Why Tolkien is Crap

Yes, you heard me…crap!

 John Ronald Reuel Tolkien – purveyor of elves, goblins, and those irritating trichopods he called hobbits – became a publishing phenomenon in the middle of the C20, when he might more usefully have devoted himself to the study of extinct languages.

 The Lord of the Rings is frequently held up as a shining example of a brilliantly conceived ‘world’ complete with its own history and mythology. Well how brilliantly conceived was it really?

 People often debate as to exactly when Tolkien’s world was set (comparative to our own history). The general rustic flavour, the Shire Reckoning, the technology, the currency and various other tropes and themes all point to a milieu akin to the High Middle Ages, but he completely dispels that sense by flooding the narrative with anachronisms. For example, the regular use of a post office by all hobbits, the social mobility (Sam going from gardener to gentleman within two years), but worst of all – the reference to an express train in Chapter 1!

       “The dragon passed like an express train, turned a somersault and burst over Bywater with a deafening explosion.”

 We are asked to believe that a culture which had developed gunpowder for fireworks, but not for weaponry (there are no guns or cannon in the text), still knew enough about heavy industry to reference express trains! Granted, this might have been some kind of fantastical express train conceived by the pyrotechnical magic of Gandalf, however the magic in The Lord of the Rings generally suffers by being quite unrealistic.  

 But if the ‘world’ he cobbled together is a blatantly unconvincing patchwork of tropes and anachronisms, it is at least far superior to the internal logic of the plot.

 Frodo (the alpha trichopod) makes it all the way to the Cracks of Doom to chuck the ring into the fire but then is too spent to save himself. His great victory, sadly, must be of the Pyrrhic variety because the destruction of the ring, when he and Sam are at hand, surely means their own destruction.

 But JRR is not to be thwarted, instead of permitting his heroes to die horribly in molten lava, as they should have, he introduces a deux ex machina in the form of Gwaihir the Windlord who flies in to pluck them from certain death. Which rather begs the question: why didn’t they give the ring to Gwaihir in the first place? Or at least get him to fly Frodo to the Cracks of Doom?

 Some of you will say: because the Nazgul would have prevented such an obvious and unsubtle approach. But they couldn’t, I respond. Gwaihir himself boasts that he can outfly the Nazgul, so basically, the chapter after the Council of Elrond should have been called The Ring Flies South and the whole thing could have ended 500 pages earlier and without so many people being killed, or maimed, or forced to read all that drivelling hobbit banter.

 It really is a mystery to me how so many millions of readers have been blind to these fatal flaws of logic and craft and contributed to the Tolkien phenomenon by buying and reading and talking about his work.

 I myself have bought the LOTR at least five times and read it nearly 60 times…just to make sure it was as crap as I thought the first time.


Do you agree that Tolkien is crap and that The Lord of the Rings is the worst book ever written? Which other books ought to be slagged off by The Book Hammer?