Episode 58
January 8, 2024

What an Absolute Nightmare This Man Would Have Been to Work With

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned discuss Ned’s choice of topic: The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. Following the publication of his official biography of Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter worked with Christopher Tolkien to edit and present a selection of Tolkien’s letters across the decades, originally appearing in

  1. Containing both a large swathe of personal detail about his life as an aspiring academic and young father, then an established professor and finally an increasingly popular author, it also presented a large amount of background information on Middle-earth via his exchanges with publishers, writers and readers, including some long letters that have remained touchstones of information on his creative process since. In late 2023, a new edition was published, which featured the entirety of the original selection that Carpenter and Christopher had created but had to trim down for initial publication, revealing various new facets of interest in particular about his own personal beliefs and philosophies across time. What areas of Tolkien’s life remain relatively undiscussed or absent from the presented letters, and what can we deduce from the estate’s choices to possibly not let that material be shared out? How do the ‘new’ letters in particular fill out our understanding of Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs, especially in the context of mass and creative culture? Is there something to be said in how Tolkien may have changed or otherwise introduced more nuance into some of his more sweeping statements about women in his private correspondence as he aged, especially in contrast to his fellow Inklings? And finally, who wouldn’t want to be the fly on the wall for that conversation between Tolkien, Robert Graves and Ava Gardner?

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. Something about a lovely start to a letter…

Remember, join the Megaphonic Patreon! Listen to us and everyone else talk about the movie musical Scrooge! (Spoiler: we were not pleased.)

Did we mention preordering Jared’s book? Let’s mention it again.

Here’s preorder info for that British Library talk on Twenty First Century Tolkien. Looks like it could be good!

In which writing an unauthorized sequel to The Lord of the Rings further goes askew. Demetrious Polychron really, really does try. But.

Our Dennis McKiernan/Silver Call duology episode. It really is better in comparison!

Ah, cotillions. Look, you want them, have them, but maybe not around the Shire?


The letters! (New edition that is!) It is a very, very thick book.

Letter 131 is a doozy! These days it’s most often seen appended to the more recent edition of The Silmarillion.

That withdrawn article on Edith Bratt, as much as remains in the journal listing. Who knows?

Zero inbox, the blessed and unachievable state.

Worth briefly noting The Tolkien Family Album, written and presented by John (the younger) and Priscilla Tolkien.

Vatican II’s impact is still very much with us…

The Power Broker once again. (Consider our episode on evil.)

Yeahhhhhh the Spanish Civil War. Not pretty at all.

Tolkien and anarchism, there’s a lot of talk about that out there. (Tolkien balancing out anarchism and monarchism? Somehow he did it…) As for the Shire as society and what it does or doesn’t have, consider our episode (and the Gollum one with the murder mystery!)

The Song of Bernadette! It really hit Tolkien hard, this film. (Vincent Price in fact played “Vital Dutour, Imperial Prosecutor” but he would have been a great Mary.) And hey if you ever want to visit Lourdes

Milton and Tolkien would have been at total odds in terms of religion but they absolutely agreed on the joy of sex. (Do a search for the line “This said unanimous, and other rites” and read further.)

Our episode on Aldarion and Erendis. Still a remarkable story.

Gloria Steinem as a Tolkien correspondent, that’s a vision.

C.S Lewis and women…well THAT’S a subject.

The 1955 radio version of The Lord of the Rings is lost as noted but as the Wikipedia entry notes, the script itself survives at least. As for the 1968 radio Hobbit adaptation, indeed curious that there’s nothing from Tolkien about it…

Robert Graves! Was he a snack in his youth, Sigurd-like? Hey, you be the judge.

Ava Gardner! Pretty awesome, really. (And she did live in the UK for the last decades of her life so why not attend an Oxford lecture?)

One of John Scalzi’s various posts talking about the idea of ‘convention famous.’ Makes total sense!

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