Tolkien Gateway

Letter 125

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 125
RecipientSir Stanley Unwin
Date10 March 1950
Subject(s)Splitting The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings into multiple volumes, Farmer Giles of Ham sales

Letter 125 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Preface

On 24 February (see Letter 124) Tolkien had informed Unwin that The Lord of the Rings was finished except for revisions, but really should be published with The Silmarillion except that together they made a monstrously large packet. On 6 March Unwin wrote and asked it the solution might be three or four volumes. He also reported that Farmer Giles of Ham had not sold as well as hoped (2,000 out of 5,000 copies) but it would continue to sell.

[edit] Summary

Tolkien said that a work of great length could be artificially divided, such as when the Oxford Dictionary had sections labeled "Onomastical – Outing". However the Saga of the Three Jewels and the Rings of Power had only one natural division. The Lord of the Rings was as indivisible as he could make it. It was divided into sections for narrative purposes (six of them) and two or three could be bound separately but they would not be self-contained.

With faltering confidence, Tolkien wondered if many beyond his friends would want to read something so long, and if it came out serially that might take the pot, as it were, off the boil. He realized the financial difficulties and the remote chance of recovering costs. He had no money to sink into it and would understand if Unwin declined to become involved. He apologized for presenting such a problem, willfully since he knew long ago he was courting trouble. He had nothing else to submit but was prepared to make something simpler and shorter soon.

It was not encouraging that Farmer Giles had sold poorly. He found that it had not been widely heard of. It would have been improved by other stories of the same kingdom in the same style, but the domination of the remoter world prevented making them.