Unpublished letter from Tolkien on Lord of the Rings

Books, Atlases, Manuscripts and Photographs
19 Mar 2014
London, Knightsbridge

An unpublished letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to his publishers about the difficulties of completing The Return of the King, the third and final part of The Lord of the Rings, is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."


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

  1. Matthew Haley
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3817

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