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TCG Letter #476 / Carpenter Letter #163

J.R.R. Tolkien
W. H. Auden
7 June 1955
Tolkien shares insights into the origins and inspirations behind his writing, particularly focusing on The Lord of the Rings. He discusses the evolution of their linguistic interests, the influence of Finnish and the connection between personal experiences and recurring dreams. The letter also touches on the development of The Hobbit and the challenges of creating a sequel.

Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull note in their Chronology (see reference below) that Tolkien wrote to Nancy Smith Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Nancy Smith • 25-26 December 1963 (#511)[1] saying he wrote a story of a "great green dragon" when he was approximately six years old, yet in his letter to W.H. Auden of 7 June 1955 he says that he is "about seven". He also notes to Nancy Smith, and in a letter to Paula Coston Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Paula Coston (née Iley) • 26 August 1965 (#700)[2] that he wrote some verses about the dragon, and he says to W.H. Auden he had written a "story".

In April 1911 Tolkien was present at the annual Open Debate at King's Edwards School and the report published in King Edward's School Chronicles has a report on the motion "that the works attributed to William Shakespeare were written by Francis Bacon." Tolkien talked with passion that this was the case. The report says Tolkien spoke, pouring "a sudden flood of unqualified abuse upon Shakespeare, upon his filthy birthplace, his squalid surroundings and his sordid character. He declared that to believe that so great a genius arose in such circumstances commits us to the belief that a fair-haired European infant could have a woolly-haired prognathous Papuan parent. After adducing a mass of further detail in support of the Hon. Opener, he gave a sketch of Bacon’s life and the manner in which it fitted into the production of the plays, and concluded with another string of epithets." In the years since this, Tolkien maintained a dislike for Shakespeare, yet in 1911 he describes the writer as a genius.
Related Letters
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1981), pp. 211-17, pp. 445-46 (Carpenter notes)
Cartas de J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 319-26, pp. 635-6 (notas de Carpenter)
The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide - Chronology (2017), p. 3 (see Christmas 1894), p. 5 (see 1896-1899), p. 6 (see 1898-1899), p. 35, p. 58 (see entry for 15 March 1914), p. 118-9 (entry for 10 March 1920), p. 481, p. 818 (see entry for 1898-1899)
J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend, p. 18 (item 20), p. 53 (see item 139), p. 66 (see introduction and items 192 & 193), p. 88 (see introduction)
The Battle of Maldon: together with The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, p. 43 (brief quote, start "‘the value of Hobbits" ending "than the professionals".)
J.R.R. Tolkien A Descriptive Bibliography, A2, p. 7 (quote); Di1, p. 350
Craig A. Boyd, "Nolo Heroizari: Tolkien and Aquinas on the Humble Journey of Master Samwise" in Christianity & Literature 2019, Vol. 68(4), p. 606, pp. 618-9, p. 619 note 4
Marco Cristini "The Fall of Two Cities: Troy and Gondolin." Thersites 15 (2022), p. 3, also see note for #163-5, p. 6 note 23
J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend, p. 24 (item 34 description contains brief quotes from this letter with details of 'A Finnish Grammar'), p. 52 (see item 132)

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