The long wait is almost over! Since the third installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy hit movie houses across the world in 2003, Tolkien fans have yearned to see the prequel to The Lord of the Rings transferred to the screen with equal power and beauty. Finally, after nearly a decade, that yearning is about to be satisfied.

And yet, as the world awaits the release of The Hobbit, Part I, it is worth remembering that Tolkien’s epic fantasies have not been universally hailed as great works of art. Many academics and literary critics in Tolkien’s day—and many still today—dismissed Tolkien’s tales as “mere” children’s literature not worthy of serious academic consideration.

Luckily for Tolkien’s millions of defenders, the architect of Middle-earth did not leave his fans to face alone and undefended the critiques of the literati. One year after publishing The Hobbit, Tolkien presented a lecture (on March 8, 1939) at the University of St. Andrews on the subject of fairy tales.

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