Classified documents recently released by the Nobel library in Sweden reveal that former Oxford professor JRR Tolkien was snubbed for the 1961 Nobel Prize in Literature, saying his work had “not in any way measured up to storytelling of the highest quality”.
The author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was nominated for the prize by CS Lewis, his friend and fellow Oxford professor. In the same year Grahame Greene, who had studied at Balliol, was also snubbed. The award eventually went to Yugoslavian writer Ivo Andrić.
Dr. Stuart Lee, a Tolkien expert and Lecturer in English, said the snub was “not unexpected,” and that “Tolkien himself may have been surprised if he had been awarded it”. He added: “the Nobel Prize itself can be a bit strange at times. […] To say Tolkien’s ‘story-telling’ is not good is nonsensical.”
Tolkien achieved a First in English Language and Literature at Exeter before the First World War, and returned after the war to fellowships at Pembroke and Merton.