Harvey Breit interviews J.R.R. Tolkien, 1955 (Short!)

Source: Harvey Breit, “Oxford Calling,” New York Times Book Review (June 5, 1955), pg. 8.

“How does it happen that a writer of children’s books (who began that way, if we may believe his critics) can end by producing a somber and brilliantly bizarre trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings’—part two of which (‘The Two Towers’) was reviewed here recently and labeled definitely for adults?  The author of that Gothic masterpiece, J.R.R. Tolkien, was asked how it all came about.  What, we asked Dr. Tolkien makes you tick?  Dr. T., who teaches at Oxford when he isn’t writing novels, has this brisk reply: “I don’t tick.  I am not a machine.  (If I did tick, I should have no views on it, and you had better ask the winder.)

“My work did not ‘evolve’ into a serious work.  It started like that.  The so-called ‘children’s story’ was a fragment, torn out of an already existing mythology.  In so far as it was dressed up ‘for children, in style or manner,’ I regret it.  So do the children.

“I am a philologist, and all my work is philological.  I avoid hobbies because I am a very serious person and cannot distinguish between private amusement and duty.  I am affable, but unsociable.  I only work for private amusement, since I find my duties privately amusing.”

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