JRR Tolkien’s Grandson Spills The Beans on Grandpa Tolkien
The Los Angeles Times caught up with Simon Tolkien, the grandson of The Hobbit writer JRR Tolkien, and give some firsthand insights of how some of Tolkien’s stories came about. Simon is also a writer and has recently completed his new thriller, The Inheritance, which is a murder mystery that takes place in Oxford. Here is what the grandson said about his grandfather:
So what were your earliest memories of your grandfather?
I think I remember most after he went to Bournemouth. Bournemouth is like a tiny English version of Florida. There are hotels and the beach and a lot of old people. I think he hated it. But I think he felt it was due to my grandmother, that she’d put up with Oxford, and Oxford was, particularly in those days a very misogynistic place.
The Inklings were C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien [and others], and they’d all sit around in the pub and they’d read each other their writings, and I don’t think there was a woman in sight unless she brought them their beer. I think that was hard for her. And I think she really enjoyed Bournemouth.
We played lots of word games with my grandfather. His favorite one was Constantinople. You remember things, and they’re not necessarily the most interesting things. When people ask me about my grandfather, they want me to remember him telling me who Sauron really was. I haven’t got the gospel up my sleeve, but I have these idiotic memories.
Who was he writing for? Children or adults?
Adults. I think he thought his books were suitable for adults, although I think he thought kids could get a lot out of it. “The Hobbit” is more of a kid’s book. The funny part was that was what he’d actually been doing since 1916, the first writing was in the trenches in the first World War. He’d been writing “The Silmarillion.” When “The Hobbit” was a success, he went to the publishers and they said, “What else have you got?” So he produced part of “The Silmarillion,” high and mighty tales from the First Age [which led to the "Rings" trilogy]. And they took a look at it, and they said, “No. We want ‘Hobbit.’ ” And out of that was born “The Lord of the Rings.”
Your father Christopher edited “The Silmarillion.” So he was keeper of the literary flame, because that was published posthumously, right?