Interview with J.R.R. Tolkien

4 Mar

If I met Tolkien,

I would want to ask him a number of things.

I have just finished reading a biography of his written by Humphrey Carpenter. I was delighted and saddened at the same time. Let me try to explain.

 My delight arose from the fact that finally, I got to know the life, or better said, a bit of the life of one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century. It is something that I hold in high regard, knowing the life of a person. It speaks volumes. It better explains the output the person had in their lifetime.

On reading Carpenter’s book, I discovered that even though Tolkien as a young boy lived in the country-side, (in Sarehole) for most of his adult-life he led a suburban life as a university don. His life was what can be considered by most as monotonous. He traveled little. He was a family man, who made effort to be with his wife and children. His classes and research work took the better part of the day, plus the meetings of the Inklings, a group whose membership included C.S. Lewis.

 He forged a friendship with Lewis whose character can be deduced by reading the latter’s book The Four Loves. I quote it here to illustrate the point:

“Those are the golden sessions, when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze and our drinks at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim or responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life –natural life- has no better gift to give.”

What a gift to have a friend like that. In fact, it was Lewis who encouraged him in his writing, what with his constant revision; he lost hope many times of his work ever being published. Lewis was different; he sent his work to the publishers without the painstaking revision of his friend. In short, he was a perfectionist. The Lord of the Rings was published sixteen years after he began writing it.

He was also a philologist. He learnt many of modern and old languages. He took a lot of time working on his invented languages. Some of them do appear in The Lord, as elvish and dwarves’ tongues. He definitely had a gifted brain.

Now to my disappointment: I wish he had a secretary. I mean, he wrote the entire book on manuscript and later had to type it out with a typewriter. He used two fingers to type as he had never learnt to use ten. Poor man. That obviously explains the long delay, notwithstanding the revisions.

Anyway, if I met the author of The Lord of the Rings, I would ask him why he never got a secretary, at least to type out the work he had written. I would also ask for his version of the friendship with Lewis. We know what Lewis thought of it. How about Tolkien?

I look forward to the moment.

There is just one hitch: he died before I was born.

Maybe in the next life I might manage an interview.



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