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The Tolkien Society

Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to an American fan. The letter was posted recently to the Reddit group /r/typewriters.

After I saw this letter in the Reddit /r/typewriters group, I Googled for Tolkien’s address to have a look at the house. In that search there was a link to the Tolkien Society.

A Tolkien Society! Now that is cool. According to the web site, the Tolkien Society has existed since 1969, with Tolkien’s blessing. Tolkien also was the society’s first president and remains the honorary president today. It seems to be a fairly small, but viable and active, organization.

One of the first things I noticed is that, each year, they have a gathering at Oxford called Oxenmoot. This year’s Oxenmoot is August 31 through September 3 at Saint Anne’s College. Next year’s World Science Fiction Convention will be in Glasgow, August 8-12, 2024. So I immediately wondered whether an American traveler might be able to attend both WorldCon and Oxenmoot next year on the same trip. I have emailed the Oxenmoot chair to encourage that.

I instantly joined the Tolkien Society for a year, to see what they’re like and what they’re up to. They create some printed periodicals, and I’d paid a bit extra to have those mailed to me in the U.S.

Tolkien, by the way, is known to have loved typewriters. His favorite typewriter was a very expensive Varitype. He did use other typewriters, though, and the letter above clearly was not typed with a Varitype. The characters are very sharp and even, so my guess is that the letter was written with an electric typewriter. Tolkien was known to have had some painful rheumatism in his hands, so an electric typewriter would have been easier for him to use.


  1. Chenda wrote:

    What did you make of the films David ? I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy years ago and it was entertaining enough, although not having read the books couldn’t really judge it. More recently I got halfway through the Hobbit trilogy but my interest waned.

    Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Chenda: I loved the films when they first came out, but I have tried to re-watch them and found that, at least to my taste, they aren’t aging very well. I have re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy probably four times, most recently about three years ago. I never get tired of re-reading it, though I have to wait a few years between readings. I highly recommend the LOTR trilogy. The Hobbit books were a kind of practice run and not nearly up to the quality of LOTR.

    Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  3. Chenda wrote:

    Yes I think that’s it David, the films haven’t aged well. I saw the first hobbit film in the cinema when it first came out over a decade ago, and really enjoyed it at the time. But rewatching it on Netflix last year it wasn’t as good as I remembered. But I do have a copy of LOTR so I’ll have to read it.

    Sunday, April 9, 2023 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    I understand Varitype did manufacture an electric model. Possibly Mr.Tolkien used one of those?

    Monday, April 10, 2023 at 2:52 pm | Permalink
  5. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Henry: Information on Tolkien’s typewriters is sketchy. All the references I’ve seen seem to be based on his letters. In an editor’s footnote to Tolkien’s letters (Houghton Mifflin, 1981) the editor says that Tolkien had a Hammond Model 86, which I believe is not electric. In a letter to Christopher in 1944, Tolkien says that he is using the smallest available font so as to get more text into a military airletter. And in a letter to Christopher Bretherton in 1964, Tolkien mentions the trouble with his hands, says that he likes typewriters, and fantasizes about having an electric typewriter that could produce the FĂ«anorigan script.

    There is a lot of interest in this with today “typewriter community,” as they call themselves. One wishes that someone would do more research on Tolkien’s typewriters. He surely had more than one over the years.

    Monday, April 10, 2023 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

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