Tolkien letters shine new light on writer’s life and work

Two handwritten letters penned by JRR Tolkien have been discovered for the first time, almost 50 years after the death of the Lord of the Rings author.

The previously unrecorded documents were unearthed by a volunteer working at The National Archives in Kew ahead of Tolkien Reading Day on March 25.

Written in 1945, shortly after Tolkien’s appointment as Professor of English Language and Literature at Merton College, Oxford, the letters are part of an exchange with the British Council about funding for his research into early English languages.

Sarah Castagnetti, Visual Collections Team Manager at The National Archives, said: “These letters provide an intriguing new glimpse into Tolkien’s life and work, allowing us to hear from one of the world’s best-loved authors in his own voice and through his own handwriting.

“This discovery by one of our volunteers shows once again the enduring importance of archives and the windows they offer to the past.”

The correspondence centres on Tolkien’s research collaboration with Simonne d’Ardenne, a former student of his at Oxford, who shared his academic interest in historical languages.

The newly-discovered documents, with catalogue reference BW 84/27, will sit alongside previously catalogued correspondence from Tolkien which is held at The National Archives.