August 7th, 2014Tolkien in Rotterdamby Brendan D. King
The news is now spreading, and causing great excitement throughout Middle Earth fandom, that a long lost recording of J.R.R. Tolkien's voice has surfaced in The Netherlands. In 1958, the creator of Middle Earth made his first and last visit to a "Lord of the Rings" fan convention in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Unbeknownst to all but a few, Tolkien's speech for the occasion was recorded and still survives. In honor of this truly exciting news, I have decided to post Tolkien's own description of the event, which shatters the myth that the 1950s were a decade of mindless conformity. More information on the recording and the plans to digitize it may be found at the following link:
From "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien," Letter No. 206.
To Rayner Unwin. April 8, 1958.
Since I had the remarkable, and in the event extremely enjoyable,
experience in Holland by the generousity of "A. and U.," I think some kind
of report would be proper. I have had time to simmer down a bit, and
recover some sense of proportion. The incense was thick and very heady; and
the kindness overwhelming. My journey was very comfortable, and the
reservations magnificent; the outward boat was backed, and the train from
Liverpool Street went in two parts. I arrived in cold mist and a drizzle,
but by the time I found my way to Rotterdam the sun was shining, and it
remained so for two days. Outboter of Vorhoove and Dietrich was waving a
"Lord of the Rings" and so easy to pick out of the crowd, but I did not fit
his expectations, as he confessed (after dinner); my build up by letter had
been too successful and he was looking for someone much smaller and more
shy and hobbit-like.
(I thought he was charming and intelligent; but he was still a little upset
by the hilarity caused by "Maggot-Soup" on the menue. It was, of course,
mushroom-soup; but he said he would not have chosen the name if he had
known "all the names of the English vermins.") I met a representative of
the Het Spectrum and saw a good deel of the depressing world of ruined and
hald rebuilt Rotterdam. I think it is largely the breach between this
comfortless world, with its giant and largely dehumanized reconstruction,
and the natural ancestral tastes of the Dutch, that has made them, in
Rotterdam especially, almost intoxicated by hobbits. It was almost entirely
of hobbits that they spoke.
At 5:30 on Friday, I faced quite a large concourse in an assembly hall.
Apparently over 200 (largely ordinary people) had paid to be present, and
many had been turned away. Professor Harting was even more astonished than
I was. The dinner was certainly "abundant and prolonged": the latter
because the speeches were interleaved with the courses. In the event they
were all in English; and all but one quite sensible... The exception was a
lunatic psycholog, but the able chairman held him to five minutes. My final
reply was I hope adequate, and was I believe audible; but I need not dwell
on it. It was partly a parody of Bilbo's speech in Chapter I.
In this home of smoking pipe-weed seems especially to have caught on.
There were clay pipes on the table and large jars of tobacco
--provided, I believe, by the firm of Van Rossem. The walls were
decorated with Van Rossem posters overprinted "Pipe-Weed for Hobbits":
in 3 qualities: Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, and Southern Star. V.
Rossem has since sent me pipes and tobacco! I carried off one of the
posters. You might like to see it...
I cannot thank you enough for provinding me with this short but
memorable expedition-- the only one I am likely to get after all out
of my "leave" -- and for gently pressing me to go.