Who would’ve thought bitchiness among literary giants could be so fascinating?
Private letters unveiled last week have shown that C.S. Lewis, the mind behind the Chronicles of Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien, renowned for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series, had words to say about Walt Disney’s very first animated feature.
The authors, well-known to be close frenemies, shared a mutual dislike for Walt and weren’t afraid to show it.
In private letters published in 2006's J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and recently unearthed by Atlas Obscura, they refer to Walt as an ill-educated "boob".
“Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way,” Lewis wrote in a correspondence to Tolkien shortly after they attended a screening of the film together. “And the dwarfs' jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music.
“But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?”
Owch. Lewis also condemned the dwarfs' "bloated, drunken, low comedy faces," and criticised the design of the Evil Queen as being "unoriginal."
Tolkien, who had dwarf characters feature prominently in his own works, was also unimpressed by Walt and wrote the following in a letter to a Stanford University student named Miss J.L. Curry several years later: “I recognise his talent, but it has always seemed to me hopelessly corrupted.
“Though in most of the 'pictures' proceeding from his studios there are admirable or charming passages, the effect of all of them is to me disgusting. Some have given me nausea...”