Henry Resnick Interviews Tolkien, 1966

Excerpts from: Henry Resnick, “An Interview with Tolkien [March 2, 1966],” Niekas No. 18 (Late Spring 1967).

“Well, I think it’s been building up [popularity of Tolkien’s books], you know; I think it’s an error to say that it was really related to the Ace Books edition–I think that simply the Ace Books were very wisely advised to bring it out at the right time, whereas the other people did not.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 37)

“I think it [popularity of the story] was building up steadily, you know, and the book was really makings it own way.  There was a very large fan mail long before this so-called explosion.” ((Resnick, “An Interview,” 37)

“I think it is [the popularity of LOTR], if you really want to know my opinion, a partly reactionary influence.  I think it’s part of the run after so much rather more dreary stuff, isn’t it. . . . [such as] The Lord of the Flies.” ((Resnick, “An Interview,” 38)

“I do not [approve of studies of Tolkien or his works] while I am alive anyhow.  I do not know why they should research without any reference to me; after all, I hold the key” ((Resnick, “An Interview,” 38)

“Yes [I have seen those studies of me and my work], and they are very bad, most of them; they are nearly all either psychological analyses or they try to go into sources, and I think most of them rather vain efforts” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 38)

“In England my fan mail is largely very adult, even without professional letters” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 39)

“Neither am I obsessed with my own work.  I read newspapers. . . they’re there, and I read them when I’m interested.  I take a strong interest in what is going on, both in the university and in the country and in the world.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 39)

“I don’t remember writing a lot of it.  One of the things I remember moving me most in quite different ways was the sound of the horns in the morning when the Nazgul sat in the gate of Rohan of Minas Tirith.  Another one which I think is the most moving point in the story for me is when Gollum repents and tries to caress Frodo and his is interfered with by Sam.  The tragedy is that the good people so often upset the not-so-good people when they try to repent and it’s a tragic moment.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 39)

“I said that one of my chief feelings was that it [the LOTR] was too short” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“No [I don’t read Charles Williams any more]” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40).

“I’ve read a good many [of Williams’s novels], but I don’t like them” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“Well, that’s quite wrong.  Williams had no influence on me at all; I didn’t even know him very well.  I’ll tell you one thing on that point, one of the many things I remember Lewis saying to me–of course, Lewis was very influenced as you may know–was, ‘Confound you, nobody can influence you anyhow.  I’ve tried by it’s no good.’” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“After someone had criticized me I just went on my own sweet way and took no notice of it.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“No, I’ve been isolated, not a rebel.  Williams had no conceivable influence on me; I disliked his whole Arthurian business with great intensity and considered it rather nonsense” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“It’s [Middle-earth] only an old-fashioned word for ‘world.’  That all.  Look in the dictionary.  It isn’t another planet.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“It [the creation of the myth] was during the war, during the first war, when I was just growing up.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“You asked me what books move me; mostly mythology moves me and also upsets me because most mythology is distasteful to people.  But it seems to me that we miss something by not having a mythology which we can bring up to our own grade of assessment.  That’s what I always wanted to do–mythological things like Greek or Norse myths; I tried to improve on them and modernize them–to modernize them is to make them credible.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 40)

“The seed [of the myth] is linguistic, of course.  I’m a linguist and everything is linguistic–that’s why I take such pains with names.  The real seed was starting when I was quite a child by inventing languages, largely to try to capture the esthetic mode of the languages I was learning, and I eventually made the discovery that language can’t exist in a void and if you invent a language yourself you can’t cut it in half.  It has to come alive–so really the languages came first and the country after.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“Rhun is the Elvish word for ‘east.’  Asia, China, Japan, and all the things which people in the west regard as far away.  And south of Harad is Africa, the hot countries” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“Yes, of course [Middle-earth is Europe], Northwestern Europe where I was born–well, I wasn’t born there actually; but where my imagination comes from.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“Oh well, my parents both came from Birmingham in England.  I happened to be born there by accident.  But it had this effect; my earliest memories are of Africa, but it was alien to me, and when I came home, therefore, I had for the countryside of England both the native feeling and the personal wonder of somebody who comes to it.  I came to the English countryside when I was about 3 ½ or 4–it seemed to me wonderful.  If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in th earth as it is, particularly with the natural earth. . .  And I also was born with a great love of trees.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“Well, no, it is the real world; while you’re inside the book it does exist–that’s the whole point of literature, isn’t it?” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“As a matter of fact, insofar as . . . without harping or preaching on the side of various rather old-fashioned things like humility, valor, and so on. . . and courage, you can carry those over and I think it has rather an effect on people–young folks are ready in their attitudes to rather be changed.  But I didn’t intend these things, because I didn’t write it for children.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“That’s why I don’t like George MacDonald very much; he’s a horrible old grandmother.  That a very kind woman figure, of course, really–the Queen is rather a mother.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 41)

“All this kind of stuff–Ace Books, correspondence, fan mail–all this interferes, (41) you know.  That’s why I answer some of them very briefly or not at all.  I’m an old man now, and I’ve got a short working day.  I cannot go on working until two, as I used to” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“Most of it [the Silmarillion] is written, of course, but when I offered it to the publishers first and they turned it down they were too high and mighty.  But now The Lord of the Rings has been a success they want it and of course now it has to be made to fit The Lord of the Rings .  I am hoping to get it out in the course of next year.  Because of the market and the interest I shall probably try to publish it bit by bit.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“It’s [the Fourth Age] the beginning of what you might call history.  What you have is an imaginary period in which mythology was still actually existing in the real world.  Let’s say you would have. . . abstract figures–not abstract figures, but myths incarnate; but once that’s gone, scattered, dispersed, all you get is the history of human beings–the play of good and evil in history.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“This [the Fourth Age] is the beginning of history, when there are no more devils or angels to be seen walking about.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“I did write a continuation story, taking place about one hundred years after the end of The Lord of the Rings .  Of course he’ll go bad because he’s sick of peace.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“Well, I haven’t finished writing it because I didn’t want to gon with it; it’s called ‘The New Shadow.’  The people cannot bear peace for one hundred years.  After a hundred years of peace and prosperity people would all be going into every kind of madness.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“Not necessarily war [as inevitable], but there are other evils just as bad.  War is only the outbreak of these.  My views of current affairs is not as depressed as some people’s.  I should say that I’m a bit frightened that the Greeks hadn’t got something in saying that those whom the gods wish to destroy they must first drive mad.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“It’s [the modern world] like the tower of Babel, isn’t it?  All noise and confusion.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

“You don’t have to be Christian to believe that somebody has to die in order to save something.  As a matter of fact, December 25 th occurred strictly by accident, and I let it in to show that this was not a Christian myth anyhow.  It was a purely unimportant date, and I thought, Well, there it is, just an accident.” (Resnick, “An Interview,” 42)

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