Nobel committee snubbed JRR Tolkien's storytelling

Illustration for article titled Nobel committee snubbed JRR Tolkiens storytelling

JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series is one of the most enduring works of literature, a linguistic masterwork that helped spawned the high fantasy genre. But, Tolkien's attention to language and worldbuilding didn't win him fans with the 1961 Nobel jury, which passed him over for the big prize.

According to recently unsealed Nobel records, none other than fellow fantasist CS Lewis nominated Tolkien for the Nobel Prize in Literature. However, the committee gave Tolkien's popular trilogy the thumbs down:

The Nobel prize jury said "the result has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality".


Actually, the word in the original Swedish is diktning, which the online dictionaries tells me means "poetry." If someone who speaks Swedish could tell me the precise nuances of diktning, I would be quite grateful.

The Nobel committee awarded that year's prize to Yugoslav writer Ivo Andrić. British writer Graham Greene was that year's runner up.

So, was Tolkien robbed? Or are there qualities of his diktning that might make him less than worthy for the high honor?

Update 1/8/12: Swedish reader Johann offers some quick theories on the meaning of diktning in this context and why the Nobel jury might have been less than impressed with Tolkien's works:

Anyway, if you haven't already got any explanation about the use of the word "diktning" in the Nobel commities rejection of Tolkien as a prize winner, I'd say that in the context it is used, it simply refers to the written language, the prose, and doesn't have any direct relation to actual poetry.

If they happened to have been lazy and read the swedish translation of the lord of the rings I can certainly see how they came to that conclusion, because that translation must be one of the worst ever. One of the more famous translations, here translated back to english by me, read "And the fairies bellowed the land". I assume the original line was "And the elves roamed the land" or something familiar.


JRR Tolkien snubbed by 1961 Nobel jury, papers reveal [BBC via reddit]

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Allow me to put on my flame-proof suit here....

I don't think he was worthy of the honor. Tolkien created a lot of cool stuff, but his writing was... so-so. As well, the structure of the story is very tedious. Let me put it this way: when the movie version came out, few missed Tom Bombadil or the Scouring Of The Shire.