A Look at Tolkien’s Fandom
None can doubt the affect Tolkien’s writing has had on popular culture over the last 80 years and now many of Tolkien’s fan letters from the likes of Terry Pratchett, Joni Mitchell, the future Queen of Denmark and the daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson will go on display!
All can be seen next year at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England.
As we reported on several weeks ago, the Bodleian Library will be hosting a Tolkien Exhibition that will include among other things letter from fans who themselves would one day shape the world.
In an article in The Australian, Jack Malvern writes about the many fans and letters that were sent to Tolkien and have been saved and will soon be on display. Here is an excerpt from the posting…
When JRR Tolkien published his first story of a questing hobbit 80 years ago he had no inkling of the fan mail that would follow, or the frustration it would bring.
Long before social media allowed authors to satisfy fans with online postings, Tolkien was beset with messages of adulation from fellow writers, a president’s daughter, a young Terry Pratchett, a future queen of Denmark and Joni Mitchell.
The letters, which have not been seen by scholars or the public, will go on display next year at the Bodleian Library in Oxford in the exhibition Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.
The letters and the replies show how Tolkien was at first flattered but eventually overwhelmed in the mid-1960s when sales of The Lord of the Rings trilogy soared.
The first fan letter from someone not already acquainted with the author came from Arthur Ransome, the author of the Swallows and Amazons children’s books. Ransome became immersed in The Hobbit while in a nursing home in Norwich, recovering from a hernia.
“The Hobbit has done a great deal to turn these weeks into a pleasure,” he wrote in December 1937, predicting the book would run into many editions.
Tolkien thanked Ransome for his suggestion that hobbits and dwarfs not be referred to as “men”, adding: “To be fancied by you, that is more than any hobbit could have expected.”
Catherine McIlwaine, who oversees the Bodleian’s Tolkien archive, says he was pleased with the Ransome note. “He was delighted to get it because his children had read the Swallows and Amazons books and kept them even after their other children’s books had been cleared away.
“He didn’t get many about The Hobbit — or not many have survived. Ransome is the first one writing out of the blue saying how much he loved it.”
Iris Murdoch, whose literary fiction is far removed from Tolkien’s fantastical tales, was an established author when she wrote in 1965: “I have been meaning for a long time to write to you to say how utterly I have been delighted, carried away, absorbed by The Lord of the Rings.”
Murdoch, a fellow Oxford university academic who taught philosophy (Tolkien taught language and literature), ended her letter with: “Don’t trouble about answering this, which is simply an enthusiastic and grateful fan letter! … (I wish I could say it in the fair Elven tongue.)”
Pratchett, whose Discworld novels became the most successful fantasy series since Tolkien’s work, was 19 and a reporter for the Bucks Free Press when he sent a letter praising Tolkien’s novella Smith of Wootton Major. “An odd feeling of grief overcame me as I read it,” he wrote.
Singer-songwriter Mitchell made contact when her husband and musical collaborator Charles Mitchell wrote to ask permission to use names from The Lord of the Rings.
The pair wished to call their record company Lorien, after a spiritual character in the story, and to name their publishing company after Strider, one of the protagonists. Tolkien granted permission, but the Mitchells had to write again after discovering Strider was too similar to another publishing company, so they settled instead for Gandalf, the wizard.
Read the rest of this article HERE