Why Tolkien Got Snubbed for the Nobel Prize


For most fantasy fans (including us!), it doesn’t get much better than the Tolkien canon. But the members of the jury for the 1961 Nobel Prize in literature? Apparently not so into Middle Earth. As ArtsBeat reports, according to some recently disclosed papers, when CS Lewis attempted to nominate his close pal and fellow Oxford faculty member for the prize, he was immediately shut down by the powers that be.

Why so? In short, the committee believed that Tolkien’s vast output had not “in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality,” and Yugoslavian writer Ivo Andrić took home that year’s prize to instead. Perhaps Tolkien — who received surprisingly few awards during his lifetime — took comfort in the fact that he wasn’t the only famed name to be so harshly dismissed by the the jury that year; literary heavyweights Robert Frost and E. M. Forster were ruled out of the running “because of their advanced years.” We’re curious: Do you think his odds would have been any better if he’d been publishing his work today?