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Letter 177

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 177
RecipientRayner Unwin
Date8 December 1955
Subject(s)Critics and The Lord of the Rings (1955 radio series)

Letter 177 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Summary

Although Tolkien agreed with the "critics" view of the radio adaptations of The Lord of the Rings he was annoyed when this group that had not read the book then criticized it and him. He deplored verse reading by W.H. Auden and his touting of the book as "a test of literary taste", which was untrue and would only infuriate (and one rejoinder termed Auden a "fair-ground barker"). However, Tolkien supposed that it was all good for sales, noting many letters of fury against the critics and the broadcast. One elderly lady (unsuspectingly a partial model for Lobelia) Tolkien believed would have assailed Auden and the others if they had been within umbrella range.

Edwin Muir had reviewed The Return of the King and wrote: "All the characters are boys masquerading as adult heroes…and will never come to puberty…Hardly one of them knows anything about women." Tolkien blasted Muir's delayed adolescence and wished he could hear what women think about his "knowing about women". Had Muir an M.A. Tolkien would nominate him for the professorship of poetry, which he said would be sweet revenge.