14

I have not found any allusion to Lovecraft in Tolkien's works, as far as I can remember. Was Tolkien aware of Lovecraft's works, and, if so, did he ever read any of it? And if he did, did Tolkien enjoy any of it?

Lovecraft's work embraces a lot of ideas that I think would offend Tolkien: the racism question has gained momentum again here, but the fatalism and bleak outlook, the overarching concept of indifferent gods, the general lack of (a profound) beauty and goodness in the world, and an idiosyncratic and contrived writing style, all seem to me things Tolkien wouldn't be particularly fond of. Nevertheless, I know Lovecraft also admired European mythology and folklore, so the two probably shared common interests and influences.

3
  • 6
    Tolkien was clearly and sometimes expressly inspired by myths, usually Norse and Germanic. Lovecraft invented a genre and style, neither of which looks much like Tolkien's, so if Tolkien was familiar with Lovecraft, it seems to mean nothing.
    – user15742
    Nov 8, 2023 at 3:22
  • 5
    Lovecraft did like Roman and Greek mythology, but pretty much nothing else. In the five volumes of his Selected Letters, I am pretty certain nothing from Norse or Old English mythology or even Grimm's tales ever comes up - and of course that and the Kalevala were Tolkien's main inspirations: Lovecraft's and Tolkien's mythological interests were separated by about a thousand years. Plus, the "cosmic horror" genre @frеdsbend may be alluding to is completely absent from Tolkien. And Tolkien was a devout Catholic, HPL a rabid atheist. I do not think they would have enjoyed each other's work. Nov 9, 2023 at 0:00
  • To the downvoters: if there's anything I can add/change, please let me know!
    – Joachim
    Nov 9, 2023 at 14:03

1 Answer 1

30

Information on whether or not Tolkien might have been familiar with the writings of H.P. Lovecraft is rather sparse.

Tolkien read an anthology, Swords & Sorcery, that contained a short story by Lovecraft, “The Doom that came to Sarnath”, after the book's editor, L. Sprague de Camp, sent it to him. In a letter to de Camp, Tolkien wrote that he did not much like the stories in the anthology. He does not mention any specific story by name and we can only assume that he has read the one by Lovecraft at all.

Beyond that indirect indication, everything is mere conjecture.

C.S. Lewis (the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, and a close friend of Tolkien) seems to have read some American pulp magazines and in an article for Mallorn, “The Lovecraft Circle and the Inklings:The ‘Mythopoeic Gift’ of H. P. Lovecraf”, Dale Nelson speculates that C.S. Lewis might have read At the Mountains of Madness and “The Shadow Out of Time” in Astounding. Nelson believes that "[i]t isn’t very fanciful to hypothesize that Lewis owned that issue of Astounding and passed it on to his friend."

It is also not very fancyful to hypothesize that Lewis hasn't and didn't.

5
  • Apologies, my bad; I read your answer strictly through the lens of the question and missed the implicit frame challenge. To help people like me who struggle with comprehension you might make that more clear. :-)
    – DavidW
    Nov 7, 2023 at 20:27
  • 1
    CSL seems to have been at least an occasional reader of 30s and 40s SF magazines, so it's hard to imagine JRRT didn't know about them. (But it's even harder for me to imagine that if he read them at all, he read them with any pleasure.)
    – Mark Olson
    Nov 7, 2023 at 21:02
  • @MarkOlson Yes. I have added that information.
    – user169166
    Nov 7, 2023 at 21:18
  • 2
    CSL's Deep Space trilogy is clearly a response to the SF of that era. (He even mentions SF magazines at one point in one of them.) He also met the young Arthur C. Clarke for a conversation/debate which has been printed. (Which is interesting, but sort of tangential to the existence of an HPL connection.)
    – Mark Olson
    Nov 7, 2023 at 21:52
  • 2
    Swords & Sorcery is underwhelming at best. It has a Conan story, but it's the relatively mediocre "Shadows in the Moonlight," and it has Kuttner's "Citadel of Darkness," which doesn't even pretend it's not a Conan pastiche. It would have been better to include "The Tower of the Elephant," which is far better than either, and which "Citadel of Darkness" drew from heavily. The works by Poul Anderson, Dunsany, Fritz Lieber, Lovecraft (for all that I personally love "The Doom that Came to Sarnath"), and Moore ("Hellsgarde" instead of "Black God's Kiss"?) are not their most inspiring either.
    – Buzz
    Nov 8, 2023 at 2:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.