Burchfield, per Elizabeth Burchfield, Dec. 2004.

Correspondence between Tolkien and Pablo Martínez del Río

José Manuel Ferrández Bru has noted that a collection of Tolkien's letters to Pablo Martínez del Río, whose younger cousins Tolkien took to vacation in Paris in 1913, has been donated to the Centro de Estudios de Historia de México of Condumex. As of 2011, Ferrández Bru wrote that Tolkien's letters unfortunately "are mixed with huge numbers of other documents" and that it will take years before they have been catalogued and available for research.[9]

Correspondence between Tolkien and Sterling E. Lanier

In an article in Locus #149 (1973), the science fiction author Sterling E. Lanier mentions his correspondence with Tolkien, consisting of a "dozen or so" letters. John D. Rateliff has provided the following quote from Lanier's article:[10]

His last great legacy to the world, the Silmarillion, has been saved. He wrote me years ago, that it was done in verse! He seemed puzzled in a mild way, that at the time, no publisher seemed interested in it. I recall asking what he was doing for a comic or light element, since no Hobbits existed this early. He agreed this was a problem, but felt it could be solved. I can't wait."

Correspondence between Tolkien and Joni Mitchell

In the mid-sixties, singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell became a "fan" of Tolkien,[11] after being introduced to his works by her husband Chuck. The couple set up a publishing and recording business for their material related to Middle-earth, and they wrote Tolkien "letters and got his permission to use names from his books for our bits of business". The correspdondence between Tolkien and Joni and Chuck Mitchell apparently took place no sooner than 1965 and not later than 1969.[12] It is unknown if Tolkien answered their letters in person or if the replies were written by a representative. A letter of admiration from Joni Mitchell to Tolkien will be published in Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth (2018).[13]

Letters to The Society

A collection of Tolkien's letters to The Society is kept at the Bodleian Library.[14]

Letters to Simonne d'Ardenne

John and Priscilla Tolkien mention briefly in The Tolkien Family Album that Simonne d'Ardenne: "was especially close to Priscilla, up until her death in 1986. She entrusted to Priscilla a great bundle of letters she had received from J.R.R.T. over a period of forty years." (p.68). This large collection of letters seems never to have reached a publication.

Letters to the Hogans

In the article "Tolkien's time in 'Erin'" (in anticipation of the publication of the Irish translation of The Hobbit), published in The Irish Times on 17 March 2012, Dr. Tom Hogan mentions that Tolkien:

stayed many times in our house on visits to Ireland. These visits started in the 1950s. He came to Ireland for a couple of weeks each year acting as an external examiner of English in UCD. He worked alongside my late father Jeremiah who was professor of English there at the time. A number of letters from Tolkien to us are in my possession.

No dates of individual letters are provided, but Hogan quotes from several letters in the article.[15]

The Tea Towel Letter

The web site Tolkien Collector's Guide has an article (on a rare tea towel) with a reference from a supposedly unpublished letter. The background is that George Allen and Unwin in 1971 commissioned the towel, featuring a map by Pauline Baynes, on the occasion of a celebration. The author of the article says: "[...] it is clear Tolkien was there, since I read in an (unpublished) letter he himself had received such a teatowel at the 'party' or 'meeting' and was very happy with it."[16]

Wheelbarrows at Dawn

Similarly to what was done in the Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien, glimpses of the correspondence between J.R.R. Tolkien and his brother Hilary were supposed to be published in late 2010 in Wheelbarrows at Dawn: Memories of Hilary Tolkien. However, the publication of the latter book was cancelled, and the letters remain unpublished (as of November 2010).

In early 2015, Hilary Tolkien's "archive of family letters, family photographs & ephemera" was put up for sale, "including 15 unseen long letters by JRR Tolkien himself".[17]


The Letters, Part II

Throughout the early issues of Vinyar Tengwar, there was reference to "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien part II", but it was revealed to be a joke.[source?]

Dr. Higgins and possible eBay frauds

The forum of the website Tolkien Collector's Guide contains discussions (in which Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have taken part) on a circulation on eBay of fraudulent Tolkien letters. Among these are said to be letters adressed to a "Dr. Higgins". Many of these contested letters are typewritten, with a signature by J.R.R. Tolkien in blue ink. The forger, Alan Formhals, was found guilty at Southampton Crown Court in 2012.[18][19]

See also

External links


  1. "London University: Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies: Closs/Priebsch Family Papers", Archives in London and the M25 area (accessed 19 July 2012)
  2. "'Antiques Roadshow' guest stunned to find single-sheet 'Lord Of The Rings' letter is worth £10k" dated 26 April 2021, uk.news.yahoo.com (accessed 28 January 2023)
  3. "[1]", Tolkien Collector's Guide (accessed 28 January 2023)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 40
  5. [2]
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), p. 127
  7. Beregond, Anders Stenström, "5 december 2019" dated 19 November 2020, Tolkienseminariet.wordpress.com (accessed 19 November 2020)
  8. "Guard-book of miscellaneous items, 19th-20th cent.", Bodleian.ox.ac.uk (accessed 19 March 2012)
  9. José Manuel Ferrández Bru, "'Wingless fluttering'": Some Personal Connections in Tolkien's Formative Years", in ’Tolkien Studies, Vol. VIII (eds. Douglas A. Anderson, Michael D.C. Drout, Verlyn Flieger), pp. 63-4 (note 21)
  10. John D. Rateliff, "The New Arrivals (2nd of 2)" dated 8 July 2012, Sacnoth's Scriptorium (accessed 9 July 2012)
  11. Anne Karppinen, The Songs of Joni Mitchell: Gender, Performance and Agency, pp. 52-3
  12. Chuck Mitchell, "History of Gandalf Publishing" dated 9 June 2008, jonimitchell.com (accessed 14 March 2017)
  13. Tom Tivnan, "Bodleian Library unearths new Tolkien" dated 14 March 2017, www.thebookseller.com (accessed 14 March 2017)
  14. "Catalogue of papers of The Society, University of Oxford", Bodleian Library (accessed 16 January 2012)
  15. Tom Hogan, "Tolkien's time in 'Erin'" dated 17 March 2012, IrishTimes.com (accessed 19 March 2012)
  16. "Tea Towel" dated 17 September 2008, Tolkien Collector's Guide (accessed 14 June 2013)
  17. "The Wonders of..." dated 27 January 2015, Tolkien Collector's Guide (accessed 30 January 2015)
  18. Another Tolkien eBay Letter at TolkienGuide.com (accessed 29 November 2011)
  19. Stephanie Linning, "Fraudster forged signatures of Winston Churchill, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell and Pablo Picasso to scam more than £33,000 out of collectors" dated 9 September 2014, Mail Online (accessed 25 June 2015)