A handwritten letter JRR Tolkien penned to an eight-year-old Lancashire boy in 1961 has been sold at auction.

The Lord of the Rings author sent the note to Christopher Howard who had written to him after his mother read The Hobbit to him and his brother Nicky.

Christopher wrote to the famous author telling him how much he had enjoyed The Hobbit and asked if he had written any more fantasy novels.

Tolkien replied on December 28, 1961, and told the youngster about his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Christopher as a boyChristopher as a boy (Image: SWNS)

It was while Tolkien spent time at Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley that he penned the long-awaited follow-up to The Hobbit.

In the letter, which includes Tolkien’s Oxford address and phone number, the author reveals how The Hobbit was written “specially for reading aloud”.

Christopher, now 71, kept the letter and envelope safely tucked in a box for 63 years.

The letter was expected to fetch between £8,000 to £10,000 but sold for three times that, reaching just over £30,000 ($38,750 USD).

Christopher, a renewable energy consultant from Wye, near Canterbury, Kent, said: “Back in 1961 we were living in the North West of England at the curious address you can see on the envelope, ‘Asmall Lodge, Asmall Lane, Ormskirk, Lancashire’.

“My mother was an English teacher who would read bedtime stories to my younger brother and I, and when we were aged six and eight she started reading The Hobbit to us.

JRR TolkienJRR Tolkien (Image: SWNS)

“I quickly realised I wanted to read it myself, which I did.

“The magical effect of reading words that created pictures in my mind amazed me.

“I could see the dragon, Smaug, in his lair, the Dwarves in their mountain halls, Wizards, Orcs and of course, Hobbits.

“I needed to know if the author had written any more books full of such thrilling adventures, and therefore wrote a letter to him which mum sent to his publisher, George Allen & Unwin.

“They passed it on to Professor Tolkien, who replied in a letter dated December 28, 1961.

“You can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this letter.

“Immediately, on seeing the envelope, in my mind Professor Tolkien’s beautiful handwriting transported our home straight to Middle Earth.

“It became, ‘Asmall Lodge, Asmall Lane, Ormskirk, Lancashire’.

“In his reply, he took time to carefully address every point in my letter, referred to my younger brother Nicky, mentioned characters in The Hobbit, and informed me in detail about the other book - or books - he had written, The Lord Of The Rings.”

The handwritten, headed letterThe handwritten, headed letter (Image: SWNS)

The letter, beautifully hand-written by fountain pen on headed paper, displays Tolkien’s Oxford address at the time - 76 Sandfield Road, Headington - and his phone number.

Amanda Butler, head of operations at Hanson Ross, said: “It's a wonderful find, a very touching, kind and personal letter.

"Professor Tolkien was a busy man, and yet he found time at Christmas to write to a young fan.

“The fact that our vendor has treasured the letter for life underlines its importance.

“It offers us a glimpse of Tolkien's kindness and integrity and is a welcome reminder of old-fashioned values and courtesy.”


JRR Tolkien's letter in full


December 28th, 1961

76 Sandfield Road, Headington, Oxford

Dear Christopher,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter. I was very pleased to have it, and I liked learning about the parts that specially pleased you. I don't think Nicky missed much as The Hobbit was specially written for reading aloud.

Though, of course, it is, I think, more fun to do the readings, and there are lots of books that can only be taken in quietly by oneself.

I am sorry that I did not get this off in time to wish you both a Merry Christmas, since yours arrived in good time for my Christmas, but there is a lot to do just before the 25th. But I wish you a very happy New Year.

I have in fact written other books in which Hobbits play a main part, and Bilbo makes an appearance - though not as a chief character as he is getting very old (60 years have gone by) and the story began on his 111th Birthday. (Which he calls eleventy-first and not hundred and eleventh!).

But this book or books is very long (about 6 times as long as The Hobbit), and is in 3 volumes (1) The Fellowship of the Rings (2) The Two Towers (3) The Return of the Kings.

This is largely about Bilbo's magic rings and Gandalf and Gollum are very important in it. I am afraid it's very expensive, but it can be got out of any good public library.

Some I am told keep several copies as it is in demand. There is not much fun in it though at the beginning, which is in Bilbo's village, the Hobbits behave in their usual comic way but they soon get involved in very grim and rather frightening adventures which make old Smaug seem almost harmless by contrast.

If it's any colder in Lancashire than it is down here then you must be frozen stiff.

It was as cold here last night as in Sweden and has been freezing hard all day. I put some water out for the birds this morning at half past ten in the bright sunshine and it was frozen solid by lunch time.

Yours sincerely J R R Tolkien