I am charmed to discover that W.H. Auden was a Tolkien fan — in fact, according to Erin Overbey at the New Yorker, one of the earliest and most influential Tolkien fans:
In 1926, a young W. H. Auden attended a lecture at Oxford, where he heard J. R. R. Tolkien recite a passage from “ Beowulf” so beautifully that he decided, right then and there, that Anglo-Saxon was a worthwhile academic pursuit. Auden became a close friend of Tolkien’s and an ardent champion of his work, defending him in public and in print against a host of early skeptics; he was one of the first serious writers (along with C. S. Lewis) to ask whether Tolkien’s narratives of heroic quests and imaginary worlds could be considered something more than simply escapist reading….
In 1966, Plotz invited Auden, who was spending his winters in New York, to come speak at one of the Tolkien Society’s gatherings, and the New Yorker writer Gerald Jones covered the meeting for the magazine. The fifty-person meeting was held at Plotz’s family home, in Brooklyn, and it included a true cross section of Tolkien fandom; high-school kids, college professors, Plotz’s two younger brothers, and the author of “September 1, 1939.” Auden and the other guests were served non-alcoholic eggnog and cider, and a snack of fresh mushrooms, a favorite Hobbit dish. The discussion spanned a variety of Tolkien-related topics: the correct method of writing in Elvish, the best way to assemble an accurate cosmological model of Middle-Earth. A contentious debate broke out between a high-school student, who argued that Middle-Earth was “essentially spherical,” and a professor at Queens College, who countered that Middle-Earth was “undoubtedly saucer-shaped.”
Then it was Auden’s turn. He began by talking about his personal relationship with Tolkien and the major influence his former professor had had on his life. Tolkien, he said, had originally fallen in love with the Finnish language, which has affinities with Elvish, because it has “fifteen or sixteen cases.” (“Fifteen!” one of the young attendees exclaimed.) Auden went on to tell the group how Tolkien had often admitted that he really had no idea where “The Lord of the Rings” was going when he first started the trilogy. In fact, Auden said, he wasn’t even sure how the pivotal character of Strider would develop as the narrative grew. Auden also let his rapt audience in on Tolkien’s fascination with “the whole Northern thing.” For Tolkien, Auden said, north is “a sacred direction.” (That’s north as in Scandinavia, not Riverdale.) After his talk, Auden stayed and chatted with his fellow-fans. He looked, Jonas wrote, remarkably like “a Tolkienish wizard surrounded by a crowd of young and eager Hobbits.”…
What’s on the agenda for today’s Monday-falls-on-a-Wednesday interim between two holidays?