Tolkien Gateway

Letter 45

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 45
RecipientMichael Tolkien
Date9 June 1941
Subject(s)Comments on World War II

Letter 45 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Michael had written to J.R.R. Tolkien from the Royal Military College in Sandhurst where he was an Officer Cadet. Tolkien was pleased to hear from his son, saying that he showed badly as a letter writer because he got sick of the pen. Constant rain had prevented any gardening and he had gotten no rest because in addition to university duties he had been drafting rules and regulations.[1]

One war is enough for any man, declared Tolkien, and he hoped Michael would be spared a second. He knew what Michael was suffering through. When he was young he did not think that “old folk” suffered much during wartime but now he knew better, feeling like a lame, caged canary. However, it was something to be the father of a good young soldier, and he cherished the link between them.

Tolkien commented that the major English vice was sloth, but that it may have contributed as much or more than natural virtue to escaping the overt violence of other countries. In the fierce modern world sloth almost looked like a virtue, except that it was rather terrifying in war. He said that Germans had greater obedience and patriotism in mass than the English, that their men were as brave as the English, and that their industry was about ten times greater, and that they were now led by a madman that made the old Kaiser look like an old woman knitting.

Tolkien pointed out that for much of his life he had studied Germanic matters (which included England and Scandinavia) and found great force and truth in the “Germanic” ideal, but called the “Nordic” principles espoused by Germany to be nonsense. He had a personal grudge against “that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler” because he was ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making forever accursed the noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe. That spirit was most noble in England, which he ever loved and tried to present in its true light.


  1. During World War II Tolkien organized a syllabus for naval cadets reading English at Oxford.