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505 comments

Tolkien's prose (4, Insightful)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643058)

I can understand that criticism, actually. As the story progresses beyond the hobbit-focused beginning and begins to link with the Silmarillion, the style of writing and characterization becomes more archaic, in the vein of the kind of ancient heroic epics that Tolkien studied, like Beowulf. There's also an enormous focus on the description of landscapes, which can become repetitive, and the constant unexplained references in foreign languages can feel wearisome and arbitrary if you're not already familiar with any of it.

The Silmarillion was written as a mythological history for England, starting with the fall of Númenor, analogous to the myth of Atlantis, and growing from there as Tolkien kept adding to it. The Hobbit, however, was an unrelated story that was later linked to the existing mythology, and if I had to decide, I'd say I'm a bigger fan of the Hobbit because of its lighter tone and sense of adventure. It feels more fun and relatable to me. Lord of the Rings is a long, dense epic that I always plan to read "sometime" but never get around to because it's practically a quest itself just to read the damn thing.

Re:Tolkien's prose (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643104)

Part of the problem is that JRR Tolkien used probably the least efficient method of writing ever devised. He would start writing until he hit a brick wall and then he would start over from scratch. It's not necessarily wrong to do it like that, but it does take a lot longer than doing it the more standard way.

That being said, he did write more than just the LOTR trilogy and in recent times we've had much stronger writers being passed over for what will almost certainly be even more trivial crimes against literature.

Re:Tolkien's prose (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643132)

When the commenters with interesting but unpopular opinions are modded down, you know that slashdot is dead.

Re:Tolkien's prose (5, Insightful)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643578)

And yet strangely enough, the post you reply to is at 5, Insightful

That, despite mostly being a discussion of writing that was not available for the Nobel Committee to consider in 1961 since The Silmarillion was not published until 1977, well after Tolkien's death in 1973. And despite the poster admitting that he had not read the books that were published and available for the committee to judge at the time JRR was nominated for the Nobel.

So, I would say instead that when a commentator that has not read the relevant books and talks instead about material that was not yet published is modded as insightful, then you know that slashdot is dead.

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643710)

Mod parent down: "The truth hurts!"

Re:Tolkien's prose (2, Insightful)

TheRealGrogan (1660825) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643192)

I have always found Tolkien's books hard to read. (Not enjoyable reading)

The only one I have actually finished was The Hobbit, as it was a relatively short one and seemed a bit lighter than the others. Others I have started but never completed.

That's when I was younger though, maybe I should try those books again now that I'm a middle aged geezer.

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643298)

I have always found Tolkien's books hard to read. (Not enjoyable reading)

The only one I have actually finished was The Hobbit, as it was a relatively short one and seemed a bit lighter than the others. Others I have started but never completed.

That's when I was younger though, maybe I should try those books again now that I'm a middle aged geezer.

I highly recommend it. As a teenager, I managed to get through "The Fellowship of The Ring" and about a third of "The Two Towers" before I gave up. Starting from scratch in my mid-thirties, I was able to wade through the dense prose and finished all three books. It was a trek, but (IMHO) well worth it.>/p>

Re:Tolkien's prose (3, Insightful)

SlippyToad (240532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643366)

Guys, I read the whole trilogy at age 9. Then again at 10. 11. 12. I read it once a year for a decade, more or less.

It's really a good book. I've read thousands. Very few works of literature compare to it at all. Depth, intensity . . . it's some gerat stuff.

Re:Tolkien's prose (2, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643470)

I thought it was really boring. Then I saw the films. They were boring too. I can't separate them in my mind now - it just seemed like 10 hours of walking through fields..hills...ooh, there's a bad guy - run away/fight...go into the woods..speak to fairies...walk for a few more days...another fights..more woods...more fairies....another fight. Read bullshit good vs evil crap too, a little light star wars.

Not awarding the author one of the most prestigious awards in literature seems pretty justified to me.

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643606)

Other way round for me. I read them when I was about 15... read all three in a row and loved them.

I read them again about 10 years later and was less impressed. I still enjoyed the epic nature of it and the mythology - but it all seemed much less interesting. The characters in it didn't display the depth that I'd learned from real life in the previous 10 years (with one exception - see below). I read it again about 7 years after that - and it was the same progression. Still enjoyed the story and the adventure... but the people seemed even flatter and colourless.

The exception is Gollum. In each subsequent read as I got older, he got more and more poignant and tragic.

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643344)

Honestly, that was my impression as well.
There was a lot going on and the plot wasn't as well constructed as some other series were. In many ways it probably would have worked better if it had been split into more books with less going on at any given time. Granted it was a different audience, but I found the Chronicles of Narnia to be significantly easier to follow due in large part the planning that went into writing them and not trying to do too much in any one book

Personally, I loved the Hobbit, but there was a lot less lore and a lot less going on at any given time and it was structured in a way that was much easier to follow.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643846)

Um... it is split into more than three books. There are books within the "books".

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643900)

I guess he lost me before that point. I honestly did try to read it, but I got so bored with the plot that wasn't going anywhere that I gave up.

Re:Tolkien's prose (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643426)

I've found after reading a lot of ancient Greek and Roman authors that his prose style starts to make a lot more sense. As the OP said, he really wrote more in the style of the ancient epic writers, which makes it a bit... dry, I suppose, at times. The Silmarillion shows this quite strongly, as it basically was a Greek-style mythic tale, while on the other side the Hobbit was basically a kids book. I wouldn't call Tolkien's writing "low quality", exactly, it just doesn't have the kind of flow you expect from a novel.

C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, has amazingly easy to read prose, but none of his works have nearly the epicness of Tolkien's. A trade-off, I suppose.

Re:Tolkien's prose (2)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643480)

Melville's Moby-Dick was like that too...the last I remember of that book was the detail in which he described the Tavern in the first several pages. The book didn't even sell out the first printing.

Now, that book is "hailed as one of the literary masterpieces of both American and world literature"

But then, he didn't get a Nobel Prize either.

Crap! Does that mean Lady Gaga will be considered a musical genius in a few hundred years?

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643832)

Crap! Does that mean Lady Gaga will be considered a musical genius in a few hundred years?

No, just a marketing genius.

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643868)

Good God yes, it's a wonder I ever got through that book at all, and it took 6-7 attempts over 10 years.

Something like the first 1/4 of the book is filled with the stuff he did before signing on with the Pequod. Interesting for maybe 10 pages. The next 2/3 is basically a manual about whales (with strange 19th ideas about them), how to hunt them, and why America is so much more awesomer at hunting them then anyone else dammit. Almost 0 plot development. Moby Dick is met causes hell in the span of 10 pages. The end.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643586)

I have always found Tolkien's books hard to read. (Not enjoyable reading)

The only one I have actually finished was The Hobbit, as it was a relatively short one and seemed a bit lighter than the others. Others I have started but never completed.

That's when I was younger though, maybe I should try those books again now that I'm a middle aged geezer.

Thank you for that...I thought I was all alone!

Maybe we should start a support group: "Middle-aged nerds who have never read LOTR"?

I'm told it gets better about halfway through the Two Towers, but I have never been able to make myself get that far. I really don't know why, I am a rather voracious consumer of sci-fi and fantasy from many, many other authors...and I simply adored The Hobbit, first read it in fourth grade and I re-read it about every five years or so. It's odd, and I always feel a little bit ashamed when it comes up in conversation. It's feels a bit like admitting you're a sci-fi fan who has never seen Star Trek...the original, of course.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643694)

I get a kick out of all kinds of writers and works that others consider dry or painful to read--Faulkner, Forster, Hemingway, James, Butler, and various non-fiction that many might consider painfully dull (the ancient historians like Herodotus--though that may be better classed as fiction--,a whole bunch of books by and/or about philosophers, E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics, etc). I do enjoy fantasy, though. The point being:

I was unable to finish Fellowship. I got to somewhere under 100 pages from the end, realized that I'd only enjoyed maybe 50 pages of what I'd already read, and quit. I'd class it as among the most awful reading experiences I've had. Given its popularity I must just be missing something, but despite my toleration (and even taste) for some pretty damn dry stuff, I couldn't stand it.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643764)

I think I found them easier to read when I was younger. Maybe I was more easily entertained then.

Re:Tolkien's prose (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643824)

I have always found Tolkien's books hard to read. (Not enjoyable reading)

The only one I have actually finished was The Hobbit, as it was a relatively short one and seemed a bit lighter than the others. Others I have started but never completed.

That's when I was younger though, maybe I should try those books again now that I'm a middle aged geezer.

I re-read LoTR ~10 years after the first reading, and found it *incredibly* boring.

Ditto with The Mote in God's Eye, which kept me on the edge of my seat the first time through.

I suspect that the reason is that on first reading I was focused on where the story was going, to the near exclusion of everything else. But if you know where the story's going, there has to be good prose, atmosphere, characterization, dialogue... something to keep your interest up.

I can read Jack Vance's whimsical stories again and again and again, because the plot line isn't the whole of it.

Re:Tolkien's prose (5, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643244)

Agreed.

Tolkien's strengths were never in the quality of his writing. (though it's still tons better than a lot of authors)

His strengths were always in his ability to build a world - to make a place and its inhabitants so memorable that they'd be remembered for ages. He succeeded greatly in that, and has likely influenced the fantasy genre more than everybody else combined.

Re:Tolkien's prose (3, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643776)

Kind of like H.P. Lovecraft, really. Imaginative world, writing is meh.

It's amusing that Tolkien was nominated by CS Lewis, another person whose religious commitments made his work far more shallow and one-dimensional than it could've been.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643826)

and has likely influenced the fantasy genre more than everybody else combined

He invented the genre, didn't he?

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643274)

I agree. While Tolkien's stories are detailed and entertaining, it's not "great literature" in the critical sense.

Re:Tolkien's prose (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643814)

Neither is the Nobel committee a "great committee". I mean, if it were up to them you would only read one book per year, and your library would have 104 books.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643332)

The Hobbit reads like a "normal" book. I read it as a kid and loved it.

The Lord of the Rings reads like a history textbook. I plodded through the first book, and maybe the second (can't remember for sure). I lost interest and didn't finish the trilogy.

His other works read like The Bible, and I couldn't get beyond a few pages here and there.

If you love the stories, and enjoy immersing yourself in the universe he created, you'll look past all that. Obsessive compulsive nerd types are prone to enjoy that sort of thing. But Tolkien is certainly not for anyone who just wants to sit down and read a book.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643364)

Lord of the Rings is a long, dense epic that I always plan to read "sometime" but never get around to because it's practically a quest itself just to read the damn thing.

Actually, I found that it is an amazing read. I read it first when my father gave me a copy, when I was around ten or twelve. I do however think that it will likely more appeal to quick readers, or readers who are really able to immerse themselves in a book. If I am reading, I find that I get totally inside a book. I can sit down and start, then look up and a few hours have gone by.

If you find that you are not enjoying it as there is too much description of landscapes and it bores you, I can only suggest trying to let your mind wander into these things. Don't focus on the reading, focus on what you are reading.

I once had to sit and write pages from a book during detention at school, and I found myself copying text from a story that I was reading at the time. What was amazing, was that in that hour and a half, I probably only got through a small number of pages, but the feeling was amazing. As I was bored, I utterly immersed myself in what I was copying and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of "reading" that I ever had. If I had the time, I would happily get through a copy of LoTR or the like and write it out word for word, letting it wash over me and being utterly inside the story as it unfolds. Sometimes, slower is better, it frees up more of your mind to dream out the content rather than racing ahead and trying to get to the "next interesting bit"...

Re:Tolkien's prose (5, Insightful)

DanDD (1857066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643380)

I find it disturbing that you critique LOTR the way you have, yet admit you've not read them. My 10 year old children have read and loved both the Hobbit and LOTR.

Tolkien's prose does assume a higher level of reading comprehension than is common today, this is very clear. Compare any Tolkien to JK Rowling. She tells nice stories, but with such stark simplicity that I find them painfully droll.

Re:Tolkien's prose (2)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643502)

I find it disturbing that you critique LOTR the way you have, yet admit you've not read them.

I have read them. What I meant is that I always plan to read it again but never get through it, mostly due to time. I don't think it's there's really that much of a comprehension requirement in the writing--it's just dense, often stoic, and filled with terrain descriptions that can make it relatively unapproachable when it comes to casual reading.

Actor Christopher Lee apparently reads it every year. Jesus.

Re:Tolkien's prose (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643434)

The Silmarillion was written as a mythological history for England

Have you ever stopped to think how weird it would be if Tolkien had tried to pull a L Ron Hubbard Scientology move and turn the LOTR into a "real religion"?

I stopped to think about it, and it was weird, let me tell you.

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643920)

The Silmarillion was written as a mythological history for England

Have you ever stopped to think how weird it would be if Tolkien had tried to pull a L Ron Hubbard Scientology move and turn the LOTR into a "real religion"?

And call it Fantasology?

FWIW, I *really* like the Silmarillion's creation myth. And it does a superb job of working in memes such as Atlantis, The Seven Dwarves, etc.

OTOH, it gets a bit confusing because he re-uses some of the basic ideas repeatedly.

Re:Tolkien's prose (3, Insightful)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643442)

And there is zero sense of humor in the whole thing. Like if it was written by an accountant.

Re:Tolkien's prose (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643548)

The one time Tolkien tried to be light hearted during LOTR gave us Tom Bombadil. I'm quite glad he only tried it the once (and frankly, he should have self-edited Tom out at the start).

Re:Tolkien's prose (3, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643608)

Yes, it makes sense. The derogatory term "Wardour Street English" might almost have been invented for Tolkien (Wardour Street in London used to be mainly shops selling fake antiques, and so the term "Wardour Street English" is used -- or used to be used -- to describe the fake-archaic style that Tolkien and countless Tolkien wannabies affect).

Re:Tolkien's prose (1)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643648)

I agree with you, although I would say that much of what you describe suggests a failure of editing than of good prose. The editor should have tossed out entire passages for sure.

The secret to reading LOTR... (4, Informative)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643654)

...is to skip over all the songs. Read that once on a blog somewhere, and I'd say it's good advice. I've read the series two or three times, and just pretending the damn songs weren't even there would have enhanced the experience.

I can believe that (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643090)

As someone who's never managed to get more than a few chapters into the Lord of the Rings books, I can see why they wouldn't want to give him a prize. It's a good story, but there are only so many thirty-page digressions on Elvish folk dancing that I can stand before my brain turns to mush.

Re:I can believe that (5, Insightful)

cidersylph (2549274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643172)

Tolkien had a lot of beautiful imagery and ideas, and that invited the reader to make up their own fascinating thoughts of what the world looked like, simply because the prose was really difficult to read. As a trilogy that forces the reader to envision Middle Earth in their mind, it succeeds brilliantly beyond the bad prose.

Re:I can believe that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643484)

that invited the reader to make up their own fascinating thoughts of what the world looked like, simply because the prose was really difficult to read

I'm not quite sure I get that. It's like suggesting that a movie encouraged the viewer to make up their own fascinating thoughts of what the world looked like because the camera work was really out of focus and difficult to see.

I get the idea of leaving gaps to let the viewer imagine the world as they want it with only the storyline dictated by the book, but that wasn't really LoTR's problem. Like 0123456 said, it was the massive digressions into things which really didn't need to be described in that sort of excruciating detail.

All credit to him for creating a world with such exquisite and in-depth detail, it must have taken a massive effort to keep all of that consistent and related, but I was looking for a story, not a fictional encyclopaedia in narrative form.

Re:I can believe that (3, Insightful)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643766)

Tolkien had a lot of beautiful imagery and ideas, and that invited the reader to make up their own fascinating thoughts of what the world looked like, simply because the prose was really difficult to read. As a trilogy that forces the reader to envision Middle Earth in their mind, it succeeds brilliantly beyond the bad prose.

Huh? Sorry, but after the third exquisite description of a cloud, his beautiful imagery made me learn how to scan paragraphs to skip to extraneous bits. Kind of like porn in a way. The first thrust is arousing to watch. The second through tenth are titillating. The eleventh through ninetieth are increasingly routine. Eventually you may find yourself desperately bored, hoping the actors change position or fall in a vat of boiling lead, or something interesting.

Re:I can believe that (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643422)

in LOTR Whenever someone broke out in dance, i just parsed through text until i saw dialogue without interpretive dance.

I liked the story a lot, but it was just painful to read the books , i hated his writing style.

Re:I can believe that (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643494)

After the first movie my parents got me the books for Christmas. I was 12 at the time and I'm actually pretty proud of the fact that I made it just past Tom Bombadil.

Re:I can believe that (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643662)

I actually thought that part was kind of cool, the way the forest subtly steered the hobbits toward Old Man Willow. Bombadil was easier to swallow when I viewed him as some sort of divine enigma or weird forest spirit. Where I start to run out of steam is in the Two Towers, when humans begin to dominate the story.

Re:I can believe that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643808)

I know what you mean. I am... so delighted to find I'm not the only person who felt this way about his prose. It's like coming out of the closet all over again.

Re:I can believe that (1)

Rufus Firefly (2379458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643852)

The key to reading Lord of the Rings, precious, is that everytime one of those God damned hobbits breaks into song or verse, is to skip it. (And also skip the part where they hang out with the creep in the Forest)

Tolkien appeals to nerds... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643096)

...because his storylines fit in with the sort of thing nerds stereotypically like. And he really did write compelling stories.

But his prose, as the archives note, is not that great. He doesn't display a technical mastery of the language.

I see no problem with this judgment.

Re:Tolkien appeals to nerds... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643248)

DIDNT DISPLAY TECHNICAL MASTERY?????

The man was not just a writer but the Don of English at Oxford, in other words he was THE authority on how the language worked, its history and how words are used. And in LOTR, it showed, not just in English but in the other languages he invented. The Nobel judges were rank amateur hacks in comparision

Re:Tolkien appeals to nerds... (5, Insightful)

digitig (1056110) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643704)

DIDNT DISPLAY TECHNICAL MASTERY?????

The man was not just a writer but the Don of English at Oxford, in other words he was THE authority on how the language worked, its history and how words are used. And in LOTR, it showed, not just in English but in the other languages he invented. The Nobel judges were rank amateur hacks in comparision

There's a huge difference between being able to do detailed analysis as a theorist and produce academic monographs and being able to write good prose fiction. In fact, they tend to be mutually exclusive.

Re:Tolkien appeals to nerds... (2)

bonch (38532) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643748)

He was a historical linguist. That doesn't necessarily make him good at accessible writing, just like someone who studies music theory doesn't necessarily write popular music.

Re:Tolkien appeals to nerds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643762)

There is a difference between a linguist and an author. Tolkien was a linguist, he was a master of language itself, its origins, and how languages are built. He was not a master storyteller or a master of how to use words efficiently.

Tolkien's strength was the complexity and originality of the world he made. Even member's of Tolkien's own literary club criticized him harshly for his diversions into irrelevant (to the story) cultural descriptions, song, dance, landscape, etc.. Nevermind that the story itself is structured poorly from a storytelling perspective in numerous places.

Re:Tolkien appeals to nerds... (1)

J. T. MacLeod (111094) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643416)

There is a saying, "You have to know the rules to break them."

It was always clear to me that Tolkein did both.

I disagree, but (4, Funny)

assertation (1255714) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643114)

I disagree, but 50 years ago, by the standard of those times, the quality of prose was probably lower.

Re:I disagree, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643342)

I disagree, but 50 years ago, by the standard of those times, the quality of prose was probably lower.

I would consider the opposite to be true.

Agreed (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643126)

He is the dictionary definition of "purple prose". Pages upon pages of superflouous descriptions of every blade of grass in the Shire.

His poetry is even worse.

The books can be really hard to read in places, though the underlying story is compelling. If you can't see this, you aren't being honest.

A great storyteller, and a great author, aren't always the same thing.

Not surprised (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643202)

I always found Tolkein's prose to be dry and tedious. I never managed to finish one of his books and I am a voracious reader.

I can understand that criticism (4, Insightful)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643236)

It was never the quality of his prose that made him so renowned, rather it was the quality, depth and originality of his stories. I remember fighting through those books 20 odd years ago, if it wasn't for such an engaging story line I would have never gotten through even the first one.

Meh. (3, Insightful)

joshamania (32599) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643246)

Meh. I think we know who had the last laugh there.

Re:Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643542)

Certainly not Tolkien...

Re:Meh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643784)

Ivo Andri?

I believe Nobel prize is of low quality.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643338)

IMHO Nobel prize in literature is of low quality...

Come on, Dario Fo ? Doris Lessing? Elfriede Jelinek ? Jose Saramango ? and many others...

Nobel Prize in literature is mainly 'crystal tower' thing - no one reads them, no one cares.

On the other hand Tolkien changed imagination of billions - inspired books, movies, games....

Re:I believe Nobel prize is of low quality.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643730)

Not too many names on there that come to mind as providing great reading. Marquez is probably the most accessible, in my opinion. I can't really comment on any of the authors whose works have not been translated to English.

Why the age discrimination? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643340)

I agree with the other posters here. His prose is not his strength, and the judgement seems reasonable.

From the article they mention a couple of people who were denied the award due to their advanced age. That seems less than appropriate for an award that looks at a writers whole body of work. I do not understand why the person's age merits any consideration for the Nobel.

Low quality plot too (1, Troll)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643398)

Tolkien's prose was viewed as low quality.

Low quality plot too. Remember the eagles? Have them grab the ring and drop it into the volcano. Ta Da all done. Shrinks the trilogy down to about three pages.

I liked the series, but as a ultra loquacious fantasy version of Herodotus Histories or The Odyssey its not really all that great. The originals were better.

Re:Low quality plot too (4, Insightful)

F.Ultra (1673484) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643530)

And you always loose at Risk or Chess? Have you ever thought what a winged beast would do to your precious eagles, or what Sauron himself would do? There's a reason Tolken let a Hobbit sneak the ring into Mordor.

Re:Low quality plot too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643646)

Yeah, within the context of the world itself, trying to fly the ring in on an eagle would have been a stupid risk. People who bring that up as a criticism haven't thought it through, in my opinion. Sauron would have seen them coming miles away and been able to focus all of his attention in one area.

As for the prose, it has strengths and weaknesses. In some places, the archaic speech and flowery writing works; in other places the speech makes the characters a bit wooden.

Re:Low quality plot too (1)

LostOne (51301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643714)

Presumably, the eagles would be as susceptible to the ring's corrupting influence as the races of men. There was a fairly big deal made of its corrupting influence, after all. Consider that even Frodo failed to destroy the ring in the end. It was only destroyed due to the happenstance of Gollum being there. Besides, what's to think that the eagles would have stood any better chance getting past Mordor's defenses. That is one thing that we don't get a 50 page digression to describe in excruciating detail - we only learn about the defenses that are relevant to Sam, Frodo, and the attacking army.

That's not to say that the plot doesn't have holes, but that is not necessarily one of them.

Re:Low quality plot too (1)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643856)

Low quality plot too. Remember the eagles? Have them grab the ring and drop it into the volcano. Ta Da all done.

If by "all done" you mean "eagle's little bird mind is corrupted by the influence of the ring and it brings it directly to Sauron" then yeah, that'd be a pretty short tale.

After all, it's only the most desirable thing in the universe... [angryflower.com]

It was going to be a long epic (0)

Jay Maynard (54798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643400)

The Harvard Lampoon said everything that needs saying about the Ring trilogy in _Bored of the Rings_...

Overrated garbage (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643406)

The LOTR and the Hobbit is such overrated pieces of shit.

The fact that so many people worship Tolkien's work is just a further testament to utter lack of taste and ignorance of the masses.

Nobel (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643424)

Tolkien one of the best writers in fantasy gets denied... Obama gets one, for what 6 months as president. Am I just missing something?

Re:Nobel (1)

Dr. Hellno (1159307) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643778)

Well, for one thing, you're missing that the peace prize and the literature prize are awarded by entirely different bodies. The 18 members of the Swedish Academy award the literature prize, after nominations are made by a smaller committee. The separate Norwegian Nobel Committee, whose 5 members are appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, both nominates for and awards the peace prize.

Tom Bombadil (1)

Russ1642 (1087959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643462)

Only someone doped up on some serious drugs could come up with Tom Bombadil - the Jar Jar Binks of literature.

WHAT!!?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643696)

Come on, TomBom? Jar Jar? Jar could barely speak English, but Tom spouts forth such sweet lyrics:

Hey dol! merry dol! ring a dong dillo!
Ring a dong! hop along! fal lal the willow!
Tom Bom, jolly Tom, Tom Bombadillo!

Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!
Light goes the weather-wind and the feathered starling.
Down along under Hill, shining in the sunlight,
Waiting on the doorstep for the cold starlight,
There my pretty lady is, River-woman's daughter,
Slender as the willow-wand, clearer than the water.
Old Tom Bombadil water-lilies bringing
Comes hopping home again. Can you hear him singing?
Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! and merry-o,
Goldberry, Goldberry, merry yellow berry-o!
Poor old Willow-man, you tuck your roots away!
Tom's in a hurry now. Evening will follow day.
Tom's going home home again water-lilies bringing.
Hey! come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?

Hop along, my little friends, up the Withywindle!
Tom's going on ahead candles for to kindle.
Down west sinks the Sun: soon you will be groping.
When the night-shadows fall, then the door will open,
Out of the window-panes light will twinkle yellow.
Fear no alder black! Heed no hoary willow!
Fear neither root nor bough! Tom goes on before you.
Hey now! merry dol! We'll be waiting for you!

Hey! Come derry dol! Hop along, my hearties!
Hobbits! Ponies all! We are fond of parties.
Now let the fun begin! Let us sing together!

Pure, undiluted awesome. Hey, pass the lighter, mine's gone out.

Not all bad in prose and war (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643512)

As someone who was determined to get through his LOTR Trilogy (and subsequently The Hobbit and The Silmarillion), I can say that the assessment then was fair. His body of works is not easy to get through unless you are a fantasy geek. Which is fine, I wasn't but I can understand the geekdom obsession. He seemed to go to such lengths to pull in every fiber of the universe it isn't a wonder so many people have been inspired by his work...

But it is boring. Not boring if you're someone who's into long winded descriptions. Unfortunately, you'll have felt like you've walked every knoll between the Prancing Pony and Gladden Fields. The books generally come with at least a dictionary/translation guide/maps. So, I can understand the opinion. OTOH, knowing how to pronounce and know the meaning of ash nazg gimbatul is always worth some geek cred.

Read it many times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643540)

I read the hobbit in second class - and Couldnt quite finish the lord of the Rings until 5th class despite several attempts. By the Time I left high school I had read it over 50 times (I stopped counting at 50)
  I wrote my school notes in scripts devised by Tolkien - and still struggle through them occasionally - and think even now - there are no works that compare.

For those that find it hard going - they are right - like an umberto eco book - Tolkien didnt write for the lowest common denominator - and you often have to think hard to see the subtlety of the story or the point of the complexity. However - and this was my saving grace - unlike Umberto Eco where you need to know a lot of background knowledge to understand subplots etc and without that knowledge you may even miss entire layers in his books entirely (and it was by chance I discovered this in Eco books because I grew up in an odd religious community and knew stuff most people wouldnt know and recogonised that in the first book of his I read - focaults pendulum) - in tolkien - it just takes time.... and patience - to get through the layers.

However it is for those that want to think when they read. If you want something that requires no thought - Read E.E. Doc Smith or something. Great reading but ....

He didn't win - so what? (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643566)

Looking at all the writers who never won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I'd say Tolkien is in very good company.

Seems right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643594)

I very much enjoy Tolkien's work, including LOTR, The Hobbit and many of his short stories. He's a very inventive and interesting story teller. That being said, I do find his style of writing ... well, dry. And often either overly complex or overly simplified, depending on the story. So I can see why, if the judges were looking at the style of his work vs the over-all concepts presented then they might not be impressed.

No doubt Tolkien was a master of languages, and wove amazing tales, but that doesn't always translate into smooth reading material.

Yeah, so? (1)

heptapod (243146) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643630)

It's elves, dwarves and fucking wizards from a bedtime story for children.

Who is expecting Faulkner let alone G.K. Chesterton? Popularity and longevity is award enough for Tolkein.

reason for low quality prose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38643634)

He clearly spelt elf wrong.

I dont really disagree (1)

kelarius (947816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643660)

I completed the books when I was 10 and have read them probably 6 times since then, most recently when the movies came out. I'll be the first to tell you that when I was younger I would skip over vast swathes of the books just because they were incredibly dull, I had no desire to read about singing elves in Lothlorien or the triumphant march of the King through Ithilien for an entire chapter. While I enjoyed them if someone watches the movies and comes up to me and asks "Should I read the books", generally I ask them if they could stomach reading the entire Bible, if they say yes then I tell them to go ahead, otherwise I tell them not to bother and sorta fill in the blanks that the movies didn't cover.

Nobel prize for literature is irrelevant (4, Informative)

voss (52565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643684)

List of writers rejected by nobel committee
Leo Tolstoy, Henrik Ibsen, Émile Zola, Mark Twain, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, Salman Rushdie,
and last but not least Karel Capek.

Who is Karel Capek?

The author that coined the term Robot(Rossum Universal Robots) , his 1936 work "The war with the newts" was rejected for being too offensive to the German (nazi) government.

Re:Nobel prize for literature is irrelevant (3, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643874)

And let us never forget that sterling writer who snatched the Prize from Tolkien's grasp - Ivo Andric.

Yes, that Ivo Andric, that basically noone has ever heard of, 50 years after the fact....

Tolkien Transports (2)

codgur (1518013) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643740)

Without movie special effects, Tolkien used the best special effects machine ever produced. The Human mind. I have read these books numerous times during my pre-teen, teen years and into adulthood. The detail never ceased to amaze me as well as the images conjured in my head. He was a master!

Beowulf? (1)

k2p (2512666) | more than 2 years ago | (#38643812)

Tolkien did more than just write the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. He was a professor who emphasized the study of the epic. In fact it is due to a lecture he gave in I believe 1936 that brought Beowulf to the forefront of literary studies, which has had a lasting impact. He is also responsible for creating an entire fictional language (elvish) that is loosely based on Gaelic and Welsh, which he started working on when he was a child. The world building was only actually done to have a place for elvish to exist. That said, I do find LOTR a very difficult read due to the archaic forms he used, and I don't think its Noble Prize material, even if it did start the fantasy genre. Several of the characters are rather flat, with only Bilbo, Frodo, and Aragorn really being round characters.
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