What J.R.R. Tolkien said to the Nazis when they asked if he was Jewish.

Via elephant journal
on Aug 18, 2011
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For more: “The Hobbit: 1 Reason why it must be Read, not just Watched.”
Bonus: Why Tolkein’s son hates Peter Jackson’s Hobbit & Lord of the Rings movies.

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.


Via Reddit: “In 1938, Tolkien was preparing to release The Hobbit in Germany. The publishers first wanted to know if he was of Aryan descent. This was his response.”



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29 Responses to “What J.R.R. Tolkien said to the Nazis when they asked if he was Jewish.”

  1. Always loved this man. Love him even more now. Thanks for sharing. Frodo Lives!

  2. Never heard this, so cool! He was not only a scholar of amazing intellect, a writer of monumental talent , with a compassionate, humanitarian heart but also was an avid defender of the environment! A rare gem of a Gentleman!
    thanks for the interesting post!

  3. Mads says:

    Tolkien brings so many happy memories to my childhood all inspired by his tales. His tales got me through some dark times in childhood. I am not surprised at his wise answer. He was such an amazing literate giant in his time… His stories have and will continue to reach many generations and stimulated many imaginations.

  4. Linda Lewis says:

    Perfect response to that irrelevant and idiotic question!

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  6. tim says:

    Fantastic bit, thanks for sharing!

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  8. @yheardme says:

    Spoken like the thoughtful devoted Catholic that he was.

  9. […] Religion News Blog. [↩] [↩]ISI Lecture Program. ISI. [↩] [↩] [↩]What J.R.R. Tolkien said to the Nazis when they asked if he was Jewish. Elephant Journal. [↩]Other interesting […]

  10. Jack says:

    He is Gandalf

  11. Jonathan Waller says:

    @heardme! is that an ironic statement?? Hope so as I see no reason for him being Catholic to be singled out for formulating his response.

  12. Matityahu says:

    It could probably be seen as a statement of organisational pride. Most people do enjoy hearing when someone from their own institution or affiliation says something so venerable. Also, since the Catholic Church promotes the kind of thinking Tolkien expressed (however rare it may be in the modern world), it is rather relevant to Tolkien's statements.

  13. Liss says:

    Your comment is sadly ironic in that you completely contradict what makes his comment, and his self, Great.

  14. Peter B says:

    Further evidence, if it were needed, that this was a man who understood more than most of us the nature of good and evil.

  15. Jonathan Waller says:

    Indeed, ideological superiority in response to a piece railing against ideological superiority!

  16. @BrianJLG says:

    Sadly, however, I doubt if you would find even one Jewish person who, if asked if they were Christian or gentile, would say something similar to, "I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people." Therein lies a deep-rooted racism (anti-gentilism).

  17. gmt says:

    You obviously do not know a variety of Jewish people. It is not difficult to find some who have made this kind of statement, and much more, including in Israel. And fortunately, whatever criticism one may have against Israeli policy, no people presenting itself as Jewish has ever perpetrated a Shoah on a Christian or another gentile people, either in scale or in essence. There are of course racists among Jews, there are racists among maybe every single people in Earth. But by ignoring the context, this comment verges on treachery and obscenity. (NB. I regret that I myself appear to have no Jewish ancestors either.)

  18. masha says:

    Your comment with all due respect makes no sense to me. There is no anti gentilism. It's not about him praising the jewish people or Chrsitian people as better than others. I look at that statement as kind of sarcastic. He knew the Germans saw everything but the Aryan race as inferior so this is Tolkien in a way is showing that while he is of neither origin he is mocking the "gifted" people to protect/ disguise himself. Tolkien could already forsee what the Nazi's would do when he says there will be a day when a German name is no longer a source of pride. Therefore this has nothing to do with anti- gentilism or pro Judaism. It's a revolt and mockery to the Nazi's for inquiring about his talents based on ethnic origin FYI I am Jewish.

  19. This is almost word for word what Charlie Chaplin replied when asked a similar question. Both such worthy men.

  20. orangemike says:

    Tolkien was a bit of a tory; but that letter was the act of a true mensch.

  21. Eswelir says:

    I'm not sure that he was a bit of a tory. In his letters he professes a dislike for parliamentary democracy, stating that he was more of an anarchist when it came to the idea of the state, and he also railed against the fallacy of democracy. He had a preferencefor monarchy in the ancient sense, and was not a man of the modern age in any sense other than he happened to be born in it. The observation that he was an Anglo-Saxon living about a thousand years too late is sums him up well.

  22. Jiggly poo says:

    What of genrikh yagoda?

  23. Eric says:

    Absolutely correct! He was definitely being sarcastic towards the Nazi’s assertion that they were the superior race. Wonderful explanation, I couldn’t have said it better.

  24. Winter is Coming says:

    Doubt he would be singing the same tune today after witnessing Israel unleash it's master plan to kill innocent Palestinians in plain site. One day the world will stop fearing backlash and call this ugliness genocide!

  25. Jim says:

    He was, essentially, a bit of a seventeenth-century Tory, and like many of us, a mensch, indeed.

  26. Jim says:

    I'm sure he would be singing the same tune today, as well as pointing out your sadly common misspelling of the word sight. Indeed, in his time, the monarchy of which he was a subject had committed precisely the same sort of "genocide" in Dresden and Berlin, and its allies had in Tokyo and Osaka, for very similar reasons.

  27. EcoTamar says:


  28. Chris says:

    You only have to go back 200 000 years to find your common ancestor – we are ALL related – like it or not.