There are more, but these will do for a start.
1. Call The Lord of the Rings a trilogy.
Just so you know—it isn’t. This is an unfortunately common mistake. Someone made it in a book review I was reading today, thus inspiring this post. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as one book, but it was so long that it was published in three installments. It ain’t a trilogy. It’s a book.
2. Claim that The Lord of the Rings is pro-war.
For starters, there are consistent pacifists, but very few people who would argue the opposite—that all wars are always good. But if you mean that The Lord of the Rings encourages unnecessary warfare, you haven’t been reading it carefully. (Or you just watched the movie….) Faramir basically outlines Tolkien’s philosophy of warfare in The Two Towers. Warfare is sometimes necessary but never desirable.
3. Argue that The Lord of the Rings is racist.
If you’re worried that Tolkien’s characters have little mercy for evil monsters, all I can say is that you must hate folklore. All the mythologies I can think of have similar monsters, and that includes non-European nations.
4. Whine that people prefer The Lord of the Rings to “true literature.”
It is true literature. And it is part of the reason I went on to read Beowulf in full, along with The Kalevala, Nordic legends, and a book of random Old English poetry. The Lord of the Rings is many things, but it isn’t shallow.
5. Complain that The Lord of the Rings is too complicated for ordinary people to understand.
This group should get in touch with the folks in #4. Maybe they could find a happy medium somewhere.
6. Argue that The Lord of the Rings is “escapist.”
Philip Pullman earns an F here, I’m afraid. His essay “The Republic of Heaven” shows a remarkable failure to understand Tolkien from someone obviously versed in his writings. Does Tolkien include every aspect of life in his stories? No–but does anyone? This sounds like a rehashing of the debate over whether art imitates life, or the other way around. I’m inclined to answer “yes” when anyone asks that question. In any case, my initial reaction to The Return of the King was a reaction to its darkness. Fluffy Tolkien is not.
7. Fret about the lack of female empowerment in The Lord of the Rings.
If a close study of Galadriel’s character doesn’t help you here, then you’re hopeless. And, honestly, there are some people who can’t enjoy certain kinds of fantasy, including Tolkien’s. That’s fine. If Tolkien repels you, copy C.S. Lewis’s policy in regard to detective stories–don’t comment on what you won’t like anyway.
8. Complain about the lack of empowerment in The Lord of the Rings in general.
Tolkien didn’t write the story to make people feel good. In fact, when asked to suggest a theme for the story, his response was “Death.” Tolkien’s mythology was born, quite literally, in the trenches of World War I. If All Quiet on the Western Front teaches nothing else, it shows that most people involved in that war were not feeling very empowered.
9. Call Frodo a wimp.
Okay, so you love Sam. Great. We do, too. Some of us even like him more than Frodo. But Frodo is not a wimp. By making that assertion, you are making us question whether you have actually read the books. If you haven’t, read them (of course), and in the mean time distinguish between the movie and book versions of Frodo. And be prepared to argue with people who think you missed the point of the movie.
10. Ask why the eagles didn’t carry the Fellowship to Mt. Doom.
Just kidding. Ask away.