An unpublished letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to his publishers about the difficulties of completing The Return of the King, the third and final part of The Lord of the Rings, is to be offered at Bonhams sale of Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs in London on 19 March. It is estimated at £6,000-8,000.
Many of Tolkien's concerns are to do with the problems he faced in preparing the appendices to the work. These contain extra, detailed material on the background to the story, the characters and their culture.
Tolkien had shown the galley proofs of the appendices to the poet W. H. Auden, an admirer of the novels, who, he reports, had largely approved. Auden had, however, questioned the inclusion of the love story – 'The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen' - much to Tolkien's dismay since, as he wrote to Unwin, "I still find it poignant: an allegory of naked hope'.
The Lord of the Rings had some high profile devotees in addition to Auden. In a postscript to the letter, Tolkien mentions that he had received a fan letter from Sir Peter Medawar – "Professor Medawar, the physiologist, is bullying me – but he says he's afraid there's going to be a 'happy ending'. Would you call it a happy ending?"
Head of Bonhams Book Department in the UK, Matthew Haley said, "This letter, which has never been published before, sheds a fascinating light on Tolkien's working methods and the devotion to detail which he lavished on the imaginary worlds of his books. Those worlds clearly felt very real to him and he wanted readers to share that feeling."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
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