"J.R.R. Tolkien 1964 interview (Subtitles)"
J.R.R. Tolkien interviewed by Denys Gueroult for BBC in 1964 (released 1971).

NOTE: Incomplete in places. I'll go back over this and fill in some gaps as time and energy allow -- M.M.]

Gueroult: “Professor Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings is one of the most remarkable works of fiction of the century. And I’m going to start with one or two questions, about possible source material. For example, I thought that, conceivably Midgard might be Middle-earth or have some connection?”

Tolkien: “Oh, yes, they’re the same word. Most people have made this mistake of thinking that Middle-earth is a particular kind of earth or is another planet and you know, in the science fiction sort. But it’s simply an old-fashioned word for this world we live in, as imagined surrounded by the ocean.”

Gueroult: “It seemed to me that Middle-earth was, in a sense, as you say, “this world we live in” but this world we live in at a different era.”

Tolkien: “Well, No. At a different stage of imagination, yes.”

Gueroult: “Because this is interesting, because in The Lord of the Rings, and particularly in the appendices, you go to a great trouble to get your chronology exactly correct with respect to the four ages that you write about, but you make no attempt at all to tie this up with time as we know it today. Why is this?”

Tolkien: “Because it would have been impossible. Because you would have completely interfered with and trammeled one in a free invention of history and an incident of one's story.”

Gueroult: “Nevertheless, despite what you’ve just said, it seems to me that one could place most of the action if not all of the action within a fairly definite sort of time

Tolkien: “It won’t really work out, you know, either paleo-ontologically or archaeologically at all, actually. I mean, you can’t really relate the landmasses as I described them satisfactorily to the landmasses we know now. Nor, of course, can you really have such a sort of mixed culture such as I described which includes tobacco, umbrellas and other things to what little is known of the archaeological history. I wanted people simply to get inside this story and take it in a sense of actual history. It seemed to me that to be cut off by a big abyss of ages, you had exactly the same effect you get in a scientific story when you go into some remote part of the galaxy. They don’t really explain how, but you get the sense of being far away, that’s all, in a possible world but far away. This is the same sort of thing in time, isn’t it?

[2:12] Gueroult: “Oh, yes but in what one might call science fiction, the authors seldom go to the trouble, anything like the trouble as you’ve done in tying this imagined world so closely to the world as we know it. Because so much of this is very close to what we know, I won’t say today, but in the recent historical past.”

Tolkien: “Oh, yes. It really resembles some of the history of Greece and Rome as against the perpetual infiltration of people out of the east, isn’t it? Yes, it certainly does that but then, of course, a poor man, who’s building a story has to build it out of some of the things that he, himself, knows. He doesn’t rush around doing Roman history and to and see what happened, but if he has been brought up as I was on ordinary history and on reading, that would be the material out of which he constructs.”

[2:58] Gueroult: “I’ve been interested in the fact that many of the names, of which you have created thousands in the book, literally thousands, are very close to Norse legend names. For example, Gimli is the name of the Hall of Gold.”

Tolkien: “That’s another point, yes. This particular lot of Dwarves, as I call them, came from the extreme north of my geography, and therefore in translating, as I explained in the section on translation, the kind of language they came up against would be of a northern kind. The Dwarves, you remember, are represented as extremely secretive people, and have private names in their own secret language and public names like gypsies. Therefore, I gave the actual Norse names which are in Norse books. That’s quite different, not that my Dwarves really are at all like the Dwarves of Norse imagination, but there’s a whole list of rather attractive Dwarf names in one of the older Eddaic poems. I’m afraid I simply bagged them.”

[4:01] Gueroult: “But not only in the Dwarves there, but among the descendants of the Elves, the race of Númenor, it seems to me that one or two of the names, relates to other things. You speak of the two trees of Valinor, Laurelin and the Telperion, if my pronunciation is anything like that...”

Tolkien: “Yes. Laurelin and Telperion,The golden song and the white silver....”

Gueroult: “Have these, are these in any way reflections in your world of the great world tree, the Norse world tree?”

Tolkien: “No, they’re not like it. They’re much more like the trees of the sun and the moon. It was covered in the far east in the great Alexander stories.”

Gueroult: “Trees play a very important part. . .”

Tolkien: “Oh, yes indeed.”

Gueroult: “Throughout the Lord of the Rings, for example, the mallorn trees in Lothlórian and the white tree of the citadel of Minas Tirith.”

Tolkien: “Yes. They’re all descendants, yes.”

Gueroult: “These are trees that are more than trees because they are symbols of great importance. Is there something in your own life, in your own background...”

Tolkien: “They’re not symbols to me at all. I don’t work in symbols at all. Other people can find that they are symbolic. They may be symbols in my [unconscious] mind but they’re not symbols to me in my conscious mind at all. I’m entirely stoically minded.” [note: “stoically” - without showing one's feelings or complaining about pain or hardship.]

Gueroult: “This is true, perhaps, but nevertheless, you use the white tree of Minas Tirith as a symbol of lordship, of kingship, do you not?”

Tolkien: “Oh, well, yes. An emblem certainly. Yes.”

Gueroult: “But not symbolic of anything more than …”

Tolkien: “Well, what are the leopards of England symbolic of?”

Gueroult: “I take your point.”

[5:34] “Now, the Rangers. They protect Men and Hobbits from Sauron’s servants, but particularly they seem to have a fondness for the Shire. Have you a particular fondness for these comfortable homely things of life that the Shire embodies? The home and pipe and fire and bed, the homely virtues?”

Tolkien: “Haven’t you?” (laughs)

Gueroult: “You have a particular fondness, then, for Hobbits?”

Tolkien: “Yes. That’s where I feel at home. The Shire is very like the kind of world in which I first became aware of things. Very like. Which was perhaps more poignant to me because I wasn’t born in it. I was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. I was very young when I got back, but the same time it bites into your memory and imagination even if you don’t think it has. If your first Christmas tree is a wilting eucalyptus and if you’re normally troubled by heat and sand, then to have – just at the age of imagination opening up – suddenly finding yourself in a quiet Warwickshire village. I think it engenders a particular love of what you might call Central Midland English countryside, based on good wall stones and elm trees and small quiet rivers and so on. And of course, sort of rustic people about.”

Gueroult: “At what age did you come to England?”

Tolkien: “I suppose when I first landed, about three and a half. Pretty poignant you see because one of the things why people say they don’t remember is because it’s like constantly photographing the same thing on the same plate. Slight changes simply make a blur, but if a child has had a sudden break like that, it’s conscious. What it tries to do is fit the new memories onto the old. I’ve got a perfectly clear, vivid picture of a house, but I now know that is in fact a beautifully worked out pastiche of my own home in Bloemfontein and my grandmother’s house in Birmingham. Because I can still remember going down the road in Birmingham wondering what has happened to the gallery, what had happened to the balcony. So, consequently, I do remember things extremely early. I can remember bathing in the Indian Ocean. I was not quite two and I remember it very clearly.”

[7:35] Gueroult: “I’m going to return again to this business of memory and looking back a great distance. Let me turn to another subject for a moment.”

[7:42] “Frodo accepts the burden of the Ring and he embodies, as a character the virtues of long suffering and perseverance, and by his actions one might almost say, in the Buddhist sense, that he 'acquires merit.' He becomes, in fact, almost a Christ figure. Why did you choose a halfling, a Hobbit, for this role?”

Tolkien: “I didn't. I didn't do much choosing. I wrote The Hobbit, you see, and all I was trying to do was carry on from the point where The Hobbit left off. There I'd got Hobbits on my hands, hadn't I? ...”

Gueroult: “Indeed, but there's nothing particularly "Christ-like" about Bilbo.”

Tolkien: “Oh, no.”

Gueroult: “It seemed to me strange that this small Hobbit from a small ... ”

Tolkien: “I should say he was Christ-like. I think there is a ... personally ... but because he has some of the features, I guess, accepting of a burden ...”

Gueroult: “Perhaps I've exaggerated. ... but in the face of the most appalling danger he struggles on and continues, and wins through.”

Tolkien: “But that seems, well, I suppose, more like an allegory of the human race. I've always been impressed that we're here surviving because of the indominable courage of quite small people against impossible odds: jungles, volcanoes, wild beasts... They struggle on, almost blindly, in a way. Frodo had very little idea, really, because by the time he comes to the end of a quest he was beginning to understand things very much more. I thought the wisest remark in the whole book was that where Elrond says that the wheels of the world are turned by the small hands while the great are looking elsewhere, and they turn because they have to, because it's their daily job. ”

[9:21] Gueroult: “Did you intend in The Lord of the Rings that certain races should embody certain principles: the Elves, wisdom; the Dwarves, craftsmanship; Men, husbandry and battle, and so forth?”

Tolkien: “Didn't intend it, but when you've got these people on your hands, you've got to make them different, haven't you? As we all know, ultimately, we've only got humanity to work with. It's the only clay we've got. And, of course, any races you make, if they're speaking and thinking, are what, taken from certain parts of humanity as one knows it, with slight alterations of emphasis. It's all you can do, isn't it, really, ultimately? Because the Elves are simply, in this sense of expression, certain -- not really only -- legitimate desires the human race has about itself. We should all, at least a large part of the human race, would like to have greater power of mind, greater power of art, by which I mean the gap between the conception and the power of execution should be shortened. We should like that and we should like, of course, a longer time, if not indefinite time, in which to go on knowing more and making more. Therefore, we make the Elves immortal -- in a sense I had to use immortal but I didn't mean that they were eternally immortal -- merely that they are very longeval and their longevity probably lasts as long as the inhabitablilty of the Earth.”

“The Dwarves, of course, quite obviously, couldn't you say in many ways they remind you of the Jews? All their words are Semitic, obviously constructed to be Semitic. There is a tremendous love of the artifact, and of course the immense warlike capacity of the Jews which we tend to forget now and then.”

“Hobbits are just rustic English people made small in size because it reflects the general small reach of their imagination. But it's not the small reach of their courage or latent power. ”

[11:09] Gueroult: “You're obviously intensely interested in age for its own sake. I mean Fangorn, for example, and the Ents are the eldest. They have been in existence longer. Tom Bombadil is described in fact, is he not, as the Eldest?”

Tolkien: “He's, of course, a very odd character, but we won't interfere with you now, you were asking about age ...”

Gueroult: “Age as such. You're very into antiquity or greatly interested in long life, longevity. The Eldar's descendants all have this gift of longer life. Could you expand on that?”

Tolkien: “That's different. Longer life, that's purely oneself, that's becaue it's an added power in this world. Also, if you are an intelligent or artistice person, it gives you more time, both either to perfect your work or to get or to do more. That's rather different to the appeal of antiquity itself. I love history. And I always feel, even when you walk into a room you want to know the its history, not only the room but the people. We walk in with all this tremendous history behind us. But if you're writing a story which you know you're going to come to the end of that history, the history is always backwards, isn't it?”

[12:17] Gueroult: “Did you evolve a system for naming these races, and therefore the histories and alphabets, literature, and so on?”

Tolkien: “I didn't evolve it. I mainly used what I knew. But, yes, that is a rather difficult question, really. Every human being, at least every human being who is gifted at all in that way, has what you might call his own native language. That's quite distinct from the first learnt, what we call a native language of first learned. But every human being has an individual linguistic character, as he has an individual face, coloring, body. And I think therefore you'll find that people have what I should call linguistic predilictions. But, of course, like one's physical characteristics, that shifts a bit as you grow and also as you have more experience. Well, the language I've entered tried to fit my actual personal linguistic predilictional pleasure.

“Well now, obviously from history those two languages have got to be related. They’re quite different. All you do is you have to posit a purely invented original form, original sound scheme. And then you have to make Language “A” develop certain sound laws and certain other ones produce “B.” They will then be related however little related they seem. But it will have that sort of feeling.”

[13:43] Gueroult: “So therefore if you have for purposes of the plot or purposes of some part of the book to invent a new name for a new character. If you consciously say to yourself in Quenya this name will be so and so, but in Sindarin his name will be this?”

Tolkien: “Yes, you do. In the first test, it has to sound a nice name to me even if I don’t know what it means. But then you of course come across this unfortunate fact that it doesn’t always happen, that if you then work with those same elements with the same meaning into the name it doesn’t always come out as a nice name in spite of that. So you have to give him another name, or do something about it. Yes. It’s a minor technical craft, actually.”

[14:24] Gueroult: “But it's an interesting technical craft because you do it with equal success when you name unpleasant characters like Orcs because all your unpleasant characters are instantly identifiable as unpleasant characters the minute one reads their names.”

Tolkien: “Yes, I suppose they would. You wouldn't like, think much of a chap called Ugluk, could you now?”

Gueroult: “Yet Dwarves, although they have names composed of similarly uncomfortable consonants to the English ear, the names are not unattractive. Immediately they're attractive. And this seems to me one of the great strengths of the book, amid this enormous conglomeration of names, one doesn't get lost. At least after the first reading -- after the second reading -- of the book one doesn't get lost.”

[15:04] Tolkien: “Cause he does need an extra, I'm very glad you told me because I gave a great deal of trouble, well, you must, you see, my thing is I didn't try to use the languages which I did understand, which is, after all, the primary, most important, of all cultural... to humanize, you try to use them for that purpose: to characterize Also, because it gives me great pleasure, a good name.”

[15:21] Tolkien: “I always in the writing, always start with the name. Give me a name and it produces a story, not the other way back, normally.”

Gueroult: “Of the languages you know, which were the greatest help to you in writing the Lord of the Rings? ”

Tolkien: “I don't know... well, because I started trying to invent languages almost at once. Because, the same way that my reading of myth has been disturbed because I've never hardly got through any fairy stories without wanting to write one myself.”

… [15:47] Gueroult: “It's perhaps an added discipline to trace back anyway to sources in a work of the sort, but do you trace in the languages you invented more to Scandinavia or more to later things like Middle English?”

Tolkien: “I don't know either out of these sort of modern languages. I should say that Welsh always attracted me by its style and sound more than any other even though I first only saw it on coal trucks, I always wanted to know what it was about.”

Gueroult: “It seems to me, certainly, that the music of Welsh comes through in the names you've chosen for mountains and for places in general. Yes, do you acknowledge this?.”

Tolkien: “Yes. Very much. But a much rarer, but very potent for myself has been Finnish.”

[16:35] Gueroult: “Now, women play very little part indeed in the Lord of the Rings. Eowyn is almost the only woman in the book who shows any sign of sexual awareness at all. Did you deliberately exclude sex from the book?

J. R. R. Tolkien: “No, but after all, these are wars and a terrible expedition to the North Pole, so to speak.”

[16:57] Gueroult: “But other writers have occasionally allowed their characters to digress, if it be digression, in this way.

[17:05] Tolkien: “Surely there’s no lack of interest as I …

Gueroult: “Oh, it’s not a case of lack of interest at all.

Tolkien: Wouldn’t you have thought that Galadriel – every character is tempted at some point – Wouldn’t you call Galadriel’s temptation and what she says about herself is significant?

Gueroult: “Yes, I think so, but, um, there it’s always at one remove.

Tolkien: “I don’t know how to explain it. I know how one reviewer explained it, he said ‘It’s written by a man who has never reached puberty and knows nothing about women except for a school boy. And all his characters, all the good guys come home, like happy boys, safe from the war.’ I thought it was very rude from a man, as far as I know, he’s childless (laughs) writing about a man surrounded with children, wife, daughter, grandchildren. Still, it isn’t that. That’s not the reason. Because it’s equally untrue, isn’t it, that it’s a happy story. One friend of mine said he only read it in Lent because it was so hard and bitter.

[18:05] Gueroult: To turn to a practical point, how did The Lord of the Rings develop from The Hobbit because clearly it developed?

Tolkien: “Oh, yes. Because The Hobbit was successful. Naturally I was pressed for a sequel. I looked for the only point in it that showed signs of development. I thought we’d choose a Ring as a key to the next story. That’s, well, that’s the mere “germ” of course, yes. Then when I saw, of course, that if you’re going to make a big story, I felt it has got to be “The Ring,” that’s not “a magic ring.” I invented that little rhyme in my bath one day.”

Gueroult: “This germ actually of course is also present, isn’t it, in many mythologies? I mean in Scandinavian mythology there are the rings of power, are there not? It's guarded by dragons, is it not, in Germanic legend? I suppose that Smaug might be interpreted as being a sort of Fafnir.”

Tolkien: “Oh, yes. Very much so. Except Fafnir was a human being you see, or a humanoid, took this form, whereas Smaug is just pure intelligent lizard.”

Gueroult: “You have a fondess for intelligent lizards?”

Tolkien: “Dragons always attracted me as a mythological element. They seem to be able to comprise human malice and bestiality together, a sort of malicious wisdom and shrewdness... a terrifying creature..”

Gueroult: “Asking how The Lord of the Rings began leads on to this question....”

[19:36] Tolkien:“Then it grew... then it grew without control

Gueroult: “Without control. This is the point. You did not have a scheme? No outline at all?”

[19:42] Tolkien: “No, no. Well, except there was a major one, that the Ring had got to be ...”

Gueroult: Did you know the Ring had to be destroyed from the beginning?

Tolkien: “Oh yes, yes. You see, because Gandalf says so quite early. Therefore, at some point where a Hobbit... he's got to make his way to the Cracks of Doom, obviously, isn't it. That's the only thing, and several times I tried to write that last scene ahead of time and it never... it didn't come out. It never worked. I had to wait for it to come through.”

Gueroult: “Did you decide right at the beginning that Gollum was to play such a part, or did you go back to the book after and write in the various linking parts of Gollum?”

[20:13] Tolkien: “Couldn't get Gollum out, could you? If you think of Gollum's relation to the Ring, if the Ring is going to be important, then the Gollum business must be important. I liked him better than all the other characters and (i'm) much more sorry for him.”

Gueroult: “But you see, this is interesting because he's practically the only gray character, with the possible exception of Boromir right to the book.”

Tolkien: “And Denethor.”

Gueroult: “And Denethor, yes. The others are almost completely black and white.”

Tolkien: “They all have their temptations, actually.”

Gueroult: “They all have their temtations, but nevertheless, the moment you have established your character, your reader knows what his own personal character is, he's going to be a goodie or a baddie.”

Tolkien: “Well, of course, yes. One knows that isn't generally true. I have to simplify a little bit.”

Gueroult: “That's why Gollum is so interesting because one ... he almost repents at one point, doesn't he? Where he sees Frodo...”

Tolkien: “That's to me the poignant in the whole story, the most poignant moment of all, because it's so terribly true. It's the good people that do the damage so often. It was fair Sam's suspicious faith for this was very much justified, which ruin Gollum. You see that if you go a long long way in wickedness, then comes your chance which you can't therefore demand that it should be made nice and easy at that point. It's going to be probably very sticky, the last chance. And it was too sticky for gollum. Because I printed a lot of thought about it, because he grew on me. I mean, I could almost see Gollum. Where I've been most criticized by certain people, and what I think are the most right in making a point of fact, though, I do praise them for seeing it, is that Frodo actually failed.

“The thing that some people have actually said about it so strongly, there is a thought in this age when we are now faced with the absolute certainty of pressures which can't be resisted, that people do: Good people who realize more clearly than ever before that the motives which would go into such a situation are so important. It's very rash to put yourself in a position you know to be too powerful for you. That's presumption. If you're going with a good emotion and then land in a position which you can't face up to, then that's up to the government, isn't it? Some people have been very angry about it. Solid people. ... the private management systems we came back after being brainwashed in that ratchet, or giving something away, I suppose. A sign of mind that still advances, hmm?”

Gueroult: “That's true, yes, yes, but you find that your correspondents, in fact, complain a great deal about certain incidents in the story, or have complained?.”

Tolkien: “I once said nothing is roughly true. The devotion, listen to my correspondence, every part of The Lord of the Rings is a failure or it's only weakness. On the other hand, there's another list in which every part which is its particular strength.”

[22:47] Gueroult: “At what point, I'd like to know, if you can judge at all, did the book take control of you?”

Tolkien: “Long before I wrote The Hobbit and long before I wrote this, I had constructed this world mythology. It was already in existence. It was offered to the publisher before ... This mythology and the Eldar and the Valar, the Western paradise and the Elves and the Dwarves and so on, they don't arise the first time in this book. They'd already been constructed. There's nothing in the Appendices referred to, that hasn't already been written.”

[23:17] Gueroult: “So you had some sort of scheme on which it was possible to work?”

Tolkien: “Well, immense sagas, yes. I rather simply think that I got sucked into it as The Hobbit did itself. You see, The Hobbit was originally about his door but as soon as he got moving out into the world it got moved and slipped into it.”

[23:31] Gueroult: “So your characters and your story really took charge. I say took charge, I don't mean that you were completely under their spell or anything of the sort”

Tolkien: Oh, no no. I don't walk about dreaming at all. No. It isn't an obsession in any way. Other people have had written large things, they were the same sensation that you have some days, maybe, a purely psychological delusion. You have a sensation that, at this point, A,B,C,D only A or one of them is right and you've got to wait until you see. Of course there's no doubt subconscious because I'm working on these things. Anyway, there's no good trying to anticipate, because all the things I've tried to write ahead of time just to direct myself, all proved to be no good when you got there. It was a story I guess written backwards as well as forwards.”

[24:24] Gueroult: “This is, I thought, probable yes. ”

Tolkien: “ Well, you see Boromir, well, he had to be put back. It became important at a certain point because he had to be put right back into Book One. Because, I had maps, of course. If you're going to have a complicated story, you must work to a map, otherwise you can never make a map of it afterwards. The moons, I think, finally the moons and the suns have worked out according to what they were in this part of the world in 1942, actually. You must have something where they -- I'm not a good enough mathematician or astronomer, to work out where they might have been seven thousand, eight thousand years ago. As long as they correspond to some real configuration, I thought it was good enough. Moons are much more tricky to deal with than the suns, of course. But on the whole, I don't think the moon is full or rises in the wrong place.”

[25:07] Gueroult: “You began in '42 did you, to write it? ”

Tolkien:“Oh, no no. I began as soon as The Hobbit was out, in the '30s.”

Gueroult: “And when did you ... it was finally finished just before it was published in '54”

Tolkien: “I wrote the last thing about 1949, I think. I remember I actually wept at the field of Cormallen where, of course, the tears come easier, I think, at the denoument. But then, of course, tremendous revision. I typed that whole work out twice and lots of it many times, on a bed in an attic. But then I couldn't afford the cost of the typing. There was some mistakes, too, and also what I -- amusing for me to say, because I suppose I'm in a position which it doesn't matter what people think of me now -- some frightful mistakes in grammar, from a professor of Engllish language and literature, shocking isn't it?”

Gueroult: “I haven't noticed any.”

Tolkien: “There's one where I used bestrode as a past participle of bestride (laughs). Well, there's a lot of things like that, yes.”

Gueroult: “Will you ever correct them at another edition or ...?”

Tolkien: “I have sent in some corrections, but there are always the new ones cropping up. Yes, there are some ... and, of course, 'Dwarves,' really mistaking grammar of course I've tried to cover it up, but it's just purely the fact that I have a tendenccy to increase the number of these vestigial approvals, which is a change of consonant like: leaf/leaves. My tendency is to make more of them than now is standard. And I'm afraid I really thought dwarf/Dwarves, wolf/wolves, why not?”

Gueroult: “Did you evolve the languages before you wrote the book?”

Tolkien: “Oh, yes. Well, yes I've altered them a little, I mean. Indeed, long before, in fact they began before the [?] of my mythology. ”

Gueroult: “For what purpose? Just for fun?”

Tolkien: “Expressing one's own tastes. After all, isn't that what artists do?

Gueroult: “Of course, but you see an artist paints a picture presumably for himself but occasionally with communication in mind. Had you invented these languages with any sense of communication with other people.”

Tolkien: “No, but I hope to find when I found the book. Yes, yes, of course it's not an uncommon, you know, as most of my boys is frowned on because they get a guild complex about it because it's taking off their time for something else. An enormously greater number of children have that, what you might call a creative element in them. There's usually, I suppose, and it doesn't necessarily limit it to a certain thing. They may not want to paint or draw and not have much music, but they none-the-less want to create something.”

[27:35] “And if the main mass of education takes linguistic form, the creation will take linguistic form, even if it's in one of their talents, won't it? It's so strongly common, I once did to think that it's an awful bit, there ought to be some organized reseach, I think. It would be very fascinating not only from the point of view of art education and impact of education on that part which would be fascinating from that point of view. It is extraordinary interesting in getting a large body of records of the linguistic predilections of children at certain ages.”

[28:08] Gueroult: “Do you feel any sense of guilt at all that as a philologist, as a professor of English language, with which you were concerned with the factual sources of language you devoted a large part of your life to a fictional thing?”

Tolkien: “No, actually. It has done language a lot of good. No, there's quite a lot of linguistic wisdom in it I don't feel any guilt complex about The Lord of the Rings, because many people have said: Now we know what you wasted the last 14 years upon. You can now get on and complete some of the professional tasks which you neglected. Usually I tried it out I was more busy working on my proper things for a long while. I mean ... yes.”

[28:08] Gueroult: “Do you feel any sense of guilt at all that as a philologist, as a professor of English language, with which you were concerned with the factual sources of language you devoted a large part of your life to a fictional thing?”

[28:47] Gueroult: “Is the book to be considered as an allegory? ”

Tolkien: “No, no. I dislike allegory whenever I smell it.”

[28:47] Gueroult: “Do you consider the world declining as the third age declines in your book? And do you see a fourth age for the world at the moment, our world?”

Tolkien: “Well, the person of my age, you see, he's exactly the kind of person who's lived through on of the most quickly changing periods known to history. That the world is a totally different place now, at a speed everybody feels that, anybody who lives over 70 begins to feel that. All through history will see that they do. But surely never been in 70 years so much change.”

[29:24] Gueroult: “Oh, surely never, not this. One doesn't have to be over 70 years old to appreciate this fact...”

Tolkien: “This is the world which I was brought up as a small child, [which] was indefinitely closer to the world of Shakespeare...”

Gueroult: “There's an autumnal quality throughout the whole Lord of the Rings, there's a sense of continuous change each character feels himself to be part of a story that's forever continuing. You, in one case, a character says: the story is to continue but I seem to have dropped out of it. However, everything is declining and it's fading at least towards the end of the Third Age. Every choice seems to be upsetting of some tradition. Now, this seems to me somewhat like Tennyson's "The old order changeth, yielding place to new and God fulfills himself in many ways. Where is God in The Lord of the Rings? ”

Tolkien: “Mentioned once or twice.”

Gueroult: “Is he the one above the...”

Tolkien: “The One, yes.”

Gueroult: “Despite the continuous war between evil personified in Sauron and good, you never personalize or personify goodness. Good is there but it's toally abstract. You don't attempt to ascribe any Godship to it particularly.”

Tolkien: “No, no. There isn't a dualistic mythology it's based on. No. No, certainly not.”

Gueroult: “But I mean the whole book is nevertheless nothing but the battle between good and evil.”

[30:41] Tolkien: “Well, that's, I suppose, actually conscious reaction to the war from this stuff that I was brought up in: “The war to end all wars, which I didn’t believe in at the time and I believe in less now.”


[some talk about C. S. Lewis and Out of the Silent Planet...]

Gueroult: “If I can take this a bit further, you, I, may make my point clearer. In battle, Frodo and Sam call on Galadriel or their native country, Gimli calls on his ancestor's axe, if I read your appendices correctly, and the Men call only on their swords by name, or on their kings or lords. I would expect them to call on their gods. And yet among thousands of names, you don't name the deities of any of the races you've invented. Why? Have they no gods as such?.”

Tolkien: “There aren't any.”

Gueroult: “I would have thought a story of this sort was almost dependent upon an intense belief in some theocratic division, some hierarchy.”

Tolkien: “There is indeed. That's where the theocratic hierarchy comes in. The man of the 20th century must of course see that you must have -- whether he believes in them or not -- you must have gods in the story of this kind. But he can't make himself believe in gods like Thor, Odin, Aphrodite, Zeus and that kind of thing.”

Gueroult: “You can't believe that the Men in your story would have called on Odin?

Tolkien: “I couldn't possibly construct a mythology which had Olympus or Asgard in it, on the terms in which the people who worshipped those gods believed in. God is the supreme, the creator, outside, the transcendent. But the place of the, uh, "gods" is taken. So well taken I think it really makes no difference to the ordinary reader. It's taken by the angelic spirits created by God, created before the particular time sequence which we call the World, which is called in their language "Ea" -- "That which is," that which now exists. Those are the Valar, the powers... it's a construction of geo-mythology in which a large part of the demiurgic of things has been handed over to powers that created there under The One.

[32:42] “It's something like, but much more elaborate and more thought out than C. S. Lewis's business in his "Out of the silent planet,” where you have a demiurgus who's actually in command of the planet Mars. And the idea there was that Lucifer was originally in command of the world, but he fell. So it was a silent planet because it had fallen out. That was left of the idea. Well, it is not the same with me. ”

Gueroult: “Yes. You have in your theocracy you have an ultimate One whom you call ...

Tolkien: “The One only,

Gueroult: “And then the Valar who are considered as living in Valinor.”

Tolkien: “This particular little group of them who were removed from other parts of the universe to this part because they became interested in it.”

[33:22] Gueroult: “In the book I get the impression you always see power as being physically in a high place. You have a high seat as Orthanc, Meduseld, Barad Dur, the Towers of Minas Tirith and Morgul and Cirith Ungol they are always high physically up. Is power for you always, so to speak, at the top of a mountain or top.”

Tolkien: “Well, that’s just a symbol, isn’t it. Or, no, matter of fact, it’s just storytelling, anything you want, towers and so on. You could have them down in the dungeon, or underneath it. There are, matter of fact, Morgoth the prime mover of evil whom Sauron was only a petty lieutenant lives in a dungeon. There's been a fortress of some kind, not that the Valinor has any high towers. Just...”

Gueroult: "Well, that is almost without the world you describe, isn’t it?”

[34:06] Tolkien: “It’s in the physical world according to the myth. Until the downfall of Atlantis. I have an Atlantis complex in addition to all these other things. And quite independent of that, a permanent dream that I had, you know, let's say that the ineluctable wave has been one of my nightmares, sometimes coming in over the open country. It always ends with one surrending themselves and wakes up. It comes in all kinds of points like whenever I used tgo doodl and draw, nearly always a lone figure with the vast oceanic wave coming in. So, of course, I had to write, quite independently, these Atlantis stories, which I calll Numenor, which means the land of the Extreme West, Westernesse.”

[34:50] “Well, this is the fable, you see. Since the whole question of the human fall is left off the stage, actually. It occurred, but they're not known these since the regress of these people. They were given this great island, the fairest of all West, not in the divine world, not in the immortal world, to live on. And then, of course will always come a seemingly meaningless ban, like the fruit of the tree of evil, C. S. Lewis used the same thing in his 'Perelandra.' Their ban was that they musn't sail west... they did ”

Gueroult: “Hence the ultimate downfall.”

Tolkien: “Then became an intellectual. People lived there only in memory. It lived in a time, but not present time. And, of course, Numenor was drowned and the earthly paradise was removed. So then, you could get to Central America. Told you that the world became round because it had always been a vast globe but they, people could now sail around, discovered it's round. And that's my solution of the... I also wanted to give the fall of Atlantis some universal application. Because the point is, really, I've written this as story language, as they get to that you suddenly see the real coverage of the world going down like a bridge. You're on a line which leads to what was. Of course, I don't know what your theory of time is but what was, what is, or it never had an existence must, still has that same existence. But that's just so, we won't go... you can't go too deeply in those things. But they really are sailing back to a world of memory.”

Gueroult: “In this world which you might have created. Had you been given the power to do so, had you been one of the Valar, had you been say, the Morgoth, would you have created a world which is solidly feudal as The Lord of the Rings? ”

Tolkien: “Oh, yes. very much so. Yes. I think the feudal in the [widest] French sense. Not in the strict way (Guearoult: Oh, no, no, in the wider sense) for land owning.”

Gueroult: “Hierarchical, exactly, yes. I mean that the power should descend by a line of kings to their sons”

Tolkien: “The heredity, yes, yes. I don't know about that. No, it's a very potent story making and a motive thing, but how far would you say did it really work better than any other systgem in looking at the history of the world. One would doubt it, very much. It's never been worse to generate that the struggle for power always ensues when you haven't got some line of descent which can't be questioned. ”

Gueroult: “You're wedded to the feudal system in a sense? I don't mean the medieval feudal system, but the idea of power descending through blood, through marriage.”

[37:17] Tolkien: “Yes, I am rather wedded to those kind of loyalties because I think, contrary to most people, I think that touching your cap to the squire may be damn bad for the Squire, but it's damn good for you.”

Gueroult: “Do you find a continuing interest in The Lord of the Rings by people? Do people still write to you, despite the fact that the book's been out for 10 years?”

[37:35] Tolkien: “Dozens of letters a week, yeah. I've been keeping a secretary to answer them, yes.”

Gueroult: “Were you surprised at its success?”

Tolkien: “Nobody's been more staggered, unless it's possibly Stanley Unwin. I was up at Stanley Unwin's birthday celebration and a bookseller came up to me. I don't usually get greeted with such flair, but he said that while he got a copy it sold so well it practically kept him going. Well, he gets his guinea off the set, you see.”

Gueroult: “Almost the last question. Do you, in fact, believe -- yourself, not in the context of this book -- believe in the sense of straightforward strict belief, in the Eldar or in some form of governing spirits?”

Tolkien: “Well, the Eldar must be distinguished from the Valar. Eldar only ... ”

Gueroult: “Are you in fact a theist?”

Tolkien: “Oh, I'm a Roman Catholic. A devout Roman Catholic, yes, but I don't know about angelology. Yes, I should've thought almost certainly I mean, yes, certainly. ”

Gueroult: “Well, they seem to me to be the saints or the equivalent of the saints”

Tolkien: “Well, they are in some ways take the place in this book of the things which in many of the legends you have the gods and the invocation of the saints which are lesser angels and so, yes, they do. Oh, well, obviously many people have noticed that appealing to the lady, the queen of the stars is very much like Roman Catholic of implications of our lady.”

Gueroult: “Do you wish to be remembered chiefly by your writings on philology and other matters or by The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit?”

Tolkien: “I shouldn't have thought that I could have much choice in it. But if I'm remembered at all, it's to be by The Lord of the Rings, I'd take it. I wouldn't mind the other being remembered about the Hobbits, conscious that they're small and not very important. Won't it be rather like the case of Longfellow? People remember that Longfellow wrote Hiawatha and perhaps they quite forget he was a professor of modern languages.”

[for further reference] A Film Portrait of J.R.R. Tolkien - 1996 (Subtitles)

[Narrator]: "John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Oxford Professor, master of the language3s and literatures of the ancient north, poet, storyteller, creator of the Ents, the Orcs, the Hobbits, the high elves, the black riders, of Rivendell, Lothlorien and the Misty Mountains, of Mirkwood and the black land of Mordor, of the fellowship of the Ring and the dark lord. J. R. R. Tolkien, maker of Middle-earth."

"The legends of the Silmarillion, root and ground of the world he created, have been an inspiration to other artists. The Hobbit, written for his children and published more than half a century ago, is known now all over the world. And the Lord of the Rings has come to be widely regarded as a formative book of our time. Nearly 40 years after its first publication, a special edition, illustrated by the artist Alan Lee to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tolkien's birth, sold out as soon as it reached the bookshops."

[1:28] Christopher Tolkien: "I think that I would say that the appeal, the attraction, lies in my father's extraordinary power of compelling literally belief in an unreal world, what he called a secondary world. That is, a world that exists only in the mind. It cannot be seen, it cannot be found. It exists only in the mind. And many people have discovered, perhaps many people for the first time in their lives, have discovered that this is a very delightful thing. And this world that they enter proves to be an extraordinary, interesting place with a long imagined past.

[2:16] "In this world strange beings, beautiful, noble, terrifying, hideous; strange places, strange events are encountered. But in this world of his devising, when you enter it, they are true. Their existence cannot be doubted, so long as you're in that world. Because they are cored with the laws that govern it."

[2:45] Tom Shippy: I think the ultimate secret of Tolkien's continuing popular appeal is something that was a mystery even to him. And I would say it was a quality of imagination. He was able to imagine and to make real, things which nobody had ever thought about before. The kind of thing I mean is, for instance, Ents. Nobody ever talked about Ents before, they're not part of the background of literature. They're not part of the tradition. He just made them up. But once he made them up, everybody understood them. Everybody can recognize them."

[3:17] "Another, even more of an example is Hobbits. Hobbit even sounds like a proper English word, but it isn't. He made it up. And he made up the whole conception behind it. And yet, once he invented that, everybody in a sense has understood it. And many people have actually imitated it."

"So, he was able to create these creatures"

. . .

[39:40] [Christopher Tolkien on The Silmarillion -- several of them over time]

"But there already in often very early undeveloped forms, are the great stories, the great legends, which were an inspiration to him throughout his life. Above all the 'Lay of Beren and Luthien' and the tragedy of Turin Turambar." [41:06] "Another Silmarillion was already in existence by about 1930. And that is very different. It is, as I said, in a more remote style and it's a more chronicle-like. The important thing is that was finished, The Book of Lost Tales was finished, the 1930s Silmarillion was finished. It's complete, a completely enclosed myth. Not presupposing any later ages. And at that stage, The Hobbit had no connection with it. In fact, he said in a letter that he wrote in 1964, he said: "By the time The Hobbit appeared in 1937, The Silmarillion was in coherent form. The Hobbit was not intended to have anything to do with it. I had the habit while my children were still young of inventing and telling orally, sometimes writing down 'children's stoies' -- in inverted commas -- for their private amusement. The Hobbit was intended to be one of them. It had no necessary connection with the mythology, by which he means The Silmarillion.' But naturally became attracted towards this dominant construction in my mind, causing the tale to become larger and more heroic as it procedd. Even so, it could really stand quite apart." The Hobbit had no connection with it."]