J.R.R. Tolkien_ A Biography Part 7

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Afternoon lawn-mowing. Term begins next week, and proofs of Wales papers have come. Still I am going to continue Ring in every salvable moment.' Tuesday 18 April: I hope to see C.S.L. and Charles W. tomorrow morning and read my next chapter - on the pa.s.sage of the Dead Marshes and the approach to the Gates of Mordor, which I have now practically finished. Term has almost begun: I tutored Miss Salu for an hour. The afternoon was squandered on plumbing (stopping overflow) and cleaning out fowls. They are laying generously (9 again yesterday). Leaves are out: the white-grey of the quince, the grey-green of young apples, the full green of hawthorn, the ta.s.sels of flower even on the sluggard poplars.'

Sunday 23 April: I read my second chapter, Pa.s.sage of the Dead Marshes, to Lewis and Williams on Wed.

morning. It was approved. I have now nearly done a third: Gates of the Land of Shadow. But this story takes me in charge, and I have already taken three chapters over what was meant to be one! And I have neglected too many things to do it. I am just enmeshed in it now, and have to wrench my mind away to tackle exam-paper proofs, and lectures.'

Tuesday 25 April: Gave a poor lecture, saw the Lewises and C.W. (White Horse) for ^ hour; mowed three lawns, and wrote letter to John, and struggled with recalcitrant pa.s.sage in The Ring. At this point I require to know how much later the moon gets-up each night when nearing full, and how to stew a rabbit!'

Thursday 4 May: A new character has come on the scene (I am sure I did not invent him, I did not even want him, though I like him, but there he came walking into the woods of Ithilien): Faramir, the brother of Boromir - and he is holding up the catastrophe by a lot of stuff about the history of Gondor and Rohan. If he goes on much more a lot of him will have to be removed to the appendices - where already some fascinating material on the hobbit Tobacco industry and the Languages of the West have gone.'

Sunday 14 May: 1 did a certain amount of writing yesterday, but was hindered by two things: the need to clear up the study (winch had ; got into the chaos that always indicates literary or philological preoccupation) and attend to business; and trouble with the moon. By which I mean that I found my moons in the crucial days between Frodo's flight and the present situation (arrival at Minas Morgul) were doing impossible things, rising in one part of the country and setting simultaneously in another. Rewriting bits of back chapters took all afternoon!'

Sunday 21 May: I have taken advantage of a bitter cold grey week (in which the lawns have not grown in spite of a little rain) to write: but struck a sticky patch. All that I had sketched or written before proved of little use, as times, motives, etc., have all changed. However at last with v. great labour, and some neglect of other duties, I have now written or nearly written all the matter up to the capture of Frodo in the high pa.s.s on the very brink of Mordor. Now I must go back to the other folk and try to bring things to the final crash with some speed. Do you think Shelob is a good name for a monstrous spider creature? It is of course only She+lob (=spider), but written as one, it seems to be quite noisome.

Wednesday 31 May: I have done no serious writing since Mon. day. Until midday today I was sweating at Section Papers: and toot my MSS. to the Press at 2 p.m. today - the last possible day. Yesterday: lecture - puncture, after fetching fish, so I had to foot it to town and back, and as bike-repairs are impossible I had to squander afternoon in a grimy struggle, which ended at last in my getting tyre off, mending one puncture in inner tube, and gash in outer, and getting thing on again. Io! triumphum!

The Inklings meeting [held the previous Thursday night] was very enjoyable. Hugo was there: rather tired-looking, but reasonably noisy. The chief entertainment was provided by a chapter of Warnie Lewis's book on the times of Louis XIV (very good I thought it); and some excerpts from CS.L.'s Who Goes Home - a book on h.e.l.l, which I suggested should have been called rather Hugo s Home.11 did not get back till after midnight. The rest of my time, barring ch.o.r.es in and out door, has been occupied by (he attempt to bring The Ring to a suitable pause, the capture of Frodo by Orcs in the pa.s.ses of Mordor, before I am obliged to break off by examining. By sitting up all hours, I managed it: and read the last 2 chapters (Shelob's Lair and The Choice of Master Sam-wise) to C.S.L.

on Monday morning. He approved with unusual fervour, and was actually affected to tears by the last chapter, so it seems to be keeping up.'

Book IV of The Lord of the Rings was typed and sent out to Christopher in South Africa. By this time Tolkien was mentally exhausted by his feverish burst of writing. When my weariness has pa.s.sed,' he told Christopher, I shall get on with my story.' But for the tune being he achieved nothing. I am absolutely dry of any inspiration for the Ring,' he wrote in August, and by the end of the year he had done nothing new except draft a synopsis for the remainder of the story. He meditated rewriting and completing The Lost Road', the unfinished story of time-travel that he had begun many years before, and he discussed with Lewis the idea of their collaborating on a book about the nature, function, and origin of Language. But nothing was done about either of these projects, and Lewis, referring some time later to the non-appearance of the book on Language, described Tolkien as *that great but dilatory and unmethodical man'. Dilatory' was not altogether fair, but unmethodical' was often true.

Tolkien made little if any progress on The Lord of the Rings during 1945. On 9 May the war in Europe came to an end. The next day Charles Williams was taken ill. He underwent an operation at an Oxford hospital, but died on 15 May. Even if Williams and Tolkien had not inhabited the same plane of thought, the two men had been good friends, and the loss of Williams was a bitter thing, a symbol that peace would not bring an end to all troubles - something that Tolkien knew only too well. During the war he had said to Christopher: We are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring', and now he wrote : The War is not over (and the one that is, or part of it, has largely been lost). But it is of course wrong to fall into such a mood, for Wars are always lost, and The War always goes on; and it is no good growing faint.'

In the autumn of 1945 he became Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, and hence a Fellow of Merton College, an inst.i.tution that he found agreeably informal' after Pembroke. A few months later the retirement of David Nichol Smith raised the question of whom to appoint to the Merton Professorship of English Literature.

Tolkien was one of the electors, and he wrote: It ought to be C. S. Lewis, or perhaps Lord David Cecil, but one never knows.' And in the event both these men were pa.s.sed over, and the chair was offered to and accepted by F.

P. Wilson. Though there is no reason to suppose that Tolkien did not support Lewis in the election, the gap between the two friends widened a little after this; or to be more accurate there was a gradual cooling on Tolkien's part. It is impossible to say precisely why. Lewis himself probably did not notice it at first, and when he did he was disturbed and saddened by it Tolkien continued to attend gatherings of the Inklings, as did his son Christopher (who after the war resumed his undergraduate studies at Trinity College); Christopher was first invited to the Inklings to read aloud from The Lord of the Rings, as Lewis alleged he read better than his father, and later he became an Inkling in his own right. But though Tolkien could regularly be seen in the Bird and Baby' on Tuesday-mornings and at Magdalen on Thursday nights, there was not the same intimacy as of old between him and Lewis.

In part the friendship's decay may have been hastened by Lewis's sometimes stringent criticisms of details in The Lord of the Rings, particularly his comments on the poems, which (with the notable exception of the alliterative verses) he tended to dislike. Tolkien was often hurt by Lewis's comments, and he generally ignored them, so that Lewis later remarked of him: No one ever influenced Tolkien - you might as well try to influence a bander-s.n.a.t.c.h.'

In part the increasing coolness on Tolkien's side was probably due to his dislike of Lewis's Narnia' stories for children. In 1949 Lewis began to read the first of them, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, aloud to Tolkien. It was received with a snort of contempt. It really won't do!' Tolkien told Roger Lancelyn Green. I mean to say: Nymphs and their Ways, The Love-Life of a Faun!' Nevertheless Lewis completed it, and when it and its successors were published in their turn, Narnia' found as wide and enthusiastic an audience as that which had enjoyed The Hobbit. Yet Tolkien could not find it in his heart to reverse his original judgement. It is sad,' he wrote in 1964, that Narnia and all that part of C.S.L.'s work should remain outside the range of my sympathy, as much of my work was outside his.'

Undoubtedly he felt that Lewis had in some ways drawn on Tolkien ideas and stories in the books; and just as he resented Lewis's progress from convert to popular theologian he was perhaps irritated by the fact that the friend and critic who had listened to the tales of Middle-earth had as it were got up from his armchair, gone to the desk, picked up a pen, and had a go' himself. Moreover the sheer number of Lewis's books for children and the almost indecent haste with which they were produced undoubtedly annoyed him. The seven Narnia' stories were written and published in a mere seven years, less than half the period in which The Lord of the Rings gestated. It was another wedge between the two friends, and after 1954 when Lewis was elected to a new chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, and was obliged to spend much of his time away from Oxford, he and Tolkien only met on comparatively rare occasions.

With the end of the war The Hobbit was reprinted, and arrangements were made to publish Farmer Giles of Ham.

In the summer of 1946 Tolkien told Alien & Unwin that he had made a very great effort to finish The Lord of the Rings, but had failed; the truth was that he had scarcely touched it since the late spring of 1944. He declared: I really do hope to have it done before the autumn,' and he did manage to resume work on it in the following weeks.

By the end of the year he told his publishers that he was on the last chapters'. But then he moved house.

The house in Northmoor Road was too big for the family such as it now was, and was too expensive to maintain.

So Tolkien put his name down for a Merton College house, and when one became available in Manor Road near the centre of Oxford he made arrangements to rent it. He, Edith, Christopher, and Priscilla moved in during March 1947; John was by now working as a priest in the Midlands, and Michael, married with an infant son, was a schoolmaster.

Almost immediately Tolkien realised that the new home was unbearably cramped. 3 Manor Road was an ugly brick house, and it was very small. He had no proper study, merely a bed-sitter' in the attic. It was agreed that as soon as Merton could provide a better house, the family would move again. But for the time being it would have to do.

Rayner Unwin, the son of Tolkien's publisher, who as a child had written the report that secured the publication of The Hobbit, was now an undergraduate at Oxford, and had made the acquaintance of Tolkien. In the summer of 1947 Tolkien decided that The Lord of the Rings was sufficiently near completion for him to be shown a typescript of the greater part of the story. After reading it, Rayner reported to his father at Alien & Unwin that it was a weird book but nevertheless a brilliant and gripping story'. He remarked that the struggle between darkness and light made him suspect allegory, and commented: Quite honestly I don't know who is expected to read it: children will miss something of it, but if grown ups will not feel infra dig to read it many will undoubtedly enjoy themselves. He had no doubt at all that the book deserved publication by his father s firm, and he suggested that it would have to be divided into sections, commenting that in this respect Frodo's ring resembled that of the Nibelungs.

Stanley Unwin pa.s.sed these comments to Tolkien. The comparison of his Ring with the Nibelungenlied and Wagner always annoyed Tolkien; he once said: Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceased.' Nor, of course, was he pleased by the suggestion of allegory; he replied: Do not let Rayner suspect Allegory'. There is a moral, I suppose, in any tale worth telling. But that is not the same thing. Even the struggle between darkness and light (as he calls it, not me) is for me just a particular phase of history, one example of its pattern, perhaps, but not The Pattern; and the actors are individuals - they each, of course, contain universals. or they would not live at all, but they never represent them as such.' However he was on the whole very pleased by Rayner's enthusiasm for the book, and he concluded by saying: The thing is to finish the thing as devised, and then let it be judged.'

Yet even now he did not finish. He revised, niggled, and corrected earlier chapters, spending so much time at it that his colleagues came to regard him as lost to philology. But the final full stop was something he could not yet achieve.

During the summer of 1947 he drafted a revision to The Hobbit which would provide a more satisfactory explanation of Gollum's att.i.tude to the Ring; or rather, an explanation that fitted better with the sequel. When this was written he sent it to Stanley Unwin asking for an opinion on it. Unwin mistakenly a.s.sumed that it was intended for inclusion in the next reprint of The Hobbit without any further discussion on the matter, and he pa.s.sed it directly to his production department. Many months later. Tolkien was astonished to see the revised chapter in print when the page-proofs of the new impression were sent to him.

In the following months The Lord of the Rings at last reached its conclusion. Tolkien recalled .that he actually wept'

when writing the account of the heroes' welcome that is given to the hobbits on the Field of Cormallen. Long ago he had resolved to take the chief protagonists across the sea towards the West at the end of the book, and with the writing of the chapter that describes the setting sail from the Grey Havens the huge ma.n.u.script was nearly complete. Nearly, but not quite. I like tying up loose ends,' Tolkien once said, and he wished to make sure that there were no loose ends in his great story. So he wrote an Epilogue in which Sam Gamgee told his children what happened to each of the princ.i.p.al characters who did not sail West. It ended with Sam listening to the sigh and murmur of the Sea upon the sh.o.r.es of Middle-earth'.

And that was the end; but now Tolkien had to revise, again and again, until he was completely satisfied with the entire text, and this took many months. He once said of the book: I don't suppose there are many sentences that have not been niggled over.' Then he typed out a fair copy, balancing his typewriter on his attic bed because there was no room on his desk, and using two finger because he had never learned to type with ten. Not until the autumn of 1949 was it all finished.

Tolkien lent the completed typescript to C. S. Lewis, who replied after reading it: My dear Tollers, Uton herian holbytlas indeed. I have drained the rich cup and satisfied a long thirst. Once it really gets under weigh the steady upward slope of grandeur and terror (not unrelieved by green dells, without which it would indeed be intolerable) is almost unequalled in the whole range of narrative art known to me. In two virtues I think it excels: sheer sub-creation - Bombadil, Barrow Wights, Elves, Ents - as if from inexhaustible resources, and construction.

Also in gravitas. No romance can repel the charge of escapism' with such confidence. If it errs, it errs in precisely the opposite direction: all victories of hope deferred and the merciless piling up of odds against the heroes are near to being too painful. And the long coda after the eucatastrophe, whether you intended it or no, has the effect of reminding us that victory is as transitory as conflict, that (as Byron says) there's no sterner moralist than pleasure', and so leaving a final impression of profound melancholy.


Of course this is not the whole story. There are many pa.s.sages I could wish you had written otherwise or omitted altogether. If I include none of my adverse criticisms in this letter that is because you have heard and rejected most of them already (rejected is perhaps too mild a word for your reaction on at least one occasion!) And even if all my objections were just (which is of course unlikely) the faults I think I find could only delay and impair appreciation: the substantial splendour of the tale can carry them all Ubi plura nitent in carmine non ego paucis offendi macuhs. I congratulate you. All the long years you have spent on it are justified.

Yours, Jack Lewis Tolkien himself did not think it was flawless. But he told Stanley Unwin: It is written in my life-blood, such as that is, thick or thin; and I can no other.'

Part Six.

1949-1966: Success

Slamming the gates.

It had taken twelve years to write The Lord of the Rings. By the time that he had finished it, Tolkien was not far from his sixtieth birthday.

Now of course he wanted to see the huge book in print. But he was not sure that he wanted Alien & Unwin to publish it, even though he had discussed it with them while it was being written, and they had encouraged him and shown approval of the ma.n.u.script. For he believed that he had now found someone who would publish it together with The Silmarillion.

Over the years he had become angry with Alien & Unwin for rejecting The Silmarillion in 1937 - though in truth they had not really rejected it at all; Stanley Unwin had merely said that it was not suitable as a sequel to The Hobbit.

And Tolkien had come to believe that it was a case of once rejected, always rejected'. Which was a pity, he thought, because he wanted to publish The Silmarillion. It was possible to say that The Lord of the Rings stood up as an independent story, but since it included obscure references to the earlier mythology it would be much better if the two books could be published together. But most of all he wanted to find an audience for the earlier book, and this seemed the ideal, perhaps the only, opportunity. So when Milton Waldman from the publishing house of Collins showed an interest in publishing both works, Tolkien was strongly inclined to abandon Alien & Unwin and join forces with him.

Waldman, a Catholic, had been introduced to Tolkien by Gervase Mathew, a scholar and Dominican priest who often attended meetings of the Inklings. When Waldman learnt that Tolkien had completed a lengthy sequel to that very successful book The Hobbit he expressed interest, and late in 1949 Tolkien sent him a bulky ma.n.u.script. But it was not The Lord of the Rings; it was The Silmarillion. The earlier mythological work, begun in 1917 as The Book of Lost Tales', was still incomplete, but Tolkien had begun work on it again while he was finishing The Lord of the Rings, and it was in a sufficiently ordered state for Waldman to read it. It was like nothing else Waldman had ever seen: a strange archaically-worded tale of elves, evil powers, and heroism. Some of it was typed, but much was in finely-lettered ma.n.u.script. Waldman told Tolkien that he thought it was remarkable, and he said that he wanted to publish it - providing Tolkien could finish it. Tolkien was delighted. Waldman had pa.s.sed the first test: he had (provisionally) accepted The Silmarillion. He was invited down to Oxford by Tolkien, and was handed the ma.n.u.script of The Lord of the Rings. He took it on holiday and began to read it.

By the beginning of January 1950 he had almost finished it, and again he told Tolkien that he was delighted. It is a real work of creation,' he wrote, although he added that the length of the book worried him. But he was very hopeful that Collins would be able to put it into print. Indeed they were in a good position to do so. Most publishers, including Alien & Unwin, had been desperately short of paper since the war; however, Collins were not simply publishers but were also stationers, diary manufacturers, and printers, so they had a far greater allowance of paper than most firms. And as to the commercial viability of Tolkien's lengthy mythological stories, the company's chairman William Collins had already told Waldman that he would be happy to publish any fiction by the author of The Hob-bit. In fact it was really the lucrative Hobbit that Collins wanted to acquire; while Tolkien, unhappy with the first post-war reprint of The Hobbit which had (for economy reasons) been shorn of its coloured plates, told Waldman that he would be happy to see it bought from Alien & Unwin and reissued according to his original intentions. He was also cross with Alien & Unwin for what he considered to be inadequate publicity for Farmer Giles of Ham, and he believed that Collins would be better at selling his books. So all seemed set fair for a working partnership between Tolkien and Collins.

There was, however, one point which Waldman wished to clear up. I take it,' he wrote to Tolkien, that you have no commitment either moral or legal to Alien & Unwin.' Tolkien replied: I believe myself to have no legal obligation.

There was a clause in the contract for The Hobbit providing for a two months* consideration of my next book. That has been satisfied by (a) Stanley Unwin's subsequent rejection of The Silmarillion and (b) by Farmer Giles. But I have had friendly personal relations with Stanley U. and especially with his second son Rayner. If all this const.i.tutes a moral obligation, then I am under one. However, I shall certainly try to extricate myself, or at least The Silmarillion and all its kin, from the dilatory coils of A. and U. if I can - in a friendly fashion if possible.'

Tolkien had in fact worked himself into a state of mind in which he considered Alien & Unwin to be if not an enemy, then at least a very unreliable ally, while Collins seemed to represent all that he hoped for. The real position was much more complex, as events were to prove.

In February 1950 Tolkien wrote to Alien & Unwin to say that The Lord of the Rings was finished. But he did not exactly encourage them to show an interest. My work has escaped from my control,' he told them, and I have produced a monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and rather terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody); and it is not really a sequel to The Hobbit, but to The Silmarillion. Ridiculous and tiresome as you may think me, I want to publish them both - The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. That is what I should like. Or I will let it all be. I cannot contemplate any drastic re-writing or compression. But I shall not have any just grievance (nor shall I be dreadfully surprised) if you decline so obviously unprofitable a proposition.'

Almost as a footnote he added that the two books together added up to the vast size of (in his estimate) more than a million words.

Stanley Unwin replied, admitting that the size of the books set a problem, but asking whether they could not be split into three or four to some extent self-contained volumes?' No, answered Tolkien, they could not; the only natural division was between the two works themselves. And he went even further in deliberately discouraging Unwin from showing any more interest. I now wonder,' he wrote, whether many beyond my friends, not all of whom have endured to the end, would read anything so long. Please do not think I shall feel I have a just grievance if you decline to become involved.' (I profoundly hope that he will let go without demanding the MS.,' he wrote to Waldman.) But Sir Stanley Unwin (who had received a knighthood just after the war) was not to be deterred so easily. He wrote to his son Rayner, who was studying at Harvard, and asked for his advice. Rayner replied: The Lord of the Rings is a very great book in its own curious way and deserves to be produced somehow. / never felt the lack of a Silmarillion when reading it. But although he claims not to contemplate any drastic rewriting, etc., surely this is a case for an editor who would incorporate any really relevant material from The Silmarillion into The Lord of the Rings without increasing the already enormous bulk of the latter and, if feasible, even cutting it. Tolkien wouldn't do it, but someone whom he would trust and who had sympathy (one of his sons?) might possibly do it. If this is not workable I would say publish The Lord of the Rings as a prestige book, and after having a second look at it, drop The Silmarillion.' Unwisely, Stanley Unwin sent a copy of this letter to Tolkien.

Tolkien was furious. He wrote to Unwin in April 1950 that Rayner's letter confirmed his worst suspicions, i.e. that you may be willing to take The Lord, but that is more than enough, and you do not want any tr.i.m.m.i.n.gs; certainly not The Silmarillion which you have no intention of genuinely reconsidering. A rejection is after all a rejection, and remains valid. But the question of dropping The Silmarillion, after a discreet feint, and taking The Lord (edited) just does not arise. I have not offered, am not offering The Lord of the Rings to you, or anyone else, on such conditions - as surely I made plain before. I want a decision, yes or no: to the proposal I made: and not to any imagined possibility.'

Stanley Unwin replied on 17 April: I am more sorry than I can say that you should feel it necessary to present me with an ultimatum, particularly one in connection with a ma.n.u.script which I have never seen in its final and complete form. As you demand an immediate yes or no the answer is no; but it might well have been yes given time and the sight of the typescript. With sorrow, I must perforce leave it at that.'

Tolkien had achieved his objective. Now he was free to publish with Collins. In the meantime he was moving house once again: Merton College had offered him 99 Holywell, an old house of much character with a large number of rooms, and he, Edith, and Priscilla moved there from Manor Road (which was only a few hundred yards away) in the early spring of 1950. Priscilla was now an undergraduate at Lady Margaret Hall, while Christopher, no longer living at home, was working as a freelance tutor in the English Faculty and completing a B.Litt Milton Waldman of Collins was quite certain in his own mind that his firm would publish Tolkien's books. He arranged for Tolkien to come to the Collins offices in London, where he met William Collins and discussed the books with the production department. All seemed ready for an agreement to be signed and The Lord of the Rings to be put into print, likewise The Silmarillion, when it was finished, although Tolkien would still have to do a good deal of work on the latter book before it was in a publishable state. There was just one matter that remained to be settled: in May 1950 Waldman came to Oxford and told Tolkien that The Lord of the Rings urgently wanted cutting'.

Tolkien was dismayed. He told Waldman that he had cut often and hard already', but he would try again as soon as he found the time. Waldman in his turn was taken aback to learn that in Tolkien's estimate The Silmarillion would, when completed, be almost as long as The Lord of the Rings; taken aback because the ma.n.u.script that he had read was nothing like so lengthy.

Tolkien's estimate was in fact wildly inaccurate. The total length of The Silmarillion as then planned for publication would perhaps have been as much as one hundred and twenty-five thousand words, maybe less, but certainly nothing like as long as the half-million or so words of The Lord of the Rings. But Tolkien, who considered that The Silmarillion was as important as the later book, had come to believe that in consequence it was as long. Nor did he help matters at this juncture by handing Waldman several additional chapters from The Silmarillion without explaining how they fitted into the story. Waldman was a little puzzled by them. They leave me rather bewildered,'

he said. Altogether, negotiations which should have been clear and simple were becoming confused.

At this point Waldman left for Italy, where he generally spent much of the year, only visiting London during the spring and autumn. His absence did not help. William Collins knew little about Tolkien's books and had left the whole business in Waldman's hands. Then Waldman became ill and his autumn trip to London was delayed. The consequence was that by the end of 1950, a year after the completion of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien found that he was no nearer to publishing it. Word of this percolated through to Stanley Unwin, who wrote to say that he still hoped to have the privilege of being connected with its publication'. But Tolkien was not to be wooed back to Alien & Unwin so easily. His reply was friendly, but he made no reference to the book.

Much of Tolkien's time was occupied by academic and administrative duties in Oxford, and by visits to Belgium (for philological work) and to Ireland (as an examiner); and soon another year had pa.s.sed with nothing further achieved towards publication. Late in 1951 he wrote a long letter to Milton Waldman, outlining in about ten thousand words the structure of his entire mythology, and hoping by this to convince Waldman that the books were interdependent and indivisible. But by March 1952 he had still not signed an agreement with Collins, and The Silmarillion was still not ready for publication. William Collins was in South Africa, Waldman was in Italy, and the price of paper had soared. Tolkien (who had really been as much responsible for the delay as anyone) wrote to Collins saying that his time had been wasted. Either they must publish The Lord of the Rings immediately, or he would send the ma.n.u.script back to Alien & Unwin. The result was inevitable, for William Collins did not like ultimata any more than did Stanley Unwin. He came back from South Africa, read Tolkien's letter, and replied on 18 April 1952: I am afraid we are frightened by the very great length of the book which, with the present cost of paper, does mean a very big outlay'; and he told Tolkien that it did indeed seem best for him to send the ma.n.u.script back to Alien & Unwin.

But would Alien & Unwin have him back?

On 22 June 1952 Tolkien wrote to Rayner Unwin, now returned to England and working for his father's firm: As for The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, they are where they were. The one finished, the other still unfinished (or unrevised), and both gathering dust. I have rather modified my views. Better something than nothing! Although to me all are one, and The Lord of the Rings would be better far (and eased) as part of the whole, I would gladly consider the publication of any part of the stuff. Years are becoming precious. What about The Lord of the Rings'?

Can anything be done about that, to unlock gates I slammed myself?'

Rayner Unwin did not need to be asked twice. He suggested that Tolkien should send the ma.n.u.script of The Lord of the Rings to Alien & Unwin at once, by registered post. But Tolkien had only one typescript of the book in its final and revised form, and he did not want to consign that to the post. He wanted to hand it over in person - and, as it happened, that was not possible for some weeks. During August he was on holiday in Ireland, and in the same month he visited George Sayer, a friend of C. S. Lewis, who taught at Malvern College and who often visited the Inklings. While Tolkien was staying with Sayer in Worcestershire, his host recorded him reading and singing from The Hobbit and from the typescript of The Lord of the Rings, which he had brought with him. When he listened to these recordings, Tolkien was much surprised to discover their effectiveness as recitations, and (if I may say so) my own effectiveness as a narrator'. Many years later, after Tolkien's death, the tapes made on this occasion were issued on long-playing gramophone records. Tolkien had never before encountered a tape-recorder at close quarters - he pretended to regard Sayer's machine with great suspicion, p.r.o.nouncing the Lord's Prayer in Gothic into the microphone to cast out any devils that might be lurking within. But after the recording sessions at Malvern he was so impressed with the device that he acquired a machine to use at home, and began to amuse himself by making further tapes of his work. Some years previously he had written what proved to be a very effective radio play'. Ent.i.tled The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son, it is in effect a sequel' to the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon, for it recounts an imaginary episode after that battle when two servants of the duke Beorhtnoth come in the darkness to retrieve their master's corpse from the battlefield. Written in a modern equivalent of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, it marks the pa.s.sing of the heroic age, whose characteristics are exemplified and contrasted in the youthful romantic Torhthelm and the practical old farmer Tidwald. The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth was in existence by 1945, but it was not published until 1953, in which year it appeared in Essays and Studies. It was never performed on a stage, but a year after publication it was transmitted on the BBC Third Programme. Tolkien was deeply irritated by this radio production, which ignored the alliterative metre and delivered the verse as if it were iambic pentameters. He himself recorded a version that was much more to his own satisfaction on the tape-recorder in his study at home, in which he not only played both parts but improvised some dextrous sound-effects. Although made purely for personal amus.e.m.e.nt, this recording is a fine demonstration of Tolkien's not inconsiderable talents as an actor. He had shown these talents before the war, when in 1938 and 1939 he had impersonated Chaucer in the Summer Diversions' arranged in Oxford by Nevill Coghill and John Masefield. On these occasions he had recited from memory the Nun's Priest's Tale and (the next year) The Reeve's Tale. He was not enthusiastic about drama as an art-form, considering it to be tiresomely anthropocentric and therefore restricting. But he did not extend this dislike to the dramatic recitation of verse, in which category he presumably placed his own Beorhtnoth.

On 19 September 1952 Rayner Unwin came to Oxford and collected the typescript of The Lord of the Rings. His father, Sir Stanley Unwin, was in j.a.pan, so it was up to Rayner himself to make the next moves. He decided not to delay by rereading the bulky typescript, for he had seen virtually all of it five years earlier, and he still had a vivid impression of the story. Instead he began immediately to obtain an estimate of production costs, for he was concerned to keep the price of the book within the limit to which the ordinary buyer (and the circulating libraries in particular) would go. After calculations and discussions in the Alien & Unwin offices, it seemed that the best thing would be to divide the book into three volumes, which could be sold (with only a small profit margin) at twenty-one shillings each. This was still a lot of money, rather more than the top price for a novel, but it was the best that could be done. Rayner sent a telegram to his father to ask whether they could publish the book, admitting that it was a big risk', and warning that the firm could lose up to a thousand pounds through the project. But he concluded that in his opinion it was a work of genius. Sir Stanley replied by cable, telling him to publish it. On 10 November 1952 Rayner Unwin wrote to Tolkien to say that the firm would like to publish The Lord of the Rings under a profit-sharing agreement. This meant that Tolkien would not receive conventional royalty payments on a percentage basis.

Instead he would be paid half profits'; that is, he would receive nothing until the sales of the book had been sufficient to cover its costs, but thenceforward he would share equally with the publisher in any profits that might accrue. This method, which had once been common practice but was by this time little used by other firms, was still favoured by Sir Stanley Unwin for all potentially uneconomical books. It helped to keep down the price of such books, since there was no need to include an additional sum in the costing to cover the author's royalties. On the other hand if the book sold unexpectedly well, the author would benefit more substantially than under a royalty agreement. Not that Alien & Unwin expected The Lord of the Rings to sell more than a few thousand copies, for it was bulky, unconventional, and did not appeal to any one market', being neither a children's book noran adult novel.

The news soon spread among Tolkien's friends that the book had at last been accepted for publication. C. S. Lewis wrote to congratulate him, remarking: I think the prolonged pregnancy has drained a little vitality from you: there'll be a new ripeness and freedom when the book's out.' At that particular moment Tolkien felt anything but free. He wanted to read the typescript of the book once more before it went to the printers, and to iron out any remaining inconsistencies. (Fortunately Rayner Unwin had not asked him to make any cuts, such as Milton Waldman had suggested.) There was also the tricky matter of the appendices to the book, which he had planned for some time; they were to contain information that was relevant to the story but which could not be fitted into the narrative. As yet these appendices existed only in the form of rough drafts and scattered notes, and he could see that it would take a great deal of time to organise them. He was also worried about the necessity of making a clear and accurate map to accompany the book, for a number of topographical and narrative changes had rendered the working map (drawn by Christopher many years before) inaccurate and inadequate. Besides all this, he had a backlog of many years' academic work on hand which he Could no longer ignore. And he had decided to move house yet again.

The house in Holywell Street, where the Tolkiens had lived since 1950, was a building of much character, but it was made almost unbearable by the stream of motor traffic that roared past it all day and much of the night. This charming house,' Tolkien wrote, has become uninhabitable: unsleepable-in, unworkable-in, rocked, racked with noise, and drenched with fumes. Such is modern life. Mordor in our midst.' He and Edith were now on their own, Priscilla having left Oxford to work in Bristol; and Edith had become very lame from rheumatism and arthritis, so that she found the many stairs in the house troublesome. By the spring of 1953 Tolkien had found and bought a house in Headington, a quiet Oxford suburb to the east of the city. He and Edith moved there in March.

Despite the dislocation caused by the move, Tolkien managed to complete his final revision for what was to be the first volume of The Lord of the Rings by mid-April, and he sent it to Alien & Unwin for typesetting to begin. Soon afterwards he delivered the text-6f the second volume. He had already discussed with Rayner Unwin the question of independent t.i.tles for the three volumes, which Unwin considered preferable to an overall t.i.tle with volume numbers. Although the book was one continuous story and not a trilogy - a point that Tolkien was always concerned to emphasise - it was felt that it would be best if it appeared volume by volume under different t.i.tles, thus earning three sets of reviews rather than one, and perhaps disguising the sheer size of the book. Tolkien was never entirely happy about the division, and he insisted on retaining The Lord of the Rings as the overall t.i.tle. But after a good deal of discussion he and Rayner eventually agreed upon The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King for the volume t.i.tles, though Tolkien really preferred The War of the Ring' for the third volume, as it gave away less of the story.

The production' problems that Tolkien now encountered were similar to those he had met with in The Hobbit. He cared very much that his beloved book should be published as he had intended, but once again many of his designs were modified, frequently through considerations of cost. Among items that were declared to be too expensive were red ink for the fire-letters' which appear on the Ring, and the halftone colour process that would be necessary to reproduce the facsimile Tolkien had made of The Book of Mazarbul', a burnt and tattered volume that (in the story) is found in the Mines of Moria. He was much saddened by this, for he had spent many hours making this facsimile, copying out the pages in runes and elvish writing, and then deliberately damaging them, burning the edges and smearing the paper with substances that looked like dried blood. All this work was now wasted. He was also infuriated by his first sight of the proofs, for he found that the printers had changed several of his spellings, altering dwarves to dwarfs, elvish to elfish, further to farther, and (worst of all' said Tolkien) elvin to elfin. The printers were reproved; they said in self-defence that they had merely followed the dictionary spellings. (Similar corrections' to Tolkien's spellings were made in 1961 when Puffin Books issued The Hobbit as a paperback, and this time to Tolkien's distress the mistake was not discovered until the book had reached the shops.) Another worry was the matter of the map, still not dealt with; or rather the maps, for an additional plan of the Shire was now thought to be necessary. I am stumped,' Tolkien wrote in October 1953. Indeed in a panic. They are essential; and urgent; but I just cannot get them done.' In the end he handed over the job to his original map-maker, Christopher, who somehow managed to interpret his father's overlaid, altered, and often contradictory rough sketches, and to produce from them a readable and neatly lettered general map and smaller plan of the Shire.

The first volume of The Lord of the Rings was to be published in the summer of 1954, and the remaining two volumes were to follow one by one after short intervals. There was only a modest print order: three and a half thousand copies of the first volume and slightly fewer of the other two, for the publishers considered that this should be enough to cater for the moderate interest the book was expected to attract. As to publicity, Rayner Unwin had panicked at the thought of writing a blurb' for the dust-jacket of the book, for it defied conventional description. So he and his father solicited the help of three authors who were likely to have something worth saying about it: Naomi Mitchison, who was a devotee of The Hobbit, Richard Hughes, who had long ago praised the first book, and C. S.

Lewis. All three responded with fluent words of commendation, Mrs Mitchison comparing The Lord of the Rings with science-fiction and Malory, and Lewis drawing a parallel with Ariosto. (I don't know Ariosto,' Tolkien once said, and I'd loathe him if I did.') Publication day for the first volume approached. It was more than sixteen years since Tolkien had begun to write the book. I am dreading the publication,' he told his friend Father Robert Murray, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at'

This book is like lightning from a clear sky. To say that in it heroic romance, gorgeous, eloquent, and unashamed, has suddenly returned at a period almost pathological in its anti-romanticism, is inadequate. To us, who live in that odd period, the return - and the sheer relief of it - is doubtless the important thing. But in the history of Romance itself - a history which stretches back to the Odyssey and beyond -it makes not a return but an advance or revolution: the conquest of new territory.' This review of The Fellowship of the Ring (the first volume of The Lord of the Rings) appeared in Time & Tide on 14 August 1954, a few days after the book had been published. Its author was C. S. Lewis.

Perhaps it was a little excessive for Lewis to contribute to the publisher's blurb' and also to review the book, but he wanted to do everything in his power to help Tolkien; though before sending his contribution for the blurb' to Rayner Unwin he had warned Tolkien: Even if he and you approve my words, think twice before using them: I am certainly a much, and perhaps an increasingly, hated man whose name might do you more harm than good.'

Prophetic words, for more than one critic reviewing the book in August 1954 displayed an extraordinary personal animosity to Lewis, and used (or wasted) a good deal of s.p.a.ce in mocking Lewis's comparison of Tolkien to Ariosto. Edwin Muir wrote in the Observer: Nothing but a great masterpiece could survive the bombardment of praise directed at it from the blurb,' and although Muir admitted enjoying the book he declared that he was disappointed with the lack of the human discrimination and depth which the subject demanded. Mr Tolkien,'

continued Muir, describes a tremendous conflict between good and evil, on which hangs the future of life on earth.

But his good people are consistently good, his evil figures immutably evil; and he has no room in his world for a Satan both evil and tragic.' (Mr Muir had evidently forgotten Gollum, evil, tragic, and very nearly redeemed.) Several critics carped at Tolkien's prose style, among them Peter Green in the Daily Telegraph who wrote that it Veers from pre-Raphaelite to Boy's Own Paper', while J. W. Lambert in the Sunday Times declared that the story has two odd characteristics : no religious spirit of any kind, and to all intents and purposes no women' (neither statement was entirely fair, but both were reflected in later writings by other critics). Yet for all these harsh judgements there were many who were enthusiastic, and even among the mockers there were some who were drawn to commendation. Green in the Telegraph had to admit that the book has an undeniable fascination', while Lambert in the Sunday Times wrote: Whimsical drivel with a message? No; it sweeps along with a narrative and pictorial force which lifts it above that level.' Perhaps the wisest remark came from the Oxford Times reviewer who declared: The severely practical will have no time for it. Those who have imagination to kindle will find themselves completely carried along, becoming part of the eventful quest and regretting that there are only two more books to come.'

The reviews were good enough to promote sales, and it soon became clear that the three and a half thousand copies that had been printed of the first volume would be insufficient to meet the demand. Six weeks after publication, a reprint was ordered. Tolkien himself wrote: As for the reviews, they were a good deal better than I feared.' In July he had visited Dublin to receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the National University of Ireland. He went overseas again in October to be given another honorary degree, at Liege, and these and other calls on his time delayed his work on the appendices for The Lord of the Rings. The printers had already set up the type for the text of the third volume, from which Tolkien had now decided to omit the somewhat sentimental epilogue that dealt with Sam and his family. But the third volume could not be printed until the appendices arrived, as well as the enlarged map of Gondor and Mordor that Tolkien now felt to be required, and the index of names that he had promised in the preface to the first volume.

The second volume, The Two Towers, was published in mid-November. Reviews were similar in tone to those of the first volume. The third volume was now eagerly awaited by the supporting faction, for the story had broken off with Frodo imprisoned in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, and as the reviewer in the Ill.u.s.trated London News declared, The suspense is cruel.' Meanwhile the deadline that Alien & Unwin had set for the delivery of the appendices pa.s.sed without any ma.n.u.script arriving at their office. I am dreadfully sorry,' Tolkien wrote. I have been trying hard.' And he did manage to send some of the material to the publishers shortly afterwards; some, but not all.

In America, Houghton Mifflin had published The Fellowship of the Ring in October; The Two Towers followed shortly after. American reviews of the first two volumes were on the whole cautious. But enthusiastic articles by W.

H. Auden in the New York Times -No fiction I have read in the last five years has given me more joy,' wrote Auden - helped to boost sales, and during the following year a large number of copies were bought by American readers.

By January 1955, two months after the publication of the second volume, Tolkien had still not completed the appendices that were required so urgently. He had abandoned any hope of making an index of names, having found that the job would take too long. Freed of this burden, he completed more material during January and February, but he found the task maddeningly difficult. He had at one time planned to fill an entire specialist volume'

with details of the history and linguistics of his mythological peoples, and he had ama.s.sed a great deal of notes on these topics. But now he had to compress everything, for the publishers could only give him a short s.p.a.ce at the end of the book. However, he pressed on, spurred by the letters he was already receiving from readers who took the book almost as history, and demanded more information on many topics. This att.i.tude to his story flattered him, for it was the type of response that he had hoped to arouse, yet he remarked: I am not at all sure that the tendency to treat this whole thing as a kind of vast game is really good - certainly not for me, who find that kind of thing only too fatally attractive.' Nevertheless it was encouraging to know that the material he was so laboriously preparing on the Shire Calendars, the Rulers of Gondor, and the Tengwar of Feanor would be read voraciously by a large number of people.

The appendices were still unfinished by March, and strongly-worded letters began to arrive at the offices of Alien & Unwin, complaining about the non-appearance of the third volume. It was clear to the publishers that the book was arousing more than the usual interest for fiction. Rayner Unwin pleaded with Tolkien to get the work done, but it was not until 20 May that the final copy for the appendices reached the printers. The last map, prepared by Christopher who had worked for twenty-four hours non-stop to finish it, had been sent some weeks before; so now there should be no more delays. I hit there were. First the chart of runes was printed wrongly, and Tolkien had to make corrections. Then other queries were raised by the printers and forwarded to Tolkien to be answered; but by this time he had gone on holiday to Italy.

He made the journey by boat and train with Priscilla, while Edith went on a Mediterranean cruise with three friends.

He kept a diary, it ml recorded his feeling of having come to the heart of Christendom: mi exile from the borders and far provinces returning home, or at least to the home of his fathers'. In Venice among the ca.n.a.ls he found himself almost free of the cursed disease of the internal combustion engine of which all the world is dying'; and he wrote afterwards: Venice seemed incredibly, elvishly lovely - to me like a tin-am of Old Gondor, or Pelargir of the Numenorean Ships, before (In- return of the Shadow.' He and Priscilla travelled on to a.s.sisi, where the queries from the printers reached him, but he could not deal with them until he was reunited with his notes on his return to Oxford. So it was not until 20 October, almost a year after the publication of The Two Towers, that The Return of the King it-ached the bookshops. A note on the last page apologised for the absence of the promised index.

Now that all three volumes had appeared, the critics were able to make a full a.s.sessment of The Lord of the Rings.

C. S. Lewis paid another tribute in Time & Tide: The book is too original and too opulent for any final judgement on a first reading. But we know at once that it has done things to us. We are not quite the same men.' A new voice was added to the chorus of praise when Bernard Levin wrote in Truth that he believed it to be one of the most remarkable works of literature in our, or any, time. It is comforting, in this troubled day, to be once more a.s.sured that the meek shall inherit the earth'. But there were further criticisms of the style. John Metcalf wrote in the Sunday Times: Far too often Mr Tolkien strides away Into a kind of Brewers' Biblical, enwreathed with inversions, encrusted with archaisms'; and Edwin Muir returned to the attack in a review in the Observer headed A Boy's World'. The astonishing thing,' he wrote, is that all the characters are boys masquerading as adult heroes. The hobbits, or halflings, are ordinary boys; the fully human heroes have reached the fifth form; but hardly one of them knows anything about women, except by hearsay. Even the elves and the dwarfs and the ents are boys, irretrievably, and will never come to p.u.b.erty.

Blast Edwin Muir and his delayed adolescence,' snorted Tolkien. He is old enough to know better. If he had an M.A. I should nominate him for the professorship of poetry - sweet revenge.'

By now, opinions were firmly polarised. The book had acquired its champions and its enemies, and as W. A. Auden wrote: n.o.body seems to have a moderate opinion; either, like myself, people find it a masterpiece of its genre, or they cannot abide it.' And this was how it was to remain for the rest of Tolkien's life: extreme praise from one faction, total contempt from the other. On the whole Tolkien himself did not mind this very much; indeed it amused him. He wrote of it: The Lord of the Rings is one of those things: if you like you do: if you don't, then you boo!

Oxford University did not exactly boo. It was too polite to do that. But, as Tolkien himself reported, his colleagues said to him: Now we know what you have been doing all these years! Why the edition of this, and the commentary on that, and the grammars and glossaries, have all remained promised but unfinished. You have had your fun and you must now do some work. The first fruit of this demand was a lecture, already overdue by many months, in a series on the Celtic element in the English language. Tolkien delivered it under the t.i.tle English and Welsh' on 21 October 1955, the day after the publication of The Return of the King. It was a long and rather diffuse examination of the relationship between the two languages, but it was intended (as Tolkien explained) as little more than a curtain-raiser for the series. Certainly it contains much of value in the way of autobiographical comment by Tolkien on the history of his own interest in languages. At the beginning of the lecture Tolkien apologised for its tardiness, adding in mitigation that among the many tasks which had hindered him was the long-delayed appearance of a large work, if it can be called that, which contains, in the way of presentation that I find most natural, much of what I personally have received from the study of things Celtic'.

By now it had become clear that The Lord of the Rings was not going to lose a thousand pounds for Alien & Unwin.

Sales of the book increased steadily, if not yet remarkably. They were boosted by a radio dramatisation of the book, which inevitably did not meet with Tolkien's approval, for if he had reservations about drama in general he was even more strongly opposed to the adaptation' of stories, believing that this process invariably reduced them to their merely human and thus most trivial level. However the radio broadcasts contributed to the book's popularity, and early in 1956 Tolkien received his first payment from Alien & Unwin under the half profits' agreement, a cheque for more than three and a half thousand pounds. This was considerably more than his annual salary from the university, and though he was of course delighted he also realised that income tax was going to be a very serious problem. Sales rose even more during 1956, and the cheque that he received a year later was substantially larger. In consequence of this unexpected income he wished that he had opted for retirement from his professorship at sixty-five instead of agreeing (as he had) to continue until sixty-seven, the usual Oxford retiring age. Worries about tax, which soon proved to be justified, also meant that when in 1957 Marquette University, a Catholic inst.i.tution in the Middle West of America, offered to buy the ma.n.u.scripts of his princ.i.p.al published stories, he accepted with alacrity. The sum of 1,250 (which was then the equivalent of five thousand dollars) was paid, and in the spring of 1958 the originals of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Farmer Giles of Ham, together with the still unpublished Mr Bliss, made then* way across the Atlantic.

Besides money, The Lord of the Rings was bringing Tolkien a large number of fan-letters. Those who wrote included a real Sam Gamgee, who had not read The Lord of the Rings but had heard that his name appeared in the story. Tolkien was delighted, explained how he had come by the name, and sent Mr Gamgee a signed copy of all three volumes. Later he said: Tor some time I lived in fear of receiving a letter signed S. Gollum. That would have been more difficult to deal with.'

Alien & Unwin had begun to negotiate for translations of The Lord of the Rings into foreign languages. The first result of this was the Dutch edition, published in 1956, after Tolkien had made stringent criticisms of the translator's first attempts to render the complex series of names in the story into his own language. In the end Tolkien was satisfied with the Dutch version, but he was much less pleased with a Swedish translation of the book that appeared three years later. Not only did he disapprove of much of the actual translation (he had a working knowledge of Swedish) but he was also angered by a foreword to the book inserted by the translator. Tolkien called this foreword five pages of impertinent nonsense'. In it, the translator interpreted The Lord of the Rings as an allegory of contemporary world politics, referred to Tolkien telling the story to a host of grandchildren', and described the scenery of the very ordinary Oxford suburb of Headington where Tolkien was now living (which stands on a slight eminence known as Headington Hill) as the leafy orchard-landscape . . . with the Barrowdowns or Headington Hills in the rear'. After Tolkien had registered a strong protest, this foreword was withdrawn by the Swedish publishers from further editions of the book.

In the following years The Lord of the Rings was translated into all the major European languages, and many others, with the consequence that Tolkien received a number of invitations to travel abroad and be feted. He accepted only one such invitation, to go to Holland in the spring of 1958, and this expedition proved a great success. He was a.s.sured of a warm welcome, for he had been friends for several years with Professor Piet Harting of Amsterdam University, who met him on his arrival and entertained him regally. The main event was a Hobbit Dinner' organised by a Rotterdam bookseller, at which Tolkien made a lively speech in English interspersed with Dutch and Elvish. It was in part a parody of Bilbo's party speech at the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, and it concluded with Tolkien recalling that it is now exactly twenty years since I began in earnest to complete the history of our revered hobbit-ancestors of the Third Age. I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentle hobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.'

By this time it was clear that The Lord of the Rings was something of an international hot property'. Stanley Unwin warned Tolkien that offers would soon be forthcoming for the film rights, and the two men agreed upon their policy: either a respectable treatment' of the book, or else a good deal of money. As Sir Stanley put it, the choice was between cash or kudos'. The first overtures from the film world came at the end of 1957 when Tolkien was approached by three American businessmen who showed him drawings for a proposed animated motion-picture of The Lord of the Rings. These gentlemen (Mr Forrest J. Ackerman, Mr Morton Grady Zimmer-man, and Mr Al Brodax) also delivered to him a scenario or Story Line' for the proposed film. Reading this, Tolkien discovered that it did not exactly treat the book with respect. A number of names were consistently mis-spelt (Boromir was rendered Borimor'), virtually all walking was dispensed with in the story and the Company of the Ring were transported everywhere on the backs of eagles, and the elvish waybread lembas was described as a food concentrate'. There did not seem to be much prospect of kudos in this, and as there was not much cash either, negotiations were not continued. But it was an indication of things to come. In the meanwhile Tolkien's income from his books remained high. I am afraid,' he said, I cannot help feeling there is a lot to be said for the grosser forms of literary success as a sneering critic recently called it.'

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J.R.R. Tolkien_ A Biography Part 7 summary

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