25 February 2019

from a letter to Christopher Tolkien, 11 July 1972 (J.R.R. Tolkien)

I have at last got busy about Mummy's grave ... The inscription I should like is:


: brief and jejune, except for Lúthien, which says for me more than a multitude of words: for she was (and knew she was) my Lúthien.*

July 13.  Say what you feel, without reservation, about this addition.  I began this under the stress of great emotion & regret - and in any case I am afflicted from time to time (increasingly) with an overwhelming sense of bereavement.  I need advice.  Yet I hope none of my children will feel that the use of this name is a sentimental fancy.  It is at any rate not comparable to the quoting of pet names in obituaries.  I never called Edith Lúthien - but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion.  It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while).  In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing - and dance.  But the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.

I will say no more now.  But I should like ere long to have a long talk with you.  For if as seems probable I shall never write any ordered biography - it is against my nature, which expresses itself about things deepest felt in tales and myths - someone close in heart to me should know something about things that records do not record: the dreadful sufferings of our childhoods, from which we rescued one another, but could not wholly heal the wounds that later often proved disabling; the sufferings that we endured after our love began - all of which (over and above our personal weaknesses) might help to make pardonable, or understandable, the lapses and darknesses which at times marred our lives - and to explain how these never touched our depths nor dimmed our memories of our youthful love.  For ever (especially when alone) we still met in the woodland glade, and went hand in hand many times to escape the shadow of imminent death before our last parting.

*She knew the earliest form of the legend (written in hospital), and also the poem eventually printed as Aragorn's song in L.R.

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