Wednesday, January 18, 2023

A Le Guinian Tolkien quote

 So, as I was finishing up the LeGuin interview book* tonight I came across an unexpected passage:

Writers are often asked, "Why do you write?" 

which is, you know, an impossible question. 

But a lot of them give that very answer.

I wrote it because no one else would, 

and I wanted to read it.  Tolkien, as a 

matter of fact, said that -- he said, "I knew

  nobody else could write it, because 

nobody else knew about Middle Earth."

     --The Gift of Place (1977), page 23*

I've read a lot of Tolkien interviews --all that I cd find-- and this quote's not familiar to me.

I don't think Le Guin just made it up, but if not where did it come from?

What I suspect is that the story about Tolkien and Lewis's bargain to write stories for each other (Tolkien's the time-travel story THE LOST ROAD and Lewis's the space travel book OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET). If that's so then somehow the original story (via LETTERS OF JRRT or Carpenter's biography) must have wandered from its initial context and gotten garbled in the process.

If anyone knows of a more proximate source I'd be glad to hear of it.

--John R.

*THE LAST INTERVIEW, ed. David Streitfeld (2019).  I read the essays in reverse order, which made for an interesting experience.


Parma-kenta said...

While not much closer to what Le Guin is claiming, there is the statement in a letter to W.H. Auden (Letters no. 163) that
“I wrote the Trilogy as a personal satisfaction, driven to it by the scarcity of literature of the sort that I wanted to read (and what there was was often heavily alloyed).”

Acknowledgedly, it is at best closer to what Le Guin says by being a statement about The Lord of the Rings.

Marcel R. Aubron-Bülles said...

I like the fact it is one of the letters you can find with the Estate's site.

Having said that - if you enter a quote like this with Google, Hathi, and the Internet Archive and you get zilch - except for the Le Guin book, of course! - my personal expectation would be not a Tolkien quote