Unknown Tolkien Letter Falls Out of Book


A detail from the mysterious Tolkien letter.

As reported on TheOneRing.net and elsewhere, a handwritten note written by J.R.R. Tolkien that he’d addressed to a couple he and his wife Edith had met on an unfortunate holiday just sold to an anonymous internet bidder for £1,700, or about $2,700.

“It’s a complete mystery how it turned up,” said Adrian Rathbone, an associate at Richard Winterton’s, the UK auction house where it was sold. In another report, Rathbone said the person who sold the letter had unexpectedly found it in the most unlikely place — tucked into a book the seller owned. One day, the letter fell out.

“It dropped out of a book they had,” Rathbone, said. “It wasn’t even a Tolkien book. We’ve brought in several experts who say it is real.

The letter, written in Tolkien’s script recognizable to anyone who has pored over maps in The Hobbit, dates to 1963.

“Rather a disgusting and costly holiday, but for us it was at any rate made memorable by your company and kindness,” Tolkien writes to the couple. “We thought of you yesterday, and hoped your journey home would be less unpleasant than our icy winds and snow have foreboded.”

Included with the letter was a Christmas card and a photograph of Tolkien and the couple the Tolkiens met on the trip (who are named Wilfrid and Nora). The couple the letter was addressed to wasn’t related to the seller, apparently, and the seller was also unnamed. So how that letter ended up in the seller’s hands is a mystery only a few people know — the seller and the auction house, perhaps. And the ghost of Tolkien himself.

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