Semi Final: Stephen King vs J.R.R. Tolkien

Stephen King

Special attack: Killer clown. That turns out to be an alien.


  • Has sold over 350 million books worldwide
  • Father of a million childhood nightmares


  • Probably has enough money to build a space station but hasn’t yet built a space station
  • Has probably written more books than he’s read

J.R.R. Tolkien

Special attack: Black belt in philology


  • Immense scope of imagination
  • Has entire armies, good and evil at his command


  • Over-writing? What over-writing?


How we think it’d play out…

Exhausted after his journey of many miles, Stephen King looked to the looming tower where he had been told he would find his next opponent. It was still some distance away and the path looked dangerous, but King took courage from the twin revolvers strapped to his waist. Forged from the cold steel of his Nebula and Hugo Awards, they had never been known to miss.

Meanwhile, J.R.R. Tolkien, pipe in hand, was huffing and puffing his way toward the very same tower. He had heard tell that a mighty sorcerer, The Crimson King, dwelt within – a baleful tyrant whose very words wrought nightmares out of the air; whose library of powerful tomes grew larger by the day. He gripped the One Ring he had strung around his neck for reassurance.

Both men warily approached the foot of the tower, noticing one another’s presence at the same time.

“Tolkien?” called King. “Wait, aren’t you supposed to be in the tower?”

Tolkien was equally surprised. “You’re the Crimson King?”

“No, just Stephen. Is this not the Tower of Orthanc, wherein the mighty wizard Saruman makes his lair?”

“I was led to believe that this is The Dark Tower. Are we not in Mid-World?”

“Middle-Earth, last I checked.”

There was an awkward pause. “Well, this is confusing,” offered King. “Are you sure you’re not early?”

Tolkien sucked thoughtfully on his pipe. “Tolkien is never early, nor is he late. He arrives precisely when he -”

Almost too late, Tolkien saw King’s hand go to his revolvers, drawing and firing with superhuman speed. The bullets would surely have found their target had Tolkien not quickly slipped the One Ring onto his finger, instantly turning him invisible and probably making him immune to bullets too because why not.

“You can’t hide forever, Tolkien!” roared King. “I will become the Ultimate Writer!”

Already Tolkien felt the Ring’s dark magic at work on his mind, urging him to write ever lengthier passages and fill his chapters with even more digressions. More sub-clauses, it whispered. More songs.

He needed to get to safety; somewhere he could remove the Ring before its power overwhelmed him. The door of the tower stood invitingly open and he ran inside, but King, feeling a presence brush past him, gave pursuit.

Tolkien struggled up the vast spiral staircase as quickly as he could, with King following close behind, swearing and firing bullets at random. Reaching the battlements at the pinnacle of the tower, he pulled the Ring from his finger and flung it over the edge before it could consume his mind.

No sooner had he done this than King appeared behind him, a smoking gun in either hand.

“Foolish, old man. The One Ring was the only thing that could have saved you from Hugo and Nebula here.”

“Not quite, King. I still have one trick up my sleeve – what I like to call an almighty deus ex machina.” Tolkien raised his hands to the sky. There was a slight rush of wind, and an enormous golden eagle swooped down and carried him off.

Shielding his eyes from the sun, King watched the gigantic bird and its passenger flap away over the lands of Middle-World-or-wherever-it-was. “Why didn’t he just do that earlier?” he wondered.



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90 thoughts on “Semi Final: Stephen King vs J.R.R. Tolkien

  1. King…. Because Tolkein’s works, although beautiful, don’t flow… There’s all this flicking back and forth in order to translate this language and that word and this phrase and that sentence… If I’m reading a story, let me read it…

    • I agree, Shan! At first I thought it was cool to have a concordance in the back of the books, but it quickly became annoying as I was actually trying to read them! Too many references!

  2. Enven if I read Tolkien first, I fell I love with King. After the Bilbo and all there is nothing. After the Dark tower, who knows … King will always have new and great books.

  3. As much as I love The Hobbit and TLOTR series, the years and books Stepehn King has graced us with are undeniable. King is just that…The King!

  4. There was another author, like King, who was panned by critics for being too pedestrian and not up to snuff compared to more “serious” authors: Charles Dickens.

    Like Dickens, King will be studied for generations to come.
    11/21/63 and Shawshank have proven that he’s not just a one-trick horror pony.

    • King can write anything. ‘The Body’ was a coming of age tale. ‘Mr. Mercedes’, a police procedural. ‘The Stand’, post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi. Tolkien was stuck in his fantasy land that, for me, grew old quickly. Loved ‘The Hobbit’. Had to plow through TLOTR to finish it. It became a quest to do so. I await the release of each and every King book. Once while vacationing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I drove over seventy miles each way to get ‘Bag of Bones’ on the day it was released. I pray that Mr. King lives to exceed one hundred years on this earth and NEVER stops writing! Also, while not a handsome man, he is in my opinion, the sexiest man alive. What a brain!

  5. I am a constant reader, Stephen King has been my favorite since Carrie, I have read Tolkein’s , but prefer king, King just has this way with words that I have not found anywhere else, I get sucked in and am lost for hours

  6. Stephen King beats Tolkien any day. Tolkien has written some great (4) books. Stephen King has written a ton of great books. There’s only one King and his name is Stephen.

  7. Been gripped to reading King for over 25yrs and the classics are as chilling now as when they were written. Hands down winner for me.

  8. King is the best, most consistant, I am 50 yrs old and he has always been a part of my life since I was a very young teen.No one writes better of has my attention for so many years.

  9. King! Tolkien is more fantasy, King uses many every day events and things in his books, turning these to a horror experience (trucks, cell phones, cars, animals).
    And I love the way he refers to another story in each book, sometimes only with just one line or one person. He is a genious

  10. The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. All great works by, ultimately, a one trick pony. King’s work includes fantasy and horror stories that will keep you awake at night, mostly because you won’t want to put the book down until you’ve finished it.
    Stephen King for the win!!!

  11. King… Without a doubt. I can enjoy his Books and his movies ( and I Don’t mean the made for t.v. ones). Not to mention he’s a more prolific writer whom can make you lose yourself in a thousand page book with ease.

  12. Tolkien is without doubt brilliant but King is epic. I fell in love with Firestarter and have read everything he’s published since. The interwoven stories and characters/families keep me entranced. From the age of 12 Stephen King has been my deepest literary love. My vote, from a Constant Reader with love.

  13. As much as I love King, I had to give the nod to Tolkien. If it weren’t for him there probably would never be a Dark Tower. King even references Tolkien on many occasions. Tolkien is the father of the modern epic fantasy. His work is above and beyond genius. His lore is so unfathomly deep. King is a genius too, but more fun, pop lit. Tolkien is literature at its finest. A true master. King was inspired by Tolkien, so, Tolkien deserves due credit.

  14. I’m not sure that’s a fair question–it’s kind of like comparing apples to oranges, since one is dead and the other is alive, one specialized in fantasy while the other, while writing in other genres, mainly writes horror stories–they come from different eras and genres of literature, generally. However, in my view,Tolkien wins. King’s Dark Tower series is one of many imitators. Tolkien is the originator of English fantasy and the whole Dungeons and Dragons milieu. It’s a matter of influence on a whole genre, and Tolkien’s has been a much more positive and influential force than King’s, which is witnessed by the vast number of critical responses to his works compared to King’s–the canon will always support the Oxford scholar over the American, to boot. I don’t think it’s a matter of how many books have been sold, or how many works were successful. That said, I still love King’s works and teach both King and Tolkien in my classes.

  15. Stephen King is the only author that has made me have a physical reaction to something I read. After reading The Stand, 20 some years ago, I still get the heeby-geebys if my fingernails catch on any surface! He is truly the master.

  16. This Disadvantages statement for King, “Has probably written more books than he’s read”, is a clear indication to me that whoever wrote this knows nothing about Stephen King. He is the ultimate constant reader.

  17. There will ALWAYS be one King. Ever since I read IT. I was hooked. Stephen King is the master. LONG LIVE THE KING.

  18. I am definitely a “constant reader: and own almost all the books written by Mr.King. I also love the stories of Mr. Tolkien, but I have never actually read his books. Every time I hear of a new release by Mr. Hing, I cannot wait to get my own copy! I can’t say the same about Mr. Tolkien. Stephen King will always be my favorite author!

  19. Stephen King all the way. I love many of his books and he is most definitely my favorite writer. His stories captive you and make you think about things you never thought to question or ponder. Stephen is THE KING of writers (pun intended).

  20. It is Stephen King all the way! I have the Tolkien books and they aren’t near as scary as Stephen’s books. I don’t think they should be in the same category.

  21. It will be Stephen King all the way. They are 2 different writers. I never found the Tolkien books to be that scary.

  22. King books are like roller coaster rides. Antisapation of whats coming (you can see n hear the forth coming ride head) but then you board the ride and your griped from start to finish, with all its twists, turns and unexpected thrills. Once finished the adraline is pumping and you want more and go again

  23. I havent read any of tolkens books that i am aware of. I do have almost 2 book cases full of Steven Kings books though and I have read them several times! Steven King is my favorite Author!

    • It was sort of an alien…. The book shows It coming from the sky in the long ago, to the losers club in the smoke ceremony (Eddie and Mike… I think!!) I think this means It came from another level of the Tower. The greatest fear thing was a weapon, and the only way their minds could comprehend It.

  24. Stephen King, because I like to think that those other worlds are just across the veil. Tolkien makes it very difficult to believe. I don’t want to learn fantasy languages like Elvish just to get through a book.

  25. Tolkien was a master of the epic fantasy for sure. Hell, even King’s Dark Tower is an homage to it. BUT I gotta go with King because of all the OTHER stories he’s created as well. The Stand, IT, Misery, Needful Things, Insomnia, The Dead Zone, Cujo, Christine, Pet Sematary, 11/22/63, the list goes on and on…. and all the wonderful short story collections: Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Everything’s Eventual, Just After Sunset, Full Dark No Stars, need I say more? KING RULES!

  26. 100% King – his writing style is like reading your own thoughts. Tolkien is too bogged down with excessive numbers of characters and complex made-up languages.

  27. I have read every King book that he has published in the open market and reserve his upcoming books before they are released. Not all of his works are memorable, but the vast majority are. His phrasing of a sentence is immense.

  28. Tolkein is the only author who has written a book I couldn’t finish. Bored of the Rings put me to sleep.
    I have read Dickens, Chaucer, Shakespeare (by choice, not only at school), amongst many others. I even read that dreadful 50 Shades – a mercifully quick book.
    Perhaps if Tolkein had had a better editor, it would be different.
    King, on the other hand, can write a story of any length – from a few pages long to the epic Dark Tower series, and never eases off the throttle.
    Long live the King

    • You and me both! Tolkien lost me at the first chapter of The Hobbit and this is someone who read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and all of Shakespear’s works as well as Hemingway!

  29. I love Tolkien, he is a great fantasy writer but Stephen King is the master of many genre of story-telling and always leaves me breathless.

  30. I have to vote for King because he is a masterful writer with a talent that is evident in multiple genres and he has a wider audience. Go Stephen King!

  31. Voting for King all the way. He not only writes in multiple genres, but he is without a doubt the most well-known modern author worldwide. He can’t be beat.

  32. I like them both and have read near all of what they have written. But my vote goes to J.R.R. Tolkein, his stories (myths) are like no other. I do not like everything King has written, I prefer his fantasy series to his other works.

  33. I voted for Stephen King because I can actually read his novels! Tolkien lost me at the first chapter of The Hobbit. Now if it were for films I would vote for Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit because the films do away with the “writing/language” problem for me and actually show me a story I can understand. Seriously how can you/I vote for something as “the best” or “Great” when we/I can’t even read past the first chapter?

  34. I have read both, and King has it hands down. He can take something so ordinary and scare the bejesus outta you. And the Dark Tower series was epic, never saw the ending coming in Dark Tower. Only King could have foreseen and done that, love Tolkien’s books, but they can’t compare.

  35. King. Most prolific, truly entertaining. Characters you not only identify with but come to love or hate. Also the only author of books I was literally unable to put down and kept on reading ALL night. Brilliant mind, he can write anything.

  36. King has been my only true literary love since I was old enough to read his work (and probably before that, sorry Mom!) There have been others, and they’ve been fine, but I am and always have been, devoted to King; once you’ve had the best, no one else can pass the test!

  37. Not a fair comparison as King is alive and kicking and Tolkien is long dead. So the first has still to deliver many books, while the later will not.
    In any case from pure philological perspective, none can surpass J.R.R. Tolkien’s pen. Not even the mighty Stephen King. From other perspective, Tolkien has only delivered 4-5 epic books, while King has delivered hundreds, other great, other so and so, but in any case an impressive work. My vote will go to J.R.R. Tolkien as he inspired a generation of writers, including S.King and. I am not sure if we would even have King today without Tolkien.

  38. Tolkien is king. Sorry, King.

    (Seriously though – even though I prefer King’s subject matter and many of his tales, Tolkien is the ‘greater’ writer; his imaginative achievement is just more solid and lasting. King is awesome though and I think he deserves to be in the same ‘canon’ of classics as Tollers.)

  39. What I didn’t like about Tolkien’s work is all the poems and songs that are sprinkled throughout each book. Didn’t mean that the stories weren’t good, but I could have done without them. Now as far as King goes, I’ve just about read everything he’s written, and I liked everything he has written, except for Cujo. Maybe it’s the dog lover in me.

What do you think?