Tolkien on Jews


The premier issue of The Jewish Review of Books arrived in my mailbox a few days ago. It is more than impressive in its scope and the quality of its contributions. I hope to have more to say about it soon. I couldn’t resist posting this quote, from a rather well thought-out consideration of why Jews don’t have a fantasy literature, while Christians like C S Lewis not only did well at it, but used the genre as a very successful outreach tool. (Some of the arguments include the rootedness of Christian cultures in more recent paganism, and Judaism’s detesting of anything that attributes force or power to something outside of HKBH.)

Here’s the quote:

Although it might seem unlikely that anyone would wonder whether the author of The Lord of the Rings was Jewish, the Nazis took no chances. When the publishing firm of Ruetten & Loening was negotiating with J. R. R. Tolkien over a German translation of The Hobbit in 1938, they demanded that Tolkien provide written assurance that he was an Aryan. Tolkien chastised the publishers for “impertinent and irrelevant inquiries,” and—ever the professor of philology— lectured them on the proper meaning of the term: “As far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects.” As to being Jewish, Tolkien regretted that “I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”

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5 years 6 months ago

Interesting blog you got here but I can’t seem to find the RSS button.

One Christian's perspective
5 years 6 months ago

In researching and reading the entire article ‘Why There is No Jewish Narnia”, I found the following to be the key to my understanding of the article: “Judaism is far more skittish about acknowledging the existence of powers acting apart from God, even in rebellion – which leaves a lot less room for magic”- Michael Weingrad. Ori in his March 6th published comment alludes to the “here and now” of Jewish fiction as being the safer position than the place of high fantasy. Yet, isn’t seeking “the here and now” or “high fantasy”, the opposite ends of the same path, of man created comfort zones that avoid the journey of faith which often involves a test or furnace of affliction that refines and draws one fully into God’s plan and purpose as an active participant for our greater good and Gods Glory ?

5 years 6 months ago

At least now I have some insight as to why, when I read fiction, I most resonate to realistic fiction, fiction that does not run away from the suffering that is so much part of life. The realistic, dark novels of the Victorian, Thomas Hardy, are my favorite novels. The Shakespeare plays that most resonate with me are his tragedies, particularly Othello, and, oddly enough, the very bloody Titus Andronicus. I regard Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice to be a tragedy, too, but I do not want to get sidetracked here.

I also recall reading somewhere that Jewish fiction is characterized by a virtual obsession with goodness and morality. That is one obsession worth being obsessed about. When I read fiction or any book, my purpose is to become more aware of what life on this Earth is all about, not learn about some fantasy that somebody concocts in his own mind.

As for Marcus Lehmann, I read his book on Rabbi Akiva, and it is fantastic, a book I very highly recommend. But the book with the best stories of all, really are the ones in the Torah. G-d is a great storyteller.

5 years 6 months ago

> Tolkein also admitted to thinking of the Dwarves as the Jews of Middle-earth

The trouble with that is the orcs kept following the dwarfs arounds and taking away their fortress, for example the Mines of Moriah. Does that make the Orcs the Chrisians or the Muslims?

5 years 6 months ago

“Tolkien likened the Numenoreans to the Jews of ancient Israel in that they were monotheists with only one place of worship.

Tolkein also admitted to thinking of the Dwarves as the Jews of Middle-earth in that they were a wandering people, often alien in their present habitation but maintaining their language, which, while they kept it to themselves, colored the accents of the languages they adopted in their host communities.”

SOURCE: Chapter 3, page 44 of The Science of Middle Earth by Henry Gee