That’s it, the Professor is truly the King of Sass
The letter didn’t come from the Nazi party, but from the publishing house which had expressed an interest in the German translation of The Hobbit. Tolkien’s response really is a thing of beauty, though, so it deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
25 July 1938 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford
Thank you for your letter. … I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject - which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment that if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.
Your enquiry is doubtless made in order to comply with the laws of your own country, but that this should be held to apply to the subjects of another state would be improper, even if it had (as it has not) any bearings whatsoever on the merits of my work or its suitability for publication, of which you appear to have satisfied yourselves without reference to my Abstammung.
I trust you will find this reply satisfactory, and remain yours faithfully
The Hobbit wasn’t published in German until 1957.
This might just be the politest “fuck you” ever written.
Not just “I wish I had Jewish ancestors, but I don’t,” but also “you do realize that’s not what ‘Aryan’ actually means, right,” and “you guys are making it pretty hard to be proud of my German heritage.”
Nazis: Are you Aryan?
Noted linguistics freak Tolkien: Are you?
Tolkien: AND FURTHER MORE, AS WE CAN TELL FROM THIS PARTICULAR PERSIAN DIALECT-
Himmler: *runs away with his hair on fire*