As many people know, creative works are often inspired or channelled. People will say the idea came to them ‘out of the blue’. One such work, by his own admission, is J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. We say ‘by his own admission’ because at a talk Cassie gave in October 2008 for the Positive Living Group in Bournemouth on our book: Ring Quest: The Continuing Story of the Ring, a woman in the audience told her that her father had known Tolkien, and that Tolkien confided to him that his histories of Middle Earth were ‘dictated’ to him: that was the word she used. This is not the first time we have read that an author heard the words in his head. For many Tolkien fans this will come as a shock.
In our introduction to the book we write a section on Tolkien:
In bookshops Tolkien’s books are put on the “Fantasy” shelves. However, it cannot be denied that The Lord of the Rings has profoundly affected many people the world over and has sold in its millions. If Tolkien’s writings were just fantasy would they have drawn such responses as the one from a college student: “The Lord of the Rings was and will probably be the most significant book of my life.”? Patrick Curry, a great admirer of Tolkien’s work, wrote a book called Defending Middle Earth based on the idea that the Story is relevant to us today. He writes that on first reading The Lord of the Rings at the age of sixteen, “I was overcome from the beginning by the unmistakable sense of having encountered a world that was more real than the one I was then living in. …..Accompanying this feeling was the equally odd one of inexplicable familiarity with that world.”
Many new ideas have come ‘out of the blue’ and have not been the product of the logical, deductive process. Einstein said that his ideas on Relativity came suddenly to him out of nowhere. Composers will hear the music in their heads, perfectly formed, and all they have to do is write it down. This can be called ‘inspired’ or, dare one say it, given to us from a higher level from whatever benign source.
Later, Tolkien himself came to believe that the saga he had written was true. He says that he ‘was drawn irresistibly’ to certain things and that ‘discovery’ felt much more the case than ‘invention’ and that ‘the story unfolded itself as it were’. The American writer, Clive Kilby, who spent three months in the summer of 1966 working closely with Tolkien, writes in his book Tolkien and The Silmarillion (1976) of an extraordinary incident when a Member of Parliament visiting Tolkien in his home declared, ‘ …“You did not write The Lord of the Rings,” meaning that it had been given him from God. It was clear that he (Tolkien) favoured this remark.’
If such is the case, the question arises, ‘for what purpose?’ Could such an involved story, which many find so gripping and powerful, be anything other than the true history of Man? When people say Tolkien derived his tales from the Teutonic, Celtic and Norse Mythology, could it in fact be the other way round? Legends, mythologies and fairy stories have come down to us from the tales Tolkien relates and are but windows on our remote past. With Tolkien, we get the original story.’
It was in 2002 we received a most convincing piece of corroboration that Tolkien was indeed writing about actual events. We were sent a copy of a newspaper article* that appeared in the local paper for the West Country, The Western Daily Press, on 26 February 2002 about the forthcoming sale of a letter from Tolkien, written on September 8, 1955 to a young fan who wished to know when the third book was going to appear. Dominic Winter’s documents expert, Richard Westwood Brookes, reveals that from this letter he is left in no doubt that Tolkien himself believed the epic events he wrote of were true. The telling sentence is:
“I have not myself any doubt that things went just so, but that does not say that my attempt to record them is successful.”
Mr Westwood Brookes goes on to say: “It certainly seems to suggest that Tolkien really believed the events of The Lord of the Rings actually took place and that he was merely setting them down on paper.”
The fact that the trilogy was dictated to Tolkien and that they constitute a true tale of humanity, also goes some way to explaining something which has long puzzled us.
In the book, Tolkien and The Silmarillion, by Clyde Kilby published in 1976, the author relates how Tolkien disliked the character of Samwise and called him “vulgar” and “despicable”. Clyde Kilby is an American who was Curator of the Wade Collection of materials in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. He spent the summer of 1964 with Tolkien helping him to pull together the vast quantity of writings into a semblance of order. He tells us that Tolkien himself describes Samwise, Frodo’s loyal servant, companion and friend as being:
“the youngest son of a stupid and conceited old peasant. Together with his loyal master-servant attitude, and his personal love of Frodo, he retains a touch of the contempt of his kind for motives above their reach.”
You can imagine that we found these sentiments nothing short of shocking. They seem at odds with the loving way in which Samwise is treated in the books. However, in the light of the knowledge that Tolkien was merely setting out events which unfolded of their own accord, and might even have been dictated to him, his personal antipathy towards Samwise becomes more acceptable and understandable.
An amusing anecdote in Kilby’s book describes how Tolkien received a letter from a man in London whose name was Sam Gamgee (Samwise) to which Tolkien replied that “what he really dreaded was getting a communication from S. Gollum.”!
* The article in The Western Daily Press, on 26 February 2002 in full :
Was J R R Tolkien’s groundbreaking trilogy of hobbits, goblins and dwarfs in Lord of the Rings just a fairy tale for grown-ups?
A letter written by Tolkien suggests that he may have believed some of the events in the book actually took place – or were at least based on or inspired by true events.
The letter is being sold by Swindon specialists Dominic Winter for an estimated £1,500 – 2,000 on March 6.
And it reveals the author’s thoughts while he was trying to complete the final book. “It also hints that he believed the events in the trilogy actually happened” said Dominic Winter’s documents expert Richard Westwood-Brookes.
Dated September 8, 1955, it was sent in reply to a young admirer who asked the great man when the third book was going to appear. Tolkien replied that he had just come back from a “holiday in Gondor, or in modern parlance, Venice,” perhaps for the first time revealing that Gondor was actually Venice.
He then goes on to say: “Such as it is, another 300 pages of narrative and about 100 of additional matter should appear soon…. I will not relive your anxiety about the fate of the various characters, but I hope the ending will not seem unworthy”.
However, Mr Westwood-Brookes said the crucial passage in the letter is: “I have not myself any doubt that things went just so, but that does not say that my attempt to record them is successful.”
Mr Westood-Brookes said: “It certainly seems to suggest that Tolkien really believed the events of The Lord of the Rings actually took place and that he was merely setting them down on paper.”
© Cassie Martin and Caroline Milton
09 September 2010
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