Tolkien Gateway

Letter 245

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Letter 245
RecipientRhona Beare
Date25 June 1963
Subject(s)Answers regarding Runes and dead Elves

Letter 245 is a letter written by J.R.R. Tolkien and published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.

[edit] Summary

Beare asked why the G-rune in The Lord of the Rings did not match standard Anglo-Saxon runes. Tolkien said that his Cirth or runes were invented for the story with no historical connexion to the Germanic Runic alphabet (which was more developed by the English), so different values for similar shapes was to be expected. Both systems were devised for cutting or scratching on wood and had to take the grain of wood into account. Tolkien expanded on the topic of how the sign were devised by deletions or additions to a basic pattern.

What happened, inquired Beare, to Elves killed in battle? Even in the legends, replied Tolkien, Elves were seen mainly through the eyes of Men and neither side fully knew or understood the ultimate destiny of the other. Elves were so long-lived that Men thought them "immortal". Yet Elves understood that they were not unageing or unwearying, and that they were confined to the limits of this world, in some form or another. After the "end of the world" they had no clue, only theories. The Elves also did not know what "death" meant for Men, believing it to mean a desirable "liberation from the circles of the world". To envious Men they pointed out that though remote they still faced ultimate loss and noted that the longer one bears a burden the heavier it may become.

Tolkien apologized for writing in pencil and for possibly being illegible. He temporarily could not use his right hand and arm and was using his left hand, which was easier with a pencil.