Tolkein is overrated

This critique of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis sums up the unconscious reasons that I was never impressed with them. He’s right too: Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea was a lot more compelling. Both men dumb down their worlds, although it’s not as obvious with Tolkien. Tolkien romanticizes rural life and safety, conservative thinking and doesn’t ask hard questions. Why Sauron is evil is never truly explained. Plus his prose isn’t as great as other fantasy authors that don’t receive enough credit.

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia is much worse and patronizes kids with anthropomorphic talking animals and words that don’t expand their vocabulary. I even thought he was patronizing me when I read it in elementary school, found large stretches of the series to be boring dead zones, and in hindsight I hold nothing but contempt for C.S. Lewis and his half-baked propaganda insertions. If I ever have kids I’ll do my best to steer them away from towards something I know is better even if it’s not as famous.

Whenever Ursula opens her mouth in an interview she seems to have anticipated the question. Clearly she’s she’s smart, well read, and her books challenges tropes which is what the critic liked. I’ll have to read one of her books again. (She’s also a hero for openly blasting the Japanese and American directors who butchered her work when they deliberately subverted her decision to have a non-white protagonist, and definitely deserves her “the  emperor has no clothes reward.”)

If I ever have kids I definitely will steer them away from worshiping either Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. You can read Lord of the Rings to understand the fuss, but its rather dry honestly and not as exciting or provocative as a lot of other pulp I’ve read. Narnia is best skipped, or if you must, just read the Magician’s Nephew and the first book. His writing slips in the later books, and he wrote with the aim of inserting lots of Christian propaganda for children at the expense of writing a good story.

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were conservative Christians by the way. Ursula was raised irreligious and considers herself a feminist (the old kind.) She seems to have some sort of spirituality or at least claims to have learned from Taoism though.

http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6253/the-art-of-fiction-no-221-ursula-k-le-guin

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