First published in 1981 and now expanded with more than 150 new letters, excerpts and additional notes, this new edition of the oft-cited book, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, gives fans and scholars a deeper insight into the man behind The Lord of the Rings.

Get the new updated edition at your favourite bookstore or online (Amazon).

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, first edited by Humphrey Carpenter with assistance from Christopher Tolkien, is the definitive source of Tolkien’s personal writings. If you have ever seen a quotation cited from “Letter 131” it’s a reference to the numbering of this book. Some call it a biblical bibliography of Tolkien. In this new edition the numbering remains the same, with additional content added in context via a “203a… 203b…” system. Several letters have expanded, with the 8+ page Letter 131 now 40% longer from its originally edited form.

We learned on the podcast this week how these letters continue to be discovered, with some fetching over $100,000 at auction in recent years. Tolkien was prolific in his communications to fans and family over his lifetime. In one series of letters, he talks about the wonderful quality of storyboards presented in a film pitch meeting – drawings by Ron Cobb who went on to design Star Wars, Alien and Back to the Future.

The following is extracted from a much longer (and more collector-focused) review at which also includes a PDF tracking all the changes big and small in this new 2023 edition.

From The Tolkien Collector’s Guide Review

Review by onthetrail, Mr. Underhill, Urulókë and Trotter

This edition will give fans of J.R.R. Tolkien a greater understanding of his family life, his work, and his secondary world.

We see the first change come in the June 1925 letter to the “Electors of the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon, University of Oxford” but it is not until January 1934 in a letter to his son John, at that time a 16-year-old pupil of the Oratory School in Berkshire, that we see the first new letter.

We notice very quickly that early letters are sadly not found here and Humphrey Carpenter in his introduction to the original edition says that “among the omissions is the very large body of letters he wrote between 1913 and 1918 to Edith Bratt, who was his fiancee and then his wife; these are highly personal in character, and from them I have chosen only a few passages which refer to writings in which Tolkien was engaged at the time” so omitting those early, private letters shouldn’t be too surprising, and that attitude still holds.

This new edition allows us to see the editorship of Humphrey Carpenter, with Christopher Tolkien’s assistance, in a brand-new light. Originally, the book was far more general, and generous with the inclusion of many excerpts which show J.R.R. Tolkien’s love and concern toward his sons who were either engaged in battle or training to be during WW2. With enlightening passages to Christopher Tolkien, we witness J.R.R. Tolkien talking openly about the horrors of war, and the impact on those involved. The published edition was cut down, as said already, but only with this new edition do we see how Humphrey Carpenter did not simply reduce it for size, but also for thematic purposes. If the original edition is a letters volume which focuses mostly on J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagined writing, this new edition gives us the filling, it shows us the backdrop to it all and offers more on J.R.R. Tolkien’s routines around his working and home life. We see J.R.R. Tolkien exchanging with his sons now at school and what comes across is more of the concerned father, it exemplifies (if one needed any such confirmation) the relationship he shared with his boys and the concern for their education, life choices, financial matters, and love. With open and honest assessments of the relationships his sons were beginning to experience, J.R.R. Tolkien’s role as a father is brought into sharper focus.

The more astute reader among us will read some newly published excerpts and know that they have read portions or all of the quotes previously in The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, and this is true, not every new passage found here is truly new, but they are reunited with topically connected letters and offer us yet more glimpses into J.R.R. Tolkien’s life. There are of course still treasures to be found among the details found in The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, and readers should use the two books side-by-side to explore further.

We learn more of the work that J.R.R. Tolkien put into The Hobbit through his letters to his publisher and being able to read what J.R.R. Tolkien was sending to George Allen & Unwin. But we also see some stories about his family life, and how his children were very much his children. For example, you will learn that Priscilla Tolkien could “take any amount of dragon, and a reasonable dose of goblin; but we recently had to change all the handles on the chest-of-drawers in her room, because the former handles ‘grinned at her’, even in the dark.”

In November 1937 we get the first bulky new letter – sent to his friend E. V. Gordon. We learn more about Gordon’s Pearl and Tolkien’s role in the creation of this book, which would not be published until long after E.V. Gordon’s untimely death.

The revisions and additions in this new edition gives a greater insight into J.R.R. Tolkien’s life and allows us to find out more about the mind and thinking of the Professor. These letters are of great use to general readers and J.R.R. Tolkien researchers when looking for answers in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works.

During the late 1930s and through the war years of the early to mid 1940s, Tolkien wrote to his sons a lot, and this volume has a healthy group of excerpts, mostly to Christopher Tolkien and we witness the closeness of the two. That Christopher Tolkien became his father’s literary executor is no accident. These letters demonstrate further how essential Christopher Tolkien was to his father’s creative endeavors.

Our first glimpse of 1951 is where the new edition really pays off. J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous letter #131 to Milton Waldman (of Collins) has always been a favorite among readers, but now, we see just how potent this letter is. The original was always known to be longer, and the portion which dealt with The Lord of the Rings was wisely not included. Now the two pieces are reunited, as we now know was Humphrey Carpenter’s original intent. But there is more! A portion which we do not believe to have been known is included at the conclusion and it is J.R.R. Tolkien’s “proposed for publication” list which is a wonderful gift to those interested in how Tolkien saw his writing, and what he believed was important for publication.

After that we learn more on proofs of The Lord of the Rings, the artwork for it and the pressures of Tolkien’s life at that time. Still a busy academic, he now faced increased demands from those interested in adapting his work and the new selections provided highlight that fact further.

For the next decade of his life, J.R.R. Tolkien would spend his time on revisions, dealing with piracy and how he will enlist fans’ help in informing people of its harm to his financial welfare, adaptations, translated editions of his work, academia, and all manner of other responsibilities which would keep him from completing his epic work on The Silmarillion. We can understand through these letters more than ever just how much J.R.R. Tolkien had on his plate. But also we can deduce that J.R.R. Tolkien would flit from one project to another. He would decide that Sir Gawain must be dealt with, only for him to delay it to complete the Silmarillion. J.R.R. Tolkien was nothing if not an expert excuse maker and those who love his excuses need not worry, there are plenty of new additions here to keep fans happy.

From Letter 131, which is 40 per cent longer in the new edition. Previously edited for space.

And this carries us through the book to its end. It gives us new details on a myriad of subjects. We learn more about J.R.R. Tolkien’s professional relationships and his family, his losses, and his achievements which make him a house-hold name. This edition shows more keenly the shifting of time and with it we see both his and Edith Tolkien’s health decline far more closely than in the original edition.

The Index at the back of the book, compiled and revised for this edition by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, is comprehensive and does allow for easy retrieval of a letter based on subject. 

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Revised and Expanded edition is a welcome addition to Tolkien studies, for both readers and researchers and it is to Humphrey Carpenter’s credit that this volume can stand on its own as a monumental work, but it also makes the original a more impressive read because we can now see how the editor shaped and crafted it into an absorbing work.

A volume like this can be a curse and a wonderful gift all at the same time, and it delivers both in equal measure, especially for those who hold J.R.R. Tolkien, Edith Tolkien, and their family in their hearts. We meet these people again through this expanded selection of letters, and it is brought home to this reader that they have all passed into the West and we are given these new memories to remember them by. The new book is an essential addition to your Tolkien library, as it supersedes the earlier edition.

Read the entire collector-focused review over at the Tolkien Guide.

More Context and Perspectives joined TORn Tuesday show for a 2-hour deep dive on the biggest changes and most enlightening additions to the book.

Famed pub The Eagle and Child, frequented by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the Inklings group, closed three years ago during the pandemic; but a new investment group plans to bring it back to life.

Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Systems based in California, has purchased the long-empty pub from Oxford’s St. John’s College.

The Ellison Institute of Technology plans to renovate and reopen the famed pub, nicknamed The Bird & Baby, with a new restaurant, meeting rooms, and a new study area for students and faculty. According to Oxford Mail, the rebirth of the Eagle and Child will modernise the space and secure its long-term economic viability, while also honouring its proud past.

Serving Oxford since the 17th century, the plan is to modernize the entire area while still keeping The Eagle and Child – and most importantly the Inklings corner – intact. No date has yet been set for reopening. staffers greendragon, K.M. Rice and Justin visited the closed pub in 2022 thanks to Amazon Studios Rings of Power “London 30” event.

Since 1973, The Tolkien Society have hosted a gathering to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, and this weekend they’re doing it again – for the 50th time. This coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Professor’s death, on September 2nd. Fans are gathering in Oxford from around the world for this special event; here’s what the society’s press release tells us:

350 Tolkien fans from around 25 different countries are meeting in Oxford next weekend to celebrate the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien.  

The event, taking place at St Anne’s College, Oxford from Thursday 31st August to Sunday 3rd September, has sold out due to the increasing popularity of Tolkien’s works. The event follows the recent publication of The Fall of Númenor and the release of the Amazon TV-series The Rings of Power set in the Second Age of Middle-earth.

The event itself will include talks from leading Tolkien scholars – including Brian Sibley, editor of The Fall of Númenor, screenwriter of The Lord of the Rings radio series and biographer of Peter Jackson – quizzes, workshops, an art exhibition, a masquerade, a Hobbit bake-off, a party and even theatrical performances. The weekend concludes, as always, with Enyalie, a ceremony of remembrance at Tolkien’s grave in Wolvercote Cemetery on Sunday afternoon. With attendees from 25 different countries, this year’s Oxonmoot takes place following the publication of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Fall of Númenor, proving the continuing popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien as author relevant in the 21st Century. Tolkien’s best-known work was The Lord of the Rings, which has been translated into over 50 languages and estimates put sales at over 150 million copies worldwide.

Founded in 1969 by Vera Chapman, The Tolkien Society is an educational charity and literary society with the aim of promoting the life and works with J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien himself supported the organisation and gave it his seal of approval by agreeing to become The Tolkien Society’s President. On Tolkien’s death the family recommended he stay as President, so, to this day, he remains The Tolkien Society’s Honorary President in perpetuo. The Society has 4,000 members and hosts events up and down the country every week.

Shaun Gunner, Chair of The Tolkien Society, said: “Tolkien is as popular as ever as we’ve packed out St Anne’s College to have a celebratory weekend like no other! Not only will we be joined by Brian Sibley, but Bear McCreary – composer of the score of The Rings of Power – and other Tolkien scholars are joining us. People are coming over from 5 continents to share their love for Tolkien and their passion for his works. Oxonmoot has been going for 50 years and provides an excellent opportunity for hundreds of fans from around the world to come together for a weekend of fun and fellowship in Oxford, a location so important to Tolkien.” He added, “This year’s Oxonmoot is particularly special: the world’s longest-running Tolkien event reaches its 50th anniversary, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of Tolkien’s death.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Oxonmoot, an annual event hosted by The Tolkien Society in Oxford, UK. The event will be available to stream live from Thursday, August 31 through Sunday, September 3.

Bear McCreary

Bear McCreary will join Oxonmoot for an exclusive chat on Friday, September 1st at 4:40pm UK-time (8:40am PDT / 11:40am EDT / 5:40pm CET), and the session will be available live to online attendees.

McCreary, a lifelong Tolkien fan, composed the 37 tracks that make up the score for Prime’s Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. His work for the show received acclaim from fans and critics alike. The gorgeous themes he developed for the show were completely new yet still reflective of the scores that Howard Shore composed for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. McCreary is also know for his work on Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, and Outlander, among other television series. McCreary is articulate in speaking about his methodology, and he is just plain fun in an interview.

Brian Sibley

Brian Sibley will also be a guest at Oxonmoot. His session is called “‘The Fall of Númenor’: An Editor’s Journey.” As the name of the event implies, Mr. Sibley edited the volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings titled The Fall of Númenor: And Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth, which was illustrated by Alan Lee. Sibley will speak about the “pleasures and pitfalls” in editing the book.

Sibley has written extensively for radio dramas such as BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. He is well known for authoring many “making of” books about films, including those for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as the Harry Potter series. He is incredibly knowledgeable about Tolkien and fascinating to listen to.

You can register for online attendance to Oxonmoot at

Late last year we brought you news of the incredible artistic feat which is composer Paul Corfield Godfrey’s series of operas, telling tales from The Silmarillion. Already available at that time were Fëanor, Beren and Lúthien, The Children of Húrin and The Fall of Gondolin. Last week, the fifth and final part, The War of Wrath, was released.

These stunning and suitably epic operas all use text taken directly from Tolkien’s writing (with full permission from the Tolkien Estate). You can order your copies from Volante Opera’s website. Check out this video (really way more than a trailer!) to give you a taste of this labour of love:

Continue reading “Operatic War of Wrath now available for your listening pleasure”

Tolkien Collector’s Guide has spotted something very interesting — a new and revised edition of Humphry Carpenter’s The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien is coming out this November (Nov 9 to be precise).

This revised edition is already available for pre-order on Amazon (30 quid for a hardcover book; 20 quid for a kindle version). Looks like it’s going to be a beast of a book, too: 700 pages versus the 463 of the 1981 edition.

In this revised and expanded edition of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, it has been possible to go back to the editors’ original typescripts and notes, restoring more than 150 letters that were excised purely to achieve what was then deemed a ‘publishable length’, and present the book as originally intended.

Enthusiasts for his writings will find much that is new, for the letters not only include fresh information about Middle-earth, such as Tolkien’s own plot summary of the entirety of The Lord of the Rings and a vision for publishing his ‘Tales of the Three Ages’, but also many insights into the man and his world. In addition, this new selection will entertain anyone who appreciates the art of letter-writing, of which J.R.R. Tolkien was a master.

Thanks to TimB and DurinDeathless on our Discord for the heads-up.

Letters of JRR Tolkien expanded edition