A man of letters
TO be fancied by you, that is more than any hobbit could have expected.’ So wrote J. R. R. Tolkien (left) to Arthur Ransome, upon receiving his first fan letter from a stranger. The Swallows and Amazons author had become immersed in The Hobbit, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, while recovering from a hernia that he had sustained boating on the Norfolk Broads. Tolkien was thrilled and surprised, but he was soon to become much better acquainted with the fan letter. Later congratulations came from Terry Pratchett, Iris Murdoch (‘I wish I could say it in the fair Elven tongue’) and Joni and Charles Mitchell, who sought permission to name their record company Lorien and their publishing company Gandalf. Margrethe, Princess of Denmark, offered her own chapter illustrations for The Lord of the
Rings, used in the 1977 Folio Society edition, and Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson, wrote on official White House notepaper in 1968, asking for an autograph in her copy of The Hobbit.
The letters, which have not been seen before, will go on display in summer 2018 at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth’ (June 1 to October 28, 2018) will also include manuscripts, artwork, maps and artefacts from the Bodleian’s Tolkien Archive, the Tolkien Collection at Marquette University in the USA and from private collections.
One of the Tolkien-related artworks and letters on show at the Bodleian next year