The New York Times Update on Tolkien, 1977

Excerpts from Mitgang, Herbert. “Behind the Best Sellers: J.R.R. Tolkien.” New York Times (October 2 1977), 48.

“After Professor Tolkien’s death at 81, international readers hoped that Middle-earth would somehow continue to live.  The author’s son, Christopher, a World War II R.A.F. pilot, resigned his fellowship in Old English at Oxford and devoted himself to his father’s works.  From a vast amount of writing, Christopher Tolkien relates, ‘I set myself to work out a single text, by selection and arrangement.  Here and there I had to develop the narrative out of notes and rough drafts.  I had to make many choices between competing versions.  Essentially, it was a job of organization, not of completion, and the result was ‘The Silmarillion.’”

“‘If you imagine the archetype of the Oxford don, you have him,’ said Rayner Unwin.  ‘He was a little offputting and at a distance, until you go to know him, and then he became immensely warm.  Fame puzzled him.  He was not pretentious.  He lived in a very simple way, wrapped up in his family and own internal world.  He laughed a lot and smoked his pipe a lot.’”

Unwin: “‘He took criticism in one of two ways–ignore it completely or go back to Square One and do it all over again.’”

Unwin: “‘He was a great philologist, and he knew precisely the way he wanted to say things.  In a sense, I was more his correspondent than his editor during ‘The Lord of the Rings.’  His spellings could be eccentric–his plural of dwarf was dwarves, for example.  Once a printer corrected all his so-called misspellings.  Tolkien was furious.  The printer then quoted as his authority the Oxford English Dictionary.  And Tolkien responded, ‘Why, I wrote the O.E.D.!’  As a matter of fact, he had worked on it early in his career.’”

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