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Lost Tolkien voice recording discovered

The Middle-earth Network and Legendarium Media have announced that an audio tape featuring a speech by Tolkien in 1958 will undergo restoration.

Although the tape’s existence was no secret, it was known to few, and has been kept away in the collection of René van Rossenberg, the owner of the Tolkien Shop, for over twenty years.

In late March 1958, Tolkien travelled to the Netherlands at the invitation of Voorhoeve en Dietrich, the Rotterdam based booksellers. On the evening of the 28th he was the special guest at a “Hobbit Dinner”, attended by over 200 people, at which he gave the speech.

Significantly for Tolkien scholarship, Tolkien recited a previously unpublished poem in both English and Elvish. You can hear a clip from this in the video above. In it, Tolkien laments the devastation of Rotterdam during the Second World War:

I look east and west

I look north and south

And I do not see a Sauron

But I see very many descendants of Saruman!

According to Tom Shippey, renowned Tolkien scholar and author of The Road to Middle-earth,

Anything new from Tolkien is always exciting, but the Rotterdam Project [to restore the tape] is especially so. A speech from Tolkien, in the first years of his success with Lord of the Rings, when he was among friends, enjoying himself, and able to speak freely!

Chairman of the Tolkien Society, Shaun Gunner, described his reaction to the news of the tape’s discovery and restoration:

This recording is fantastic news for Tolkien fans worldwide. Not only does it contain a new poem, but it also bears witness to Tolkien’s oratorical theatricality as he parodies Frodo and Bilbo’s Birthday Party at the start of The Lord of the Rings. Recordings like this are very rare and very special and I think people will get real pleasure from hearing Tolkien clearly enjoying himself amongst a group of friends.

Further reading

To find out more about Tolkien’s visit to the Netherlands, have a look at the following texts.

Letter 206, in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien

René van Rossenberg, ‘Tolkien’s Exceptional Visit to Holland: A Reconstruction‘, in Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, ed. Patricia Reynolds and Glen H. GoodKnight

’28 March 1958′, in The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Chronology, Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond, pp. 522-3

About the Author: Daniel Helen
Daniel is an Officer without Portfolio and Trustee of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2014, he is mainly responsible for the Society's digital operations, including this website.