“You Tempt me Grievously to a Mythological Essay”: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Correspondence with Arthur Ransome
Alaric Hall (University of Leeds), Samuli Kaislaniemi (University of Helsinki)
Ex Philologia Lux: Essays in Honour of Leena Kahlas-Tarkka. Société Néophilologique , p. 261 – 280.
On December 13th 1937, the celebrated children’s author Arthur Ransome wroteto J. R. R. Tolkien with a few comments on Tolkien’s newly published book The Hobbit. Tolkien lost no time in replying, and his letter, held in the BrothertonLibrary of the University of Leeds, provides one of his earliest comments onhis published ﬁction, and a relatively early explicit commentary on his mythic writing. This article publishes for the ﬁrst time Tolkien’s response to Ransomein its entirety, and answers some of the questions regarding the chronology ofTolkien’s correspondence which arise. An analysis of the letter reveals that while,as many scholars have shown, the ‘sources’ and ‘inspirations’ of The Hobbit include the likes of Beowulf and the Poetic Edda, already in 1937 – and contraryto his own later claims – Tolkien’s principal primary source for ﬂeshing out hisprose stories with characters, places, and references to historical events was thevast legendarium he had created himself.