Rare ALS, in the author’s distinctively attractive calligraphic hand, one page both sides, 5.25 x 7, personal letterhead, December 21, 1967.
Tolkien writes to Elsie Honeybourne. In full:
“Thank you so much for writing such kind and appreciative letters, brevity is not necessarily a virtue. I am interested in what you say of your name. I think it still probable that your father’s name nonetheless comes from near Evesham. It must be derived from a place-name; and though -Bourne (stream) is widespread in England, and occurs in Kentish names, Honeybourne is found only in Cow H. and Church H. near Evesham. There was a considerable movement and interchange between Kent and Worcestershire, largely because of the industries of fruit-growing. I shall certainly put Honeybourne on the Shire Map as soon as an opportunity of revision (much needed) occurs. I was deeply interested in your choice of passages, and quite agree about Pippin’s ride. An easing of tension was needed at the end of the ‘Book’ (but of course provided instinctively and not by planning). To ride with Gandalf must have been like being borne by a Guardian Angel, with stern gentleness a most comforting combination to children (as we all are). I am sending you a copy of my recently published story. Not addressed to children (reached by age). An old man’s tale, mainly concerned with ‘retirement’ and bereavement.”
Tolkien is evidently referring to his story “Smith of Wootton Major,” first published in Redbook magazine on November 23, 1967.
Tolkien also adds a brief note in pencil along the top of the first page regarding his delay in reading the mail.
We here see Tolkien at his very best, exploring language and finding the roots for words and names he loves. Language was his source of inspiration and here for the second time he says he would add Honeybourne to the map of The Hobbit (see previous letter). It remains very fascinating to see how one name can trigger Tolkien to come up with a place on a map; and probably would have stories in his head ready to describe the place...
The letter is accompanied by a small quantity of ephemera relating to Tolkien, including two 1968 TLS from Joy Hill informing Miss Honeybourne that Professor Tolkien had moved from Oxford and that he was recovering from a “minor accident.”
Pippin’s ride takes place at the beginning of Return of the King, as Gandalf realizes Sauron is planning to attack Minas Tirith, capital of the kingdom of Gondor, and he rides there with Pippin. Gandalf and Pippin arrive at Minas Tirith to find the steward Denethor mourning Boromir, and Pippin swears loyalty to him in return for Boromir saving his own life.
In fine condition, with a single horizontal mailing fold and a few trivial wrinkles. Lord of the Rings content on the signature page makes for excellent display potential and a prize for any lover of Middle-earth!
Letters from Tolkien are quite uncommon and highly coveted; completely handwritten examples, let alone those with such significant content, are of the greatest scarcity. The present example is expected to generate unusually widespread interest from collectors.
R&R’s October auction begins on October 8 and ends on October 17. Bids are accepted online or via telephone, fax, or e-mail. For information or to consign to future auctions, visit the R&R web site at www.rrauction.com or contact Elizebeth Otto at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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