William Foster Interviews J.R.R. Tolkien, 1972

Excerpts from Foster, William. “An Early History of the Hobbits.” Edinburgh Scotsman (February 5, 1972).

“It [Allen and Unwin] is almost monopolised by Tolkien, running a Tolkien light industry from its faded, dusty premises in Museum Street, sending an endless flow of messages to the great man and warding off persistent admirers who clamour for his address.” (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

“‘I was doing the dull work of correcting exam papers when I came upon a blank page someone had turned in–a boon to all exam markers.  I turned it over and wrong on the back, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’  I’d never heard or used the word before.’” (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

“The Shire, ‘inspired,’ says Tolkien, ‘by a few cherished square miles of actual countryside at Sarehole, near Birmingham.’” (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

“‘I loved it.  There was an old mill that really did grind corn, with two millers that I used for ‘Farmer Giles of Ham,’ a great big pond with swans on it, a sandpit, a wonderful dell with flowers, a few old-fashioned village houses and a stream with another mill.’” (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

“‘As for hobbits, they’re just what I should like to have been but never was–an entirely unmilitary people who always come up to scratch in an emergency.  I always knew the book would go and it did.’” (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

“But, yes, he did start inventing new languages such as Elvish from the age of 13.  ‘You start with p, t and k, then you introduce b, d and g followed by the nasals.  I still remember seeing the name ‘Ebbw’ on a railway journey to Wales as a small child and never quite getting over the fascination of the name.’”  (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

“He is still working on a companion volume to the Ring saga, ‘The Silmarillion,’ a collection of epic poems and stories covering the origins and early history of many of the same characters.  But to write it, he must fight against the many admirers who demand a strand of his hair, a piece of his blotting paper, a free lesson in Elvish, a page of his manuscript, anything, professor, anything.” (Foster, 1972 interview with Tolkien)

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