More than three decades after publishing “The Hobbit,” Tolkien spoke about the Jewish-dwarvish connection during a BBC interview.
“I didn’t intend it, but when you’ve got these people on your hands, you’ve got to make them different, haven’t you?” said Tolkien during the 1971 interview. “The dwarves of course are quite obviously, wouldn’t you say that in many ways they remind you of the Jews? Their words are Semitic, obviously, constructed to be Semitic. The hobbits are just rustic English people,” he said.
According to Tolkien scholar John Rateliff, author of a two-volume “Hobbit” history published in 2007, Tolkien drew inspiration from Hebrew texts and Jewish history when developing the dwarves. As craftsmen exiled from a bountiful homeland, the dwarves spoke both the language of their adopted nations and – among themselves – a Hebrew-influenced tongue developed by Tolkien.
Several years after writing “The Hobbit,” Tolkien had an exchange with publishers who wanted to translate his book into German. In responding to their request that Tolkien confirm his Aryan ancestry, the South African-born author took issue with Nazi policy.
“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,” wrote Tolkien in an oft-quoted draft. He went on to call Nazi race doctrine “wholly pernicious and unscientific.”