J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, is widely regarded as one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time. His epic trilogy, along with its prequel The Hobbit, has influenced generations of readers and creators with its rich and immersive worldbuilding, mythology, and languages.
Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, is equally revered as one of the masters of science fiction. His sprawling saga, spanning six novels and several sequels and prequels by other writers, has shaped the genre with its complex and visionary exploration of politics, religion, ecology, and human potential.
But what did these two literary giants think of each other’s work? As it turns out, not very highly. In fact, Tolkien disliked Dune “with some intensity”, according to a letter he wrote to a fan in 1967.
The letter was recently cited by an article on CBR, which speculated on the possible reasons for Tolkien’s dislike of Herbert’s novel. The article suggested that Tolkien and Herbert had different approaches to worldbuilding, with Tolkien focusing more on mythological and linguistic elements, while Herbert emphasizing more on technological and ecological aspects.
The article also pointed out that Tolkien disliked allegory and political messages in fiction, while Herbert used Dune as a commentary on various issues such as imperialism, religion, ecology, and human potential. Furthermore, the article implied that Tolkien resented being compared to Herbert, as he felt that his work was original and unique, while Herbert borrowed from various sources and traditions.
The CBR article sparked a lively discussion on Reddit, where fans of both authors debated their merits and flaws. Some agreed with Tolkien’s opinion and praised his work for its depth and beauty. Others defended Herbert’s novel and criticized Tolkien for being narrow-minded and elitist.
A YouTube video by Faikus also weighed in on the topic, comparing and contrasting the two authors’ works in terms of their themes, characters, settings, and influences. The video argued that both authors were brilliant in their own ways and that their differences reflected their different visions of the past and the future.
Another article by UnHerd took a more provocative stance and declared that Lord of the Rings is better than Dune. The article claimed that Tolkien’s work was more coherent and consistent than Herbert’s, which suffered from plot holes and inconsistencies. The article also asserted that Tolkien’s work was more timeless and universal than Herbert’s, which was dated and limited by its historical context.
Whether you agree or disagree with these opinions, one thing is clear: both Tolkien and Herbert have left a lasting legacy in the fields of fantasy and science fiction. Their works have inspired countless adaptations, spin-offs, and homages in various media. And their fans are still passionate and loyal to their favorite stories.
As Frank Herbert himself said: “I think of Dune as a mythological framework for my personal observations of the cyclic nature of history.” And as J.R.R. Tolkien said: “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.”
– Why Did Tolkien Not Like Frank Herbert’s Dune?, CBR, October 6, 2021
– Tolkien and Dune: Why did he dislike it?, Reddit, October 18, 2021
– DUNE Vs Lord of the Rings | Why Did Tolkien Dislike Dune? | Frank Herbert vs J.R.R. Tolkien, YouTube, May 25, 2022
– Lord of the Rings is better than Dune, UnHerd, October 19, 2021