Obviously, this is full of interesting information. To note just a few high points:
(1) the part about "The house they had just bought" (=20 Northmoor Road) and going over next door (=#22) to dig up flowers they'd left behind (hope they cleared that with the new owners first!) confirms the date as 1930.
(2) the "Mrs. Gro" Arndis mentions is clearly 'Aunt' Jennie Grove, Edith's elderly cousin who was a sort of honorary grandmother to the Tolkien children.
(3) this is perhaps the most negative view of Edith Tolkien I've ever seen, and contrasts sharply with descriptions of her from Walter Hooper (who met her late in life and liked her v. much). Though I must say the part about her not playing the piano is odd. I wonder if she had arthritis -- my own grandmother had a piano in her house, but during the years we lived with her I never heard her play it but once (beautifully, though apparently not up to her own standard).
(4) the part that interest me most of all (of course, it wd) is the statement about THE HOBBIT "(which he started writing at the time she was working for him)", and again "Tolkien had started writing THE HOBBIT while I was there". That's pretty definite, and agrees with timeline I reconstructed for MR. BAGGINS. So while not conclusive, it's nice to have another little bit of collaborating evidence to add into the mix.
MT also sent a link to an online discussion of this story from back in 2008. For the relevant entries, see the post by "Lalaith" and the reply by "Findegil", about three-fifths of the way through the thread (scroll down to see the posts for Sept 5th & 6th)
If all this were not enough, last night spoke to a friend who's been in touch with someone in Iceland who (a) confirms the authenticity of the original article -- that is, this interview really did run in the 1999 issue of that paper -- and (b) thinks he can put me in touch with someone who can provide a full translation. That'd be great; if we can manage it, I'll post news of it here.
I know that if I were in Iceland right now I'd be trying to track down those letters . . .
current reading: MEMOIRS OF HECATE COUNTY (still! gah!)
I've gone in and fixed Morgan's name, which is THOMSEN, not 'Thomas'. My apologies, Morgan, for the mistake. --JDR