J.R.R. Tolkien’s Signed Letter to 8-Year-Old Lancashire Boy Goes Under the Hammer

A heartwarming letter penned by the legendary author J.R.R. Tolkien to an eight-year-old fan is set to be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction. This remarkable letter, dated 28th December 1961, reveals Tolkien’s thoughts on his seminal works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and it should come as no surprise to learn that bidding is closing on the $9000 mark, just over £7000.

J. R. R. Tolkien Autograph Letter Signed on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, dated December 28, 1961. Image: RR Auctions

The letter, written on Tolkien’s personal letterhead from 76 Sandfield Road, Headington, Oxford, is addressed to young Christopher Howard.

Tolkien graciously responds to Howard’s letter, discussing his beloved characters and the thrilling adventures they embark upon.

“Thank you very much indeed for your letter,” Tolkien writes. “I was very pleased to have it, and I liked learning about the parts that specially pleased you. I don’t think Nicky missed much, as ‘The Hobbit’ was specially written for reading aloud. Though, of course, it is, I think, more fun to do the reading, and there are lots of books that can only be taken in quietly by oneself.”

Tolkien apologises for the delay in his response, explaining the holiday rush, and wishes Howard a happy New Year. He then delves into his other works, introducing Howard to “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. “I have in fact written other books in which Hobbits play a main part, and Bilbo makes an appearance — though not as a chief character as he is getting very old (60 years have gone by) and the story began on his 111th Birthday. (Which he calls eleventy-first and not hundred and eleventh!). But this book or books is very long — (about six times as long as The Hobbit), and is in three volumes (1) The Fellowship of the Ring (2) The Two Towers (3) The Return of the King. It is largely about Bilbo’s magic ring, and Gandalf and Gollum are very important in it.”

He advises the young reader that while the trilogy is expensive, it is widely available in public libraries due to high demand. Tolkien cautions Howard that the adventures within these volumes are much grimmer and more frightening than those in “The Hobbit.”

“If it is any colder in Lancashire than it is down here, then you must be frozen stiff,” he humorously adds, sharing a glimpse into the weather conditions in Oxford.

The recipient, Christopher Howard, was captivated by Tolkien’s world from a young age. His mother, an English teacher, would read The Hobbit to him and his brother, igniting his passion for reading. Howard’s curiosity about Tolkien’s other works led to this treasured correspondence. He recalls the moment vividly: “Immediately, on seeing the envelope, in my mind, Professor Tolkien’s beautiful handwriting transported our home straight to Middle Earth. It became, ‘A small Lodge, A small Lane, Ormskirk, Lancashire.'”

“Letters from Tolkien that mention, or even allude to, either of these defining works are of exceptional desirability; that this example mentions both is, quite matter-of-factly, cause for excitement, as Tolkien letters of this ilk are rarely offered for public sale,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.

Another noteworthy item up for auction is J.R.R. Tolkien’s personal copy of “An Introduction to Philosophy” by Jacques Martin, with handwritten notes. This rare book, from Tolkien’s own library, includes his signature dated 1944 and a two-sided sheet of his annotations. The notes, some penned in pencil and others in ink, delve into the philosophical concept of a “square circle” and provide a history of the English language course for Royal Navy and Air Force cadets. These notes are linked to Tolkien’s tenure as the director of the Navy and Air Force cadet courses at Oxford, designed to expand the minds of British servicemen.

This extraordinary letter is part of RR Auction’s Art, Literature, and Classical Music auction, which began on 22nd May and will conclude on 20th June 2024.

For more information, visit rauction.com

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien - https://amzn.to/3XoDpBr

Those of you without a spare £7000 in your wallets, you may be interested in the revised and expanded edition of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (AmazonUK Affiliate Link), released last year. This is a comprehensive collection of letters spanning the adult life of one of the world’s greatest storytellers, now revised and expanded to include more than 150 previously unseen letters, with revealing new insights into The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

A selection from Tolkien’s correspondence, collected and edited by Tolkien’s official biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, and assisted by Christopher Tolkien, was published in 1981. It presented, in Tolkien’s own words, a highly detailed portrait of the man in his many aspects: storyteller, scholar, Catholic, parent, friend, and observer of the world around him.

In this revised and expanded edition of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, it has been possible to go back to the editors’ original typescripts and notes, restoring more than 150 letters that were excised purely to achieve what was then deemed a ‘publishable length’, and present the book as originally intended.

Enthusiasts for his writings will find much that is new, for the letters not only include fresh information about Middle-earth, such as Tolkien’s own plot summary of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings and a vision for publishing his ‘Tales of the Three Ages’, but also many insights into the man and his world. In addition, this new selection will entertain anyone who appreciates the art of letter-writing, of which J.R.R. Tolkien was a master.


• The letter is part of RR Auction’s Art, Literature, and Classical Music auction, which began on 22nd May and will conclude on 20th June 2024

The Official Site of the Tolkien Estate

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