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Not all that glitters is gold

The Hobbit Actor Billy Connolly Calls Tolkien “Unreadable,” Doesn’t Care What You Think

Billy Connolly, who plays Dáin Ironfoot in the upcoming The Hobbit trilogy, has made clear his rather strong opinions regarding its source material. In an interview with, the Scottish actor called Tolkien “unreadable,” stating “I didn’t read [The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings], and I normally don’t like people who have! The people who love it, they’re kind of scary. They talk all this gobbledygook and they think of it as the Holy Grail.”

As awkward a statement to make as this is, I’ve got to say I love Connolly for making it. When you’re appearing in the film adaptation of one of the most popular books of all time, it takes some balls to come out and say that you actively dislike it. Not “Oh, I hadn’t read it before, but I did once I got the part and now I’m really excited!” Not “I can see why it’s loved by so many people, but it’s not to my tastes.” “I always found [Tolkien] unreadable.”

What’s more, when asked about Tolkien superfans, Connolly expressed disbelief that “People get all upset, they get terribly upset about anything that has to do with it, as if it were real! It’s a story! Just relax! It’ll go away and you’ll be just fine. Don’t panic.”

Bless you, Billy Connolly. You’re exhibiting the kind of brash demeanor that I expect a dwarf to have. I would suggest not mentioning your hatred of Tolkien to Christopher Lee, though. Just a thought.

(via: Vulture)

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  • Jamie Jeans

    Oh man, I love this dude!

    I completely uinderstand where he comes from. I barely got through the Hobbit and the first LotR book. Maybe if Tolkien had an editor telling him not to write 50 pages on the hobbits eating lunch, Tolkien’s books wouldn’t have been as dry as the Sahara desert.

  • Anonymous

    There was a moment when I was offended and then I realized that part of why (the only reason why) I like Rpatt is because he outright acknowledges that Twilight is a load of shit.

    so yeah. Can’t really resent him for this one, despite my inner Tolkien fan girl is screaming through gritted teeth.

  • gia manry

    I was okay with the Hobbit but yeah, my reading of the LotR trilogy was mostly skimming. So…much….setting….@_@

  • Kaarel Jakobson

    Except, you know, The Hobbit and LotR are written in completely different styles, and only an illiterate could describe The Hobbit’s prose as “dry?”

  • Anonymous

    Haha, LOVE IT. Tolkein wrote great worlds, he just didn’t write them very well. Seriously, if he was alive today and tried to get published? He’d fail or get the stuffing edited out of him. (Which he could have used a solid editor. Someone who would say, enough is enough)

  • Amb

    He has a right not to like Tolkien’s work, and I don’t judge him for it, so I’d like not to be judged as a part of those who “talk all this gobbledygook and [..] think of it as the Holy Grail.” Besides, funnily enough, for many of us The Holy Grail is fiction as well. When you love something, and the sheer beauty of Tolkien’s stories and description, the spirituality and magic of his work and his masterful grasp of the English language is something I love, seeing people transform it into a marchandise may hurt me. As an academic, and a fan, I am not sorry for that.

  • Inky

    Man, I can completely understand him finding Tolkien “unreadable.” I love Tolkien’s stuff, but he has a tendency to ramble on and on about descriptions of how a tower looks or cultural background we don’t actually need to know.

    But he doesn’t like people who’ve READ Tolkien? Not even like “the crazy fans” but everyone that’s read Tolkien?? Low blow, man! That’s making it personal!

  • Adam R. Charpentier

    I always found the books to be snoozy, but I’m not a famous rich funny man, so I keep it to myself…it’s nice that he’s telling it like it is, though. I greatly appreciate it.

  • Bill Hedrick

    The thing is, LOTR and the Hobbit were written 70 years ago when people could actually read prose that was more sophisticated that “see spot run”

  • EeeeK!

    I have tried so hard to like Tolkien and I just can’t. I get the side-eye for this a lot. Bless you, Billy.

  • Matt Langdon

    He is using his inability to read as a joke – not realizing the joke is on him.

  • Anonymous

    Word, BCon. Tolkien was a wonderful world builder and scholar, but damn hard to read. I’ve given his works several tries over the years, but have resigned myself to admitting that they’re just not my style (I did enjoy his translation of ‘Sir Gawain’, though). However, I do look forward to the films so I can better understand this rich series that is loved by so many of my friends and family.

    An aside, though: I think it’s funny that some fans accusing Connelly of illiteracy for not liking the books may have just made his point for him.

  • C. R. Lanei

    It is a fairly awful statement. Not the fact that he didn’t like the book, it is not for everyone but to essentially say that he doesn’t like a large portion of the fans who will be watching the film is really mind boggling. It isn’t that there aren’t crazy fans in any fandom its just that, if you don’t like the original work, as an actor you could find many other projects you might enjoy more and have some ability to identify with the fans’ enjoyment of the work.
    Bashing fans is never cool. Assuming that a small portion of overzealous individual are the representatives for the entire group is ignorant. Asking them to accept you when you can’t accept them is just sad.

  • Mandy Threlfo

    I have to agree. I really tried to get into his work, I fumbled my way through the hobbit and I just couldnt anymore. I realised soon after it was not my ability to read that was the issue, it was fantasy writers who waffle on and on that were my problem.

  • Jamie Jeans

    Really? You’re calling me illiterate because I won’t bow down and hold up Tolkien as the master of all story telling? Because I have my own opinion?


    I found it so dry I drank two litres of water after and was still thirsty.

    I found LotR so dry that when the dryer broke and my clothes were still wet, I just set the book down next to them and they were dry 10 minutes later.

    I found LotR so dry that when I accidentally left a copy in the forest, all the water in the ground evaporated and a forest fire started.

    How dry was LotR? They could have tossed a copy on the Titanic when it was sinking and the Atlantic would have disappeared.

    Shall I go on? Because I’m more than willing to do so! ^^

  • Samantha Wilson

    People saying that if you don’t like Tolkien makes you illiterate or stupid need to check your privilege!

    Also not everyone likes the same thing, so you should respect that some people think he takes too much time describing the background. I dislike Jane Austin and some of the snobby responses I get to that are ridiculous, as if it’s my fault! I did well on the exam on it and understood it I just didn’t like it.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, the statement takes balls but the guy’s being kind of a jerk. He
    has a right to his opinion and a right to choose his film projects,
    regardless of whether he has personal interest in the material. But why insult the fans of said material?
    Billy, you do realize that a lot of those people who “talk
    gobbledygook” (myself included) are going to be buying tickets for these films and financing
    your paycheck, right? Way to be ungrateful.

  • Helen the Dreamer

    I have to admit I find the statement a bit odd, I’ve had to read/read of my own volition plenty of things over the years and I’ve found LotR and the Hobbit pretty easy to read. There is plenty of rambling but again, compared to a lot of stuff I’ve read I found it a bit simplistic. Oh well, and agreed that it does take some balls to come out and say that (considering almost every other actor says some variant on “oh I read the book and loved it!”) and also ageeing with some commentors that him finding anyone whose read the books, not just the crazy fans but everyone, is crazy, really weird.

  • Craig Oxbrow

    That would include my mother, who read The Hobbit to me when I was four or five, and used to date Billy Connolly before meeting my father. It’s a small world…

  • Jerilyn Nighy

    Fair enough, I’ve always found the poetry of Robert Burns unreadable. I wonder what Billy thinks about that? Anyway, no hard feelings. Connolly is one of the all-time great stand-ups, so he gets a pass.

  • Pep Guardiola

    Yes, you’re THAT PROFESSOR.

  • Anonymous

    rofl, I haven’t read the books so I don’t know much about your criticism but, liked because your jokes had me cracking up ;)

  • Nicole Kiser

    I read The Hobbit as a teenager, but failed miserably with LotR. I tried again as an adult and found I could read through and enjoy it. I suspect the only reason why was because I started reading older books (some from long before LotR came about) and it forced me to read with more patience (older books tended–though not always–to have a slower pace and be more long winded).

    Not sure what he means about the fans. Sounds like he has a problems with geeks and/or nerds in general. It’s not like LotR fans have the corner on obsessiveness about a series. :-/

  • Kaarel Jakobson

    The fact that you’re still referring to LotR when I was clearly talking about The Hobbit doesn’t exactly dissuade me from my view…

  • Laura W

    I don’t understand people who say Tolkien’s ‘unreadable’. Not your cup of tea, sure; his style isn’t for everyone. But it’s not difficult prose. I was given the big 4 as a Christmas gift from my dad when I was SIX, for crying out loud. Read Hobbit that year, though I admit the trilogy stayed on the shelf a while longer. I think I was ten or so when I finally sat down to read them all the way through. These days I whip through the whole set in a weekend. Even the Silmarillion, which I still haven’t finished, isn’t actually hard to read, it’s just hard to keep track of the cast of thousands (well, I find it so, anyway. YMMV, of course). And not liking people who’ve read Tolkien? Wow, that’s a pretty broad statement, and maybe ought to have made one reconsider taking a months-long gig surrounded by lots of people who’ve read the books and at least some who really love them! Seriously?

  • J.S. MacDougall

    It’s not an affront to dislike something. People are allowed to dislike things you love. That being said saying you don’t like someone who has read a book you don’t like is just ridiculous.

  • Cynthia

    I think he’s specifically talking about the ‘rabid’ fans who think because he’s in a movie based of a Tolkien book, he can speak elvish or in this case dwarvish… yep he’s talking about the superfans….

  • Guest

    My limtus test of how dry a book is based on a five year old. Reading the child safe parts of The Hobbit couldn’t put him to sleep (well except for once, not bad considering I got him through the whole book). Reading the child safe parts of LOTR would be very effective… So please remember that some people can write two books in two completely different styles and sometimes you have to look at each book separately. err sorry I ment to reply to

  • Cynthia

    My limtus test of how dry a book is based on a five year old. Reading the child safe parts of The Hobbit couldn’t put him to sleep (well except for once, not bad considering I got him through the whole book). Reading the child safe parts of LOTR would be very effective… So please remember that some people can write two books in two completely different styles and sometimes you have to look at each book separately. Granted there’s a lot fewer parts that should not be read to a kid in The Hobbit anyways.

  • Cynthia

    Oh? And I’m betting you didn’t have a problem with ‘Dahlgren’ by Samel R. Delany either… Actually that’s harder to read; let’s make the litmus test for literacy that instead! Narcissistic prat.

  • cinerina

    I agree! I hated every minute of the LOTR books that I felt I *had* to read before I reviewed the movies.

  • Anonymous

    i see, he must be a douglas adams man. you saw the quote…dont panic.

  • Jayson Loyd

    If you hate the source material, why be in the film? Ridiculous.

  • moffatt0184

    I’ve read the books and I can understand where he’s coming from. I get the same way when people get all excited about football. Honestly it should be okay for him not to like the books but be okay with taking a role, acting it and moving on. People are getting too touchy about things these days. This is one of those cases of just let it be.