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5 Famous Writers With Flaws Everyone Tries to Ignore

#2. Tolkien -- Long-Winded Diversions in Elvish

The Lord of the Rings is a giant of a book in at least a few ways. Its girth, obviously, but also the way it looms over nearly every other work in the fantasy genre that came after it. Consider the number of books and video games and movies that feature orcs, or elves that are good with bows, or surly subterranean dwarfs, and you realize the extent of J.R.R. Tolkien's influence.

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And what utter hacks about 70 percent of fantasy writers are.

More than that, though, Tolkien helped establish perhaps the most important hallmark of the fantasy genre, namely the richly detailed world building. Along with unique maps and history, Tolkien created entirely new languages for his imaginary little dudes to speak. And speak it they did. During lulls in the exciting adventures and orc murders and Thou Shall Not Passes, the Fellowship of the Ring liked to set up camp and sing songs to each other. A whole fucking bunch of times.

And that's ignoring the character of Tom Bombadil, who is problematic, to put it mildly. He's introduced out of nowhere in an early chapter, strongly hints that he's the most powerful being in the universe, sings a bunch of stupid fucking songs, and then disappears. While singing a stupid fucking song.

To say that this is a confusing momentum killer is understating things a bit.

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You really need to sing it to capture just how stupid it is.

#1. Shakespeare -- Creaky Plot Devices and Outright Propaganda

Cracked has talked about how messed up the Bard is before. For every display of genius on the order of Hamlet or Macbeth, there's at least one work that looks like it was written for little more than a paycheck. Lazy plotting and coincidences abound in many of Shakespeare's plays; his earlier plays in particular are pretty rough. For example, The Winter's Tale features a character who reappears at a very convenient time 16 years after she disappeared, emerging from her disguise as a statue (it's also not clear whether she's actually a magic statue this whole time). The same play also features a character who gets eaten, more or less out of nowhere, by a bear.

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"But soft! What beast through yonder foliage breaks?"

Even his better works relied on plot devices that reek of implausibility. Just about every play he wrote had someone disguised as someone else, with little reference to age or gender or who they were disguised as. He basically invented the Scooby-Doo unmasking scene, and the only reason he isn't credited with it is because scholars got so sick of it.


"Why, if it isn't the old carnival owner, King Lear!"

His history plays are also a little uneven. Some of them are very good, while others (King John) a little less so. And almost all of them have really blatant propaganda-like tones, in general designed to make the current ruling family (the Tudors) look more regal than they are. Henry VIII, for example, contains an extended procession extolling the virtues of a young princess Elizabeth, who was of course the queen through most of Shakespeare's life. But really just about any of the plays in the Henry and Richard series have a taste of this Tudor glorification, including Henry V, Richard II, and especially Richard II Part 2: Richard III.

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In which the last king from the House of York, Richard, is presented as a kind of puppy murderer.


Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist, couldn't hold a candle to any of these writers, and is clearly intensely jealous of that fact. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to mock him for it.

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