Jim Ward: Demons & Devils, NOT!

In the very early to mid '80s religious nongamer people discovered AD&D had magical spells and demons and devils in its rules. The problems started with Sears and Penny's retail stores. TSR was selling thousands of Player Handbooks and Dungeon Master's Guides every month to both of those companies. I know this because I was in sales and inventory control at the time.

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Six ladies wrote to Sears and the same six wrote to Penny's home offices telling those two companies of the evils of AD&D. They expounded on children learning to throw demonic spells while they summoned demons in their basements. The writers claimed that they would never buy a thing again from those two companies if the companies still sold TSR games. Just like a light switch those two companies stopped selling TSR product. The companies were offered things like Boot Hill, Tractics, and Gamma World, but they weren't interested. The stopping of sales from those two huge companies was a hard blow to take for TSR.


Author's Note: When I write these articles for EN World I'm trying to present an honest look at my memories of those times. There was enough wild and crazy things happening at TSR that I think the readers should be entertained. I freely admit that there might be dates and times that I don't have correctly related. However, I never try to exaggerate the facts or actions of others. I was in the thick of things and part of the design group and middle management for most of the 20+ years I worked there. If I make a mistake in the writing of these memories, I'm sorry and the mistake was unintentional.

Things proceeded and the bible belt southern states started doing book burnings. Those always elated Gary Gygax because he thought every player who had their books taken away would go back and buy the books again.

Gary went on some of the talk shows to speak about the value of the game. He was an excellent champion for the company. One of his arguments, that I really liked, was his baseball analogy. He would say, “When a criminal hurts someone with a baseball bat are you supposed to blame baseball?” That would make the naysayers sputter every time.

Duke Siegfried, Uncle Duke as he liked to be called, ran news interview classes for the middle management of TSR; these were people who had a chance to be interviewed out at conventions. I can especially remember one of the training sessions. Duke role-played the part of Johnny Carson. Don Snow was to be the TSR representative getting interviewed. Terri Quinn was in marketing at the time and her job was to distract Don. While Duke interviewed Don about D&D, asking questions to make the game look bad, Terri went to work on Don. Acting all the way, poor Don was torn between the distraction of Terri and the questions of Duke. At the end of the scenario Duke explained that set ups like that were common for news people and we needed to be on the look out for such things. I can remember thinking that scenario could never happen.

Six months later I was at a convention in Atlanta when a reporter started quizzing and flirting with me about the evils of AD&D and its harmful effects on children. I started out all smiles and really enjoying the woman's company and her style. Suddenly, remembering Duke's lesson, I became grim-faced, and gave out the bullet-point facts Duke had prepared us with if we were interviewed. She didn't get the interview she wanted from me.

Conventions for awhile became a trial for us. Religious people would come up to the TSR booth and start arguing with us about the evils of D&D. I'm proud to say we soon found an answer for them. I have a friend Dave Conant who worked in the typesetting department. He didn't get out to many conventions. Gen Con in August was a convention everyone working for TSR went to and did 40 hours. One Gen Con in August a particularly nasty gentlemen was berating the sales woman at the show. They didn't know what to think of the dude and wanted to be polite. I knew exactly what the guy was doing. He wanted to get 15 minutes of fame as a person concerned about the evils of D&D.

I was on my way over to give the guy the bums rush, when Dave showed up. He had taken his cross out of his shirt and started calmly talking to the guy. Dave established that the guy had never read one bit of the TSR material. The man only knew what he had heard from others. Then Dave started asking the guy questions about what he thought was wrong with the game. Dave was able to quote bible versus as he calmly and gently completely tore apart the guy's argument. I had always been impressed by Dave's technical skills, but I became even more impressed with his logical argument. From then on we had at least two religious TSR people at every convention. It was amazing how quick those anti-TSR people stopped coming at us at those shows.

Time passed and TSR started working on AD&D 2nd edition. By then I had come to a realization. At conventions I had been in on many discussions about the evils of AD&D. Literally every single person coming up to argue about the game had never read one word of the books. Their argument when questioned about that fact was “We don't need to read about Satan to know he is evil.” So I came up with an idea. In second edition I ordered Zeb Cook to develop a new name for Demons & Devils.

Baatezu/Devil & Tanarri/Demon were born in second edition. Zeb did a terrific job of putting all that together.

We still had the same type of demons and devils but we called them completely different names. The word spread out that TSR had taken out all of the demons and devils in the game. Technically that wasn't true at all. But again like the click of a light switch the arguments and comments stopped. TSR picked up lots of new accounts in the Bible Best of the south. Every time it was mentioned a TSR person would tell them the company didn't have devils any more. It pleased everyone at TSR that the company didn't get any grief on that topic.
 
Jim Ward

Comments

Sacrosanct

Legend
Yes. He was very vocally anti nazi. But he had many known works in philology and other areas of study. Not just fantasy. That said. They did like the hobbit. But they were very interested in his more academic writings as well. The hobbit was a hit with them back in the mid 1930s.
no it wasn’t. First, it was 1938/1939. Secondly, there were paper rationing efforts going on, so there were actually few copies printed (just a few thousand IIRC). Where the Germans interested? Yes. But not like it was a big Nazi favorite or anything. Thirdly, his work prior was simply translation work (like the green knight and Beowulf). The hobbit was literally his only work of HIS writing prior to the war ending.

at this point, you’re gonna have to provide some citations of the Nazi party being huge fans of his
 
no it wasn’t. First, it was 1938/1939. Secondly, there were paper rationing efforts going on, so there were actually few copies printed (just a few thousand IIRC). Where the Germans interested? Yes. But not like it was a big Nazi favorite or anything. Thirdly, his work prior was simply translation work (like the green knight and Beowulf). The hobbit was literally his only work of HIS writing prior to the war ending.

at this point, you’re gonna have to provide some citations of the Nazi party being huge fans of his
It became wildly popular BEFORE the German translation. Lol. You dont think reading english was a fairly common skill?

Like i said. Mid 1930s. 1937 to be exact. You're wrong. You assume it wasnt already popular before the german translation. It was popular immediately. In some countries. Admittedaly not all.
 
no it wasn’t. First, it was 1938/1939. Secondly, there were paper rationing efforts going on, so there were actually few copies printed (just a few thousand IIRC). Where the Germans interested? Yes. But not like it was a big Nazi favorite or anything. Thirdly, his work prior was simply translation work (like the green knight and Beowulf). The hobbit was literally his only work of HIS writing prior to the war ending.

at this point, you’re gonna have to provide some citations of the Nazi party being huge fans of his
Also. His prior work. What on earth did you think i meant when i mentioned over and over again his other writings. Mentiomed his non fantasy writings. His academic writings. Those ALSO were popular with the nazis. How many times do i have to say that im no lt just talking about the middle earth related fiction? Isnt one enough?
 
"at this point, you’re gonna have to provide some citations of the Nazi party being huge fans of his"

Nah. I dont. But ive been saying the whole time he had other academic works prior that they were interested in. You mentioning his academic works is redundant.
 
You made a claim. So yeah, it’s on you to show citations of that. That’s how it works
Yeah. If i dont think the question absurd (otherwise still on me but i dont think its worth it. Come on). Tolkien was big before the hobbit. In academic circles relating to the study of philology history and mythology particularly. The nazis were obsessed with all three. Put two and two together.

Im not going to dig for citations that tolkien's work was popular with nazi propagandists and anthropologists. <-- jesus christ that sentance exists now.
 

QuentinGeorge

Explorer
I assume this is what you are referring to?

EDIT: In short, he was seeking German Publishing rights, the German publisher demanded proof of "Aryan"ness, and Tolkien responded with "I am not Iranian. lol"
 

QuentinGeorge

Explorer
Tolkien was a professor with academic interest in Anglo-Saxon (and wider Germanic) language and history. As in actual Anglo-Saxon and Germanic history and culture, not the invented fantasy called "Nordicism" that became popular with some in the late 19th and early 20th century. He knew that "Aryan" meant "Iranian" and there was no strong link between them and Nordics, not any more than the links they had to any other Mediterranean, or European culture.
 
Tolkien was a professor with academic interest in Anglo-Saxon (and wider Germanic) language and history. As in actual Anglo-Saxon and Germanic history and culture, not the invented fantasy called "Nordicism" that became popular with some in the late 19th and early 20th century. He knew that "Aryan" meant "Iranian" and there was no strong link between them and Nordics, not any more than the links they had to any other Mediterranean, or European culture.
Thanks. Many of the nazis that found themselves liking his work didnt pay close enough attention to notice some key differences between his research and their ideology.
 

Hussar

Legend
Yes. He was very vocally anti nazi. But he had many known works in philology and other areas of study. Not just fantasy. That said. They did like the hobbit. But they were very interested in his more academic writings as well. The hobbit was a hit with them back in the mid 1930s.
I think I'm going to want to see some sources cited for this please. I find it rather difficult to think that the Hobbit was a big hit in Germany in the mid-1930's when the book wasn't published until 1937. I REALLY doubt that an English professor's book for children would be a big hit with the Nazi's. Could be. Stranger things have happened, but, I'm thinking you have misread something somewhere since this is the first time I've ever heard anyone say this.

While there might be some problematic elements in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by today's standards, I'm not sure I buy the idea that The Hobbit, or even Tolkien's more academic studies, would be of particular interest to Nazis.

And, frankly, "known works in philology"? Outside of academics, NO ONE knows works of philology.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
That letter is some classic shade-throwing.

Can't say I've heard anything on Tolkien's work being appreciated by the Nazis during WWII. Sure, Goebbels loved Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen (which, despite that endorsement, is well worth watching, if you just happen to have the five hours or so to spare) and Himmler was into the occult and skewed Volkisch beliefs. But I don't think there's any direct connection that can be made beyond speculation.

I assume this is what you are referring to?

EDIT: In short, he was seeking German Publishing rights, the German publisher demanded proof of "Aryan"ness, and Tolkien responded with "I am not Iranian. lol"
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
Really? Those time traveling Nazi's? Considering LotR didn't hit the shelves until 1954. Sure, the Hobbit came out in 1937, so, maybe Nazi's liked it? :erm: I dunno.

But, @GreyLord, really? You never saw it on reading lists for public schools? Maybe it's because I'm older, I went to school in the 70's and 80's, so, it was easy to see. The Hobbit was standard reading list fare for many public schools in Canada and the US in about Grade 7 (1st year Junior High for those who had that) and the LotR was on tons of university campus lit courses.

When an Oxford don bangs out a book, it makes it really, really easy to put it on reading lists. The fact that it was published by a school textbook publisher helped a lot too.

Heck, I even remember a line from Friends talking about reading the LotR in school:
For my classes it was pretty much disdained all the way through to College even (well the LotR at least).

I didn't deal with Linguisitics so @Son of the Serpent may be right on that. I could very much see his academic writings being touted much more than the LotR was.

I was in school a little earlier than you though, things may have started changing in your era. (edit: I would think I was at least from your description, though we would have overlapped perhaps, maybe even quite a bit depending on which period of the 70s and 80s you were in school and what level [Lower or College...etc]).
 
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I think I'm going to want to see some sources cited for this please. I find it rather difficult to think that the Hobbit was a big hit in Germany in the mid-1930's when the book wasn't published until 1937. I REALLY doubt that an English professor's book for children would be a big hit with the Nazi's. Could be. Stranger things have happened, but, I'm thinking you have misread something somewhere since this is the first time I've ever heard anyone say this.

While there might be some problematic elements in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings by today's standards, I'm not sure I buy the idea that The Hobbit, or even Tolkien's more academic studies, would be of particular interest to Nazis.

And, frankly, "known works in philology"? Outside of academics, NO ONE knows works of philology.
its made aparent by my earlier posts that i was calling 1937 a year in the mid thirties. Aka. Popular the year it came out.

Nazis dont have academics? Huh. What an odd thing to say.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
Even if the Ratzis liked it, so what? Even a broken watch is right twice a day. {Serious crusty old guy voice} One of the great moral failings of modern times is the utterly cowardly way society allows any bad guy to appropriate whatever bit of culture they want, and meekly surrender it. Worse yet, there is usually some smuck willing to aid and abet the racists by telling us whatever they took was a bad thing and thus it isn't so bad that they took whatever they took.
 
Even if the Ratzis liked it, so what? Even a broken watch is right twice a day. {Serious crusty old guy voice} One of the great moral failings of modern times is the utterly cowardly way society allows any bad guy to appropriate whatever bit of culture they want, and meekly surrender it. Worse yet, there is usually some smuck willing to aid and abet the racists by telling us whatever they took was a bad thing and thus it isn't so bad that they took whatever they took.
He was trying to tell me tolkiens works werent controversial in college reading lists in the 1940s. I was saying they were because people knew nazis like them. Thats the relevance. The opinion people had. Not the opinion i have.

Just clarifying that. I think the opinion of the public is irelevant to whether a work is a good one or not. We only have been arguong about this because the argument was essentially: tolkiens works were regarded controversial to some because taboo people liked them. Vs NUH UH you have no proof nazis were reading his books that early. <-- which i dont think is worth me digging for a citation.
 
I dont care what taboo individual liked a book. If its a good book i like it.

But the argument literally boiled down to whether tolkien's books were controversial in some colleges. And with people screaming about nazis, of course they were sometimes controversial.
 

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