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Critique of "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweler"


Critique of "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweler" refers to a hand-written manuscript by J.R.R. Tolkien, in which he offers a criticism of Lord Dunsany's story "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweler". The manuscript was found in Tolkien's copy of the fantasy anthology Swords & Sorcery (which included the story), a gift from L. Sprague de Camp (who wrote the introduction of the book). According to sales of the item, Tolkien's text is "not [a] very complementary critique".[1][2]

[edit] Excerpts

Jirel of Joiry. Does create an atmosphere
and [?the] sinister 'corrupt' household of Alaric was
eerie and credible. But I never [sic] find phantasmal
struggles such as that of Jirel with 'Undead' Andred
quite unconvincing — especially when the victims escape!

Dunsany at his worst. Trying so hard for
the shudder. But not for a moment making the
tale 'credible' enough to {pro} make a background for
a strong [?e...]. And the ending lamentable — in
fact [?insulting]. In a world in which a Thangobrind
could even begin to be (let alone Hlo-hlo or [?all the rest])
early 19th century Riviera [?...] is surely utterly
impossible — or vice versa. And what is meant
by selling his daughter's soul.

Cappen Varra. Nomenclature v[ery] bad
Let us have genuine Scandanavian/Norse "bar-
barians" or something invented.

The Athammaus monster wholly unbelievable
[?…] disgusting [?... ... …]. There are lots
of ways of being [?... as] nastily, without all this
[?tooraloo] of nonsense.

Most of these things are overheated & exaggerated
([?...] bigger or [?would be] bigger, [?'...'] is
[?...] than the {ends} purposes warrant)
Also obviously over or ill-written.

Jirel of Joiry 140 - 146 is good but
needs a [?deft] story (and [?explication]) to [?...]
[?valid]. Dunsany's is one of his worst
That final ghastly paragraph![3]


  1. ID:000971 at (accessed 19 September 2011)
  2. A Signed Book... at (accessed 19 September 2011)
  3. "Re: Fantastic (magazine) November 1976" dated 31 January 2013, Tolkien Collector's Guide (accessed 17 October 2013)