[Philological curiosity] was the natural state, [and Tolkien’s success went] far to proving his point about the naturalness of philology and the appeal of names, words and linguistic styles; and in the wider sense of philology as that branch of learning which ‘presented to lovers of poetry and history fragments of a noble past that without it would have remained for ever dead and dark’ (from Tolkien’s Essays), he showed that its appeal too was not confined to antiquity. I do not see how Tolkien can be denied the tribute of having enlarged his readers’ apprehensions (of language), or their human sympathies (with the disciplined, or the heroic, or the addicted, or the self-sacrificing). But most of all I think his utility for the lover of literature lies in the way he showed creativity arising from the ramifications of words: unpredictable, certainly, but not chaotic or senseless, and carrying within themselves very strong suggestions of ‘the reality of history’ and ‘the reality of human nature’, and how people react to their world. (…) Words, ancient words, do not have to be hooked together to make something. They have their own energy and struggle towards their own connections. Observing this impulse and co-operating with it is as good a guide for an artist as turning within oneself to the inarticulate.
Tom Shippey: The Road to Middle Earth: Afterward.
Our Own Dear John Ronald: The Energy of Old Words
“Tolkien was almost excessively ‘tough-minded’: (…) all drove him to work out from single words, or cruxes, or kernels, or nuggets.”