Tolkien is often quoted in terms of things his characters say in his fiction, especially the world famous and highly popular The Lord of the Rings, which basically created the whole sub-genre of fantasy fiction. However, he had some profound and insightful things to say in his own right most often through his letters, which were published as a collection in 1981. Here is a selection of some of the most interesting, both in terms of Tolkien’s approach to life and in relation to the books he wrote:
'A divine “punishment" is also a divine “gift”, if accepted, since its object is ultimate blessing, and the supreme inventiveness of the Creator will make “punishments” (that is changes of design) produce a good not otherwise to be attained.’
'For myself, I find I become less cynical rather than more - remembering my own sins and follies; and realise that men's hearts are not often as bad as their acts, and very seldom as bad as their words.'
'I am (obviously) much in love with plants and above all trees, and always have been; and I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find ill-treatment of animals.’
'Criticism - however valid or intellectually engaging - tends to get in the way of a writer who has anything personal to say. A tightrope walker may require practice, but if he starts a theory of equilibrium he will lose grace (and probably fall off).'
'... I regard the tale of Arwen and Aragorn as the most important of the Appendices [in Lord of The Rings]; it is part of the essential story, and is only placed so, because it could not be worked into the main narrative without destroying its structure…’
'Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth.'
'If people were in the habit of refering to “King George's council, Winston and his gang,” it would go a long way to clearing thought, and reducing the frightful landslide into “Theyocracy.”’
'We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.'
'Evil labours with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in.'
'After all, I believe that legends and myths are largely made of 'truth', and indeed present aspects of it that can only be received in this mode; and long ago certain truths and modes of this kind were discovered and must always reappear.'
'I perceived or thought of the Light of God and in it suspended one small mote (or millions of motes to only one of which was my small mind directed), glittering white because of the individual ray from the Light which both held and lit it...And the ray was the Guardian Angel of the mote: not a thing interposed between God and the creature, but God's very attention itself, personalised...This is a finite parallel to the Infinite. As the love of the Father and Son (who are infinite and equal) is a Person, so the love and attention of the Light to the Mote is a person (that is both with us and in Heaven): finite but divine, i.e. angelic.'
'The Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story — and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.'
'The romantic chivalric tradition takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man's eye off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars.'
'When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. . . And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgment concerning whom, amongst the total chances, he ought most profitably to have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the 'real soul-mate' is the one you are actually married to.'
'the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.'
'I invented that little rhyme about 'One Ring to rule them all', I remember, in the bath one day.'
'If you wanted to go on from the end of The Hobbit I think the ring would be your inevitable choice as the link. If then you wanted a large tale, the Ring would at once acquire a capital letter; and the Dark Lord would immediately appear. As he did, unasked, on the hearth at Bag End as soon as I came to that point. So the essential Quest started at once. But I met a lot of things along the way that astonished me. Tom Bombadil I knew already; but I had never been to Bree. Strider sitting in the corner of the inn was a shock, and I had no more idea who he was than Frodo did. The Mines of Moria had been a mere name; and of Lothlorien no word had reached my mortal ears till I came there.'
'Life is rather above the measure of us all (save for a very few perhaps). We all need literature that is above our measure - though we may not have sufficient energy for it all the time.'