Have you ever heard somebody accuse Tolkien of being racist or anti-semitic? Maybe you’ve even heard someone claim that Tolkien was a Nazi-sympathizer?
Is there any truth to these claims? Are Tolkien’s works some kind of trojan horse for abhorrent and despicable ideas about race? NOT A CHANCE!
In my latest video, we take a close look at the truth about Tolkien’s attitude towards the Nazis and their racist and anti-semitic ideas!
Check it out!
If you enjoy this video, you should also check out the podcast episode we did on this topic:
If you’re a Tolkien-lover like me, it pains you to hear people claim or imply that Tolkien was some kind of racist or bigot. But the good news is these claims are all baseless, and actually contradict several things that Tolkien wrote.
In this video, I’m going to show you, in Tolkien’s own words, that he was actually an avowed enemy of the Nazis before most others were.
THE HOBBIT & NAZI GERMANY
In 1938, less than a year after the publication of The Hobbit and only a year before the start of World War II, Tolkien’s publisher was contacted by a German publishing house with interest in publishing his works in Nazi Germany.
However, due to the Nazi racial laws, the German publisher had to determine whether or not Tolkien was of “Aryan” origin.
It’s important to understand that this was before the start of World War II, and that Nazi Germany was a properous and growing economy. It seems that Tolkien had the opportunity to use his German roots for financial gain in this case.
However, instead of taking the easy road and merely confirming his lack of Jewish ancestry, Tolkien expressed deep admiration for the Jewish people:
“But if I am correct in understanding that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.”
This was an unmistakable poke in the eye to the Nazi racial policies of the time.
Futhermore, Tolkien dared to put his disdain in writing, gambling not only with his financial and literary success, but also perhaps his own future physical safety.
After all, by 1938, it was clear that the Nazis were hell-bent on conquest, and war was starting to seem inevitable.
This one letter should be enough to remove all doubt that Tolkien had any sympathy for anti-semitic or racialist ideology, but there is more evidence to demonstrate Tolkien’s utter disdain for the Nazis.
ON FAIRY-STORIES VS THE FUHRER
In his classic essay On Fairy-Stories, originally delivered in 1939 just before the start of the war, Tolkien makes a disparaging reference to Hitler’s Reich, arguing that anyone should want to escape from it.
“Just so a Party-spokesman might have labelled departure from the misery of the Fuhrer’s and any other Reich and even criticism of it as treachery.”
Tolkien goes out of his way to take a jab at Hitler and the Nazi Reich. Given the timing of this essay, it is clear that Tolkien was doubling down on his anti-Nazi views.
Indeed, this was just months before Germany was to invade Poland, and less than a year after Germany’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Open war was on the horizon, but Tolkien wasn’t checking his contempt for the Nazis.
HITLER AN IGNORMAUS
In 1941, with World War II fully underway, and the invasion of the British Isles by Germany seemingly imminent, Tolkien once again committed his opinion of Hitler to writing in a letter to his son Michael.
“I have in this War a burning private grudge . . . against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler . . . . Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.”
Here, Tolkien goes ever further to the root of his hatred for the Nazis, who had twisted aspects of northern European history and culture to suit their evil ideology.
Furthermore, he openly insults Hitler, who in June of 1941, seemed to be on the road to ruling all of Europe, and perhaps beyond, with an iron fist.
We must remember that Tolkien was not a very political or ideological person. He was far more prone to spend hours talking about ancient languages and literature than the current events of his day. Therefore, the existence of these examples show that Tolkien such a revulsion toward the Nazis that he felt compelled to speak out against them clearly.
In the end, it turns out that Tolkien was anything BUT a Nazi-sympathizer.
In fact, he was more like a real-life Indiana Jones, a university professor striving to rescue ancient truths and artifacts FROM the Nazis in order to prevent them from being distorted and abused for evil purposes.
Thanks for watching this video. I hope you’ll share this widely, especially wherever you might see Tolkien accused of anti-semitism or racism.SHOW LESS