I went to a book reading a few months ago and someone quoted this selection from the letters of J.R.R. Tolkein. It is from a letter he wrote to his son Christopher during the latters service in the RAF in South Africa. I ordered a copy of the book so that I could read the rest of the letter(s) as well. I thought this was particularly poignant and as applicable today as it was during World War Two, perhaps more so.

Your service is, of course, as anybody with any intelligence and ears and eyes knows, a very bad one, living on the repute of a few gallant men, and you are probably in a particularly bad corner of it. But all Big Things planned in a big way feel like that to the toad under the harrow, though on a general view they do function and do their job. An ultimately evil job. For we are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring. And we shall (it seems) succeed. But the penalty is, as you will know, to breed new Saurons, and slowly turn Men and Elves into Orcs. Not that in real life things are as clear cut as in a story, and we started out with a great many Orcs on our side… Well, there you are: a hobbit amongst the Urukhai. Keep your hobbitry in heart, and think that all stories feel like that when you are in them. You are inside a very great story!1


  1. “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien” (J. R. R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter), p78 []