J.R.R. Tolkien's 1938 Response To Nazis Demanding To Know If He Was Jewish Is A History Lesson In Sick Burns
Don't mess with J. R. R. Tolkien unless you want an earful.
In 1938, English author J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of the The Lord of the Rings series, was in talks with a Berlin publishing house about translating his recent success The Hobbit into German. Things seemed to be going well until the publisher sent Tolkien a request to prove his Aryan ancestry.
Tolkien, who hated the Nazi doctrine, wrote a letter of response letting the publisher know exactly how he felt. He also gave his British publisher, Stanley Unwin, another response that simply side-stepped the topic.
Tolkien let the publisher decide which to send.
Unwin did not disappoint, and this is the letter he sent.
"25 July 1938"
"20 Northmoor Road, Oxford"
"Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand 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. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject — which should be sufficient."
"I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride."
"Your enquiry is doubtless made in order to comply with the laws of your own country, but that this should be held to apply to the subjects of another state would be improper, even if it had (as it has not) any bearing whatsoever on the merits of my work or its sustainability for publication, of which you appear to have satisfied yourselves without reference to my Abstammung."
"I trust you will find this reply satisfactory, and remain yours faithfully,"
"J. R. R. Tolkien"
Twitter was loving some Tolkien shade.
When agents from Nazi Germany wished to translate The Hobbit into German, they sent a letter asking Tolkien to prov… https://t.co/WWBJ3rksdh— Elliott Blackwell (@Elliott Blackwell)1546530520.0
Tolkien also owned the Nazi censors in a letter when they wanted to know if he was "Aryan" before approving The Hob… https://t.co/JIILqEorMZ— Internet Cool Kid (@Internet Cool Kid)1500057756.0
TIL that J.R.R. Tolkien was an absolute badass. Here's a letter he sent to the Nazi's in 1938: http://t.co/lxUP3Pkm22— Scott @AGDQ (@Scott @AGDQ)1434166199.0
Amazing 'snub' letter written by Tolkien to a publisher in Nazi Germany. Eloquent and economical as ever.... http://t.co/P4GmF0YZrg— Chris Day (@Chris Day)1398838452.0
On this day in 1938, JRR Tolkien wrote a magnficent letter to a publishing house in Nazi Germany: http://t.co/cvXxVZM7CJ— Letters of Note (@Letters of Note)1374766977.0
Reading Tolkien's anti-nazi letter has made my day. http://t.co/LYndJsRy I wish I could tell people off so eloquently.— Mariah McCourt (@Mariah McCourt)1332011065.0
J.R.R. Tolkien Writes angry letter to Nazi Germany Letters of Note: I have no ancestors of that gifted people http://t.co/yRuiwQqD— NcOrtiz (@NcOrtiz)1331305760.0
Tolkien tells more or less German Nazi publisher 1938 "F*ck you ..." Letter 29 ----- From a letter to Stanley... http://t.co/4S1Sbdpcmz— (((No.1 Soran))) 🎗 (@(((No.1 Soran))) 🎗)1398960350.0
As if I didn't adore JRR Tolkien enough, here's his 1938 letter to a Nazi publisher.... http://t.co/cUMKdXx5— Sibella Giorello (@Sibella Giorello)1333654148.0
I knew I liked Tolkien! His 1938 letter to Nazi Germany: I have no ancestors of that gifted people http://t.co/YRiAjBiY via @AddThis— Tanesha (@Tanesha)1331310966.0
What's good, Nazis?