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TCG Letter #532 / Carpenter Letter #183

J.R.R. Tolkien
Notes on W. H. Auden’s review of The Return of the King
?Late January 1956
These are Tolkien's notes based on a review by W.H. Auden. He argues that his story is not an allegory of his personal experiences but a depiction of humane duties and the struggle against evil. Tolkien rejects the notion of Absolute Evil. He emphasizes that the conflict in The Lord of the Rings is about divine honour. Tolkien asserts that the cause of those opposing tyranny remains right, even if their actions are flawed. The draft also touches on the depiction of characters, the nature of evil, and the moral judgments within the story.

A note on this text: These notes from Tolkien were intended for his own use and satisfaction and strictly speaking are not a letter meant for correspondence. Humphrey Carpenter in his commentary on the entry says that - "A comment, apparently written for Tolkien’s own satisfaction and not sent or shown to anyone else, on ‘At the End of the Quest, Victory’, a review of The Return of the King by W. H. Auden in the New York Times Book Review, 22 January 1956. The text given here is a rewriting at some later date of an earlier version, now lost, which was in all probability written in 1956."
Craig A. Boyd, "Nolo Heroizari: Tolkien and Aquinas on the Humble Journey of Master Samwise" in Christianity & Literature 2019, Vol. 68(4), p. 608

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