"If You Like Tolkien, You'll Like This Article": A Venting of Frustration

One of my biggest pet peeves is the phrase on the backs of numerous books, “If you like Tolkien, you’ll like this book.” This is the. laziest. advertising. For one, everyone likes Tolkien, and if you don’t, you haven’t tried hard enough. Two: this tells me nothing.

Saying “If you like Tolkien, you’ll like this book” is like saying “If you like Shakespeare, you’ll like slam poetry” or even “you’ll like e. e . cummings.” I hope we’ve all suffered through enough high school English to know that these aren’t even comparable.

There are three big problems with the claim:

1.  Tolkien wrote a lot.

Tolkien wrote more than fantasy novels. The Hobbit, LOTR, Silmarillion, Roverandom, Farmer Giles of Ham. He worked on the Oxford English Dictionary and compiled his own translation of Beowulf. This is widely known. To which of these genres are you comparing your book when you tell me I will like it?

2. Tolkien’s work encompasses many aspects of good literature.

Tolkien’s books contain literary, historical, linguistical, thematic, characteristic, academic, poetic and prosaic, plot weaving, setting, and theological complexities. Thousands of articles exist discussing them. Exactly which of these will I be seeing in your paperback fantasy?

3. Tolkien was a genius.

Your claim that your book is “reminiscent of Tolkien” is a tad egotistical. The man was a genius. He is referred to as the Father of Modern Fantasy! Like everyone else granted the patriarchal title, he changed the game. Your book is reminiscent of him by the mere existence of the genre. If you are claiming that this book, like Tolkien’s, will change what fantasy means, then bring it on!

If not…if what you meant was “If you like Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Tolkien, then you’ll like this book”…well, now I get it.



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