1968 BBC interview with J.R.R. Tolkien on youtube (16.01.08 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

In February 1968 J.R.R. Tolkien was interviewed in conjunction with the BBC television documentary "Tolkien in Oxford", of which also a part has been included in the J.R.R. Tolkien: An Audio Portrait. As far as I know this interview was only released last year for the Children of Hurin Release on April 7, 2007. Since then a small part of that interview could be found in the BBC News Archives, yet the interview is far from complete. I managed to locate some other parts of the same interview which were released by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on April 19, 2007. It also includes an interesting interview with Adam Tolkien, the grand-son of Tolkien on the Children of Hurin, conducted by Razia Iqbal from the BBC program Newsnight.

So here will follow two youtube videos and two transcripts; now let us hope sooner or later the complete interview shows up.

What is interesting to me is that here Tolkien talks openly about 'gods', 'god' and even 'divine paradise'... it is something strange to hear from someone who always claimed he detested allegory wherever he smelled it! It seems at the end of his life Tolkien spoke more openly about the catholic elements he used to construct his mythology. Another fascinating fact is that this interview was done almost 9 years before the Silmarillion was finally published, still it is clear he is talking about it. I'm not going to bother you any longer with my own ideas, hope you enjoy both parts of the interview:




J.R.R. Tolkien: Everybody, including divine spirits under god, makes mistakes in this mythology, and of course the gods made a primary error. Instead of leaving elves and men to find out their way under the guidance of god, they invited the elves because the rebel amongst them, the wicked god Melkor, was alive and devastated a large part of the world.
They took them back into their paradise in the west to protect them, and so the whole machinery starts from the rebellion of the elves, and therefore, in rebellion of the evil they did in their bursting out from paradise.
So what you've got in our period is two lots of elves: The ones that never started, just didn't want to, never bothered to be anything higher than they were, were the ordinary woodland elves of the far-east.
Those who started to go to divine paradise and never got there, which are the grey elves of the west, and those who got and came back as exiled.

The higher elves, who sing this song to Elbereth in the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, are exiled elves who had once known what it was to see the demi-urgic gods in person.
Now dwarves create a difficulty, don't they, in this particular thing. They have certain grievances against men and against elves. They are incarnate in bodies. While they are like ourselves, we don't know much about them, but they apparently are mortal, they are longaevall. Where do they come into the scheme? Well of course, a great deal of sort to provide their origin.
I don't think I'll say anything about it at the moment, but they have a rational origin related to their theme, but they are not part of the children of god. That's all I can really say about this.

Men are just men.




Kerry O'Brien: The smash hit Peter Jackson Hollywood version of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy helped make the work of the English author, J.R.R. Tolkien, accessible to a whole new generation of readers around the world.

It's now been followed by a quite extraordinary literary event - a new Tolkien book. Many years after the author's death, edited from his notes by his son Christopher. The BBC's Newsnight program was given access to the book and an interview with Tolkien himself, which has never been broadcast before.

Razia Iqbal, from the BBC's Newsnight reports.

(Miranda Otto singing. Taken from 'The Two Towers' (2002) New Line Cinema)

Razia Iqbal: A plaintive lament from the epic movie trilogy 'The Lord of The Rings'.

There is though little to lament about the Tolkien brand. A staggering 150 million people have bought the books. Fifty million of those since the film trilogy wowed fans and critics alike.

J.R.R. Tolkien's classic work of fantasy started out in his mind as a book written for his children.

J.R.R. Tolkien: I read it to my children. I read to the two elder ones who took a kindly and, on the whole, favourable an interest in it. But they criticised very severely and first opened my eyes to the whole situation which led to my essay on fairy stories, criticised very severely all those things in which my, owing to bad models, I though was suitable to put into a children's story. They hated asides, anything like, 'so now I've told you enough.' They loathed anything that made it sound as if you were talking to a, an actual audience.

Razia Iqbal: The audience for Tolkien's books remains voracious and committed. And now some 50 years after the publication of the 'Lord of the Rings' the Tolkien literary estate have published a new work, 'The Children of Hurin'.

Tolkien began writing it in the trenches during the First World War. Parts of it, though, have been seen before.

Adam Tolkien: 'The Children of Hurin' hasn't been published as a stand alone tale and it's been published in works and also a long time ago before, among other things, before the films made Tolkien doubly, triply popular. And it's published in what are scholarly works and you can read the stories just for the stories, skipping the notes, but you're not going to get a simple start-to-finish story. And they're published with the name of very exact literary analysis, which means that if the story, it's one version of the story and if it's interrupted it stops there whereas 'The Children of Hurin', the new book, is worked together from all the author's words. But to become a stand alone story that can be read as such.

(Music from the film)

Razia Iqbal: However, fans of Bilbo Baggins may be in for a bit of a shock with 'The Children of Hurin'. It is a dark tale of incest and betrayal and one in which most of the protagonists kill themselves or each other.

Adam Tolkien: I think a bit too much is being made of the incest. That is, it's part of the tragedy of the story - that this brother and sister don't know that they're brother and sister. But it's, it is definitely a tragic tale.

But I don't know, I don't know what people will make of it. It takes place in a part of Middle Earth that doesn't exist anymore when 'Lord of the Rings' takes place, but it's very much Middle Earth, it's very much the same world. And it is, it's a more serious tale in a sense than the 'Lord of the Rings'.

Razia Iqbal: While 'The Hobbit' and the 'Lord of the Rings' remain the most popular of Tolkien's books, his more obscure works dealing with the ancient history of elves and men were to him all part of the same mythic tapestry.

J.R.R. Tolkien: There are in existence a very large collection, now a collection impractically written, but legends about the, the world of the past, particularly after the exiles came back and conducted their war against the devil in the north-western part of this, this world we live in. And the connection of the, of the men who joined in with them.

Adam Tolkien: We hope it will strike a chord in people who've discovered the stories of Middle Earth with the 'Lord of the Rings', but who don't really know about the other works or who've been, found them too difficult. And we, we think that this tale in particular, which was one tale that the author did work at enough so that we could produce a full length story, it's a beautiful tale in itself. And it may or may not strike a chord. People may think it doesn't have enough Hobbits in it, because there aren't any.

(Music from the film)

Kerry O'Brien: And that interview with Tolkien was conducted just five years before his death.

This interview shows us the importance of the old recordings. They can tell us much more then just letters or biographies, because by listening to someones voice you can hear how they react and feel better how they think about several subjects. Now that I have found this recording I do hope to find some more in the future and now especially look forward to On Tolkien: Interviews, Reminiscences, and Other Essays by Douglas A. Anderson and Marjorie J. Burns. If any of the publishers is listening... please add us a dvd with all available interviews. Even if it is bad quality... we will enjoy every minute!

Enjoyed this post? Click to get future articles delivered by email or get the RSS feed.


Spread the news about this J.R.R. Tolkien article: