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TCG Letter #530 / Carpenter Letter #181

J.R.R. Tolkien
Michael Straight
?December 1955
Tolkien thanked Mr. Straight for his letter but asked if he had enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, which was written to amuse, as in to be readable. He stressed that there was no "allegory" in the book at all. It was a "fairy-story" written for adults. Tolkien thought that a fairy story had its own mode of reflecting "truth", but that it must first succeed as a tale and within its own imagined world be accorded literary belief.

The final scene of the Quest fit the situation and the "characters" of Frodo, Sam, and Gollum. If Mr. Straight wanted more reflection, the "catastrophe" exemplified the familiar words: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." The Quest was bound to fail as a piece of world-plan and end in disaster as the story of Frodo's sanctification.

However, at this point the "salvation" of the world and Frodo was achieved by his previous pity and forgiveness of injury. Anyone would have told Frodo that Gollum meant to betray and rob him. Gollum was pitiable but ended in persistent wickedness. His last act worked good but of no credit to him.

There was no special reference to England in the Shire; Tolkien said he took his models like anyone else, from such life as he knew. There was no post-war reference. Tolkien agreed that "victors" never can enjoy "victory" in the terms they envisaged; the more they fought for something to be enjoyed by themselves the less satisfied they would be. But the departure of the Ringbearers (of the Three) had another side, part of the mythological structure behind the story.

Far exterior to the story, Elves and Men are just different aspects of the Humane and represent the problem of Death. Elves and Men are kindred but represent different "experiments". The Elves represent the artistic, aesthetic, and scientific aspects of the Humane, devoted to the physical world for its own sake. Gandalf is a "created" person, though possibly a spirit that existed before in the physical world. His function was to assist the rational creatures of Middle-earth to resist Sauron, a power too great for them unaided. Tolkien explained that he was only concerned with Death as part of nature and with Hope without guarantees.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (1981), pp. 232-37, p. 446 (Carpenter notes)
Pity, Power, and Tolkien's Ring: To Rule the Fate of Many, pp. 5, 8, 59, 131-2, 134, 166, 244-5, 248, 254, 263, 280n18
Cartas de J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 348-54, p. 637 (notas de Carpenter)
Craig A. Boyd, "Nolo Heroizari: Tolkien and Aquinas on the Humble Journey of Master Samwise" in Christianity & Literature 2019, Vol. 68(4), p. 607
Marco Cristini "The Fall of Two Cities: Troy and Gondolin." Thersites 15 (2022), p. 16 note 66

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