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How friendship and the Lord’s Prayer saved ‘The Lord of the Rings’

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 09/18/22

Discover how a disheartened J.R.R. Tolkien nearly gave up on his epic novels, and how a friend and prayer came to the rescue.

J.R.R. Tolkien has given so much pleasure to millions with his epic Lord of the Rings. However, if it hadn’t been for his friend George Sayer, the book (a novel published in three parts) may never have seen the light of day.

Sayer, who was head of English at the prestigious Malvern College and a devout Catholic, was a friend of both C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and the writers would often come and spend time with him in Malvern, Worcestershire.

On one occasion Sayer took a trip to Oxford, where Tolkien was living, and the pair met up. The English teacher saw that Tolkien was totally disheartened and depressed as publishers weren’t interested in either The Lord of The Rings or The Silmarillion. In fact he was so fed up he just wanted to burn the manuscripts.

Thankfully his friend Sayer came to the rescue. He invited Tolkien up to Malvern to get some respite. The writer drove up with Sawyer, with his manuscripts in the back of the car.

Sayer then had a stroke of genius. He had bought a Ferrograph tape recorder in his home town and tried to persuade Tolkien to record passages of the now legendary The Lord of the Rings. Although Tolkien was reticent, he decided to give it a go on one condition: that he recite The Lord’s Prayer first.

In true Tolkien style, he didn’t recite it any old language, but in an ancient Gothic language. He thought in doing so it would be a greater weapon against any demons lurking in the suspicious newfangled tape recorder, according to a report in the Malvern Gazette.

These recordings, which can be found on the Tolkien estate website here, gave the writer a new lease of life, and the rest is literary history.

While the story of Sayer’s intervention is not widely known, it is definitely one worth mentioning. Not only were the men friends in faith, they also knew how to support each other when it was needed most. And Tolkienists everywhere are no doubt grateful that the writer listened to his friend!

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