Blog: January 2018

Of all the negative reviews that The Lord of the Rings ever received, the most infamous is “Oo, Those Awful Orcs,” by the renowned American critic Edmund Wilson. It was published in the journal The Nation in 1956, and reappeared in Wilson’s collection The Bit Between My Teeth (1965) and various other sources, earning a place in the otherwise laudatory Tolkien Scrapbook edited by Alida Becker (1978).

From misspelling a principal character’s name as “Gandalph” to such declarations as “The hero has no serious temptations; is lured by no insidious enchantments, perplexed by few problems,” or “We never feel Sauron’s power,” Wilson’s review is so staggeringly imperceptive that some have found it hard to believe that Wilson read the book at all, let alone, as he states, aloud in its entirety to his 7-year-old daughter just before writing the review. I’d cut Wilson a little more slack than that.