“I invented that little rhyme about ‘One Ring to rule them all’, I remember, in the bath one day.”
Sometimes I wish I could pick the brains of my favourite authors. How did they come up with their ideas? What did they mean by a particular line, if anything? Why did they make one decision or another, whether it was perspective, separating chapters, et cetera?
I think, in all honesty, J.R.R. Tolkien is a genius. Not only did he write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but he also had a multitude of other works, such as The Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion. The man even invented runes and languages! He debated grammar and spelling, both in terms of what was proper as well as what would make more sense to readers.
Unfortunately, as you know, no one who has not already will ever be able to pick his brain, since he passed in 1973. However, I think The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is as close as we can possibly get to truly delving into the mind of a genius.
I think the greatest thing the average individual can glean from this is insight into the development of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, though of course the die-hard fans will be faced with an absolute treasure trove of information and insight.
I do not want to spoil very much of these letters. In fact, I really do not want to spoil anything. It would be much better for you to discover the insight for yourself—definitely more effective that way. However, I will leave you with this piece:
The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy. It is meant to be one complete book rather than three, but for a myriad of reasons, including the length and paper needed, Tolkien agreed to split the book into three volumes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Towers, and The Return of the King. Of course, were these the original titles? Maybe they were, maybe they were not. You only have to read The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien to find out.
I think there are two other amazing things about these letters, beyond the insight you get into his mind, literary work, and the publishing process. The first is the sheer span of time these letters cover, particularly when he wrote the last one!
The final thing, or at least the final one for the review because if you let me I could talk about Tolkien forever, is the gorgeous language. I knew the level of language from his books, of course, but I was not sure if I should expect that sort of thing in these letters. After all, I do not believe he ever intended for people to read them, except for the actual recipients. So, we were not meant to see these. I have to say, while part of me was surprised by how he maintained the same level of language and the way he wrote stayed so eloquent…I also was not surprised in the slightest. This is one hundred percent the Tolkien I know and love.
I cannot wait until the next one. But until then, I would love to know your favourite part of his writing, whether it is a passage, poem, or volume of The Lord of the Rings. How many other books of his have you read? Do you plan on reading more Tolkien? If you’ve read The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, do you have a favourite? I do not think I could pick just one, but the last letter definitely struck a chord with me beyond just his books.
I look forward to engaging in the comments below with everyone!
Title: The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Editor: Humphrey Carter, Christopher Tolkien
Publisher: Mariner Books