Tolkien Gateway

Letter 81

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 81
RecipientChristopher Tolkien
Date23-25 September 1944
Subject(s)New chapters for The Lord of the Rings, debased wartime language, after victory

Letter 81 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Christopher had sent back, with approval, several chapters of The Lord of the Rings that his father had sent. Tolkien was pleased and planned to send the next lot, from "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit" through "The Choices of Master Samwise".[notes 1]

Tolkien reported that lights were increasing in Oxford: windows were being unblacked, road had lamps again, and in places it was almost like peacetime illumination. He had seen the Lewises[notes 2] and C. Williams at an Inklings meeting. Walking with C.W. part of the way home they had discussed present notions of freedom. Having been so abused by propaganda, Tolkien said it implied those who domineered over you should speak the same native language. Times were anxious despite good news. English armour was in the thick of it and there was a good deal more of the thick ahead. The BBC line was that German troops were a motley collection of sutlers and broken men, but they were putting up the bitterest defense against the finest and best equipped armies ever fielded. The English, Tolkien said, used to pride themselves on "giving the devil his due" but the press, groveling in the gutter, shrieked that any German commander holding out desperately was a drunkard and besotted fanatic. A solemn article in the local paper seriously advocated systematic extermination of the entire German nation because they were rattlesnakes who did not know the difference between good and evil! At least in England the article was answered and the answer printed. The vulgar and ignorant cad is not yet a boss with power. You cannot fight the Enemy with his own Ring without turning into an Enemy, said Tolkien, but unfortunately Gandalf's wisdom had passed into the True West.

A recent gale had cleared and September was mild again. Tolkien said he must try to get on with Pearl[notes 3] but he had the autumn wanderlust upon him. He said that he and Christopher must promise themselves a perambulation in mountainous country, near the sea, where scars of war, felled woods, and bulldozed fields were not plain to see. The Inklings' planned victory celebration would be a week in a country inn with nothing but beer and talk and no reference to any clock.

[edit] Notes

  1. Chapters 4 through 10 of Book Four of The Two Towers
  2. C.S. Lewis and Warren Lewis
  3. "Pearl" was a translation of a Middle English text that appeared in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo after Tolkien's death.