C.S. Lewis Nominated J.R.R. Tolkien for Nobel Prize

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C.S. Lewis nominated fellow scholar, author, and friend J.R.R. Tolkien for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961. Other nominees that year included poet Robert Frost, and author E.M. Forster. The winner that year was writer Ivo Andrić.

Nobel nominees and the reasons they were not awarded the prize are not disclosed until 50 years later. Andreas Ekström, a Swedish journalist, was the first to publicize the fact that Tolkien was nominated.

Although Tolkien’s works are often highly praised and continue to be a part of popular culture (you may have heard of an extremely expensive adaptation in the works by Amazon), there are still some who just plain don’t like his writings. Apparently the committee was in the latter camp. Anders Österling, one of the members, said that The Lord of the Rings “has not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality.”

11 Responses

  1. Reepicheep775 says:

    “has not *in any way* measured up to storytelling of the highest quality.” *emphasis mine*

    That’s a little harsh, isn’t it? I understand that Tolkien isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and I’ve always said that, though I love them, his books aren’t page turners. However, I think you have to acknowledge that his unprecedented crafting of an entire world, complete with countries, customs, history, languages, geography, mythology etc. was a monumental achievement. Surely that, at the very least, measures up?

    • Lord Argoz says:

      You’re absolutely right.
      Not to be overly harsh but… that quote is absurd.
      I wonder if Tolkien ever found out that Lewis nominated him?

    • Col Klink says:

      Yeah, the Nobel committee must not have been big on tact. LOL.

    • Keeper of Lantern Waste says:

      Hmmm… I’m not even a giant Tolkien fan but considering that Osterling is also an author, I think he may have been scorning LOTR for the same reason as Pullman, namely jealousy

      • Reepicheep775 says:

        I do know that fantastical fiction was very out of fashion when Lewis and Tolkien were writing, so my guess is that had something to do with it. It’s similar to how nowadays genre movies typically don’t get nominated for Oscars outside of technical achievements like visual effects. Christopher Nolan only got nominated for best director after making a grounded WWII movie.

    • Larry W. says:

      Anders Osterling seems much too critical of Tolkien. He should have been more tolerant and accepting of literature that he didn’t like. Although Tolkien’s books are slow paced compared to C. S. Lewis, they are good quality writing. I don’t see how anyone who likes fantasy could completely dislike The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.

  2. Cool to know. I had no idea!

  3. Mrs. Beaver says:

    Other interesting trivia, in the name of unabashed nerdiness: Alfred Nobel patented dynamite. Some have said that he established the Nobel Prizes as a way to have folks remember his name as someone other than “the merchant of death.”

  4. Cleander says:

    And for one fleeting instant I thought this was an April Fool’s headline…
    This just makes me a little madder about Tolkien’s abuse of Narnia after Lewis’s outspoken praise of his work. He was entitled to his opinion, of course, but his criticism seemed a bit harsher than was called for.
    (But not even Tolkien deserves the criticism this Osterling fellow leveled at his work. Sheesh.)

  5. Andy Harrelson says:

    Yea…. That last bit didn’t age well

  6. Col Klink says:

    I’m not Swedish, so I’ve never read any of Anders Osterling’s books. Can anyone tell me about them?