That said, I think he's probably largely correct when he states that he doesn't really like Tolkien all that much, and mostly only included Tolkienisms because of perceived strong demand from his players. Let me reiterate a few passages:
By the tender age of twelve, I was an avid fan of the pulps (magazines of those genres), and I ranged afield to assimilate whatever I could find which even vaguely related to these exciting yarns.
Meanwhile, I was devouring ancient and medieval history, tales of the American frontier, historical novels of all sorts, and the Hornblower stories in the old Saturday Evening Post. Somewhere I came across a story by Robert E. Howard, an early taste of the elixir of fantasy to which I rapidly became addicted. Even now I vividly recall my first perusal of Conan the Conqueror, Howard's only full-length novel. After I finished reading that piece of sword & sorcery literature for the first time, my concepts of adventure were never quite the same again.
From these literary fruits came the seeds which grew into today's most popular roleplaying games. The concepts bloomed, producing their current forms, when fertilized by my early desire to play games of all sorts, my interest in devising my own, and my active participation in military simulation games. The last employed either miniature figures and models, or boards and counters, or combinations of all those. As a matter of observable fact, both game systems are still growing, ever changing, and I do not expect them to slow let alone wither for many years to come!
A careful examination of the games will quickly reveal that the major influences are Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, Fritz Leiber, Poul Anderson, A. Merritt, and H. P. Lovecraft. Only slightly lesser influence came from Roger Zelazny, E. R. Burroughs, Michael Moorcock, Philip Jose Farmer, and many others. Though I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit, I found the Ring Trilogy . . . well, tedious. The action dragged, and it smacked of an allegory of the struggle of the little common working folk of England against the threat of Hitler's Nazi evil. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Professor's dedicated readers, I must say that I was so bored with his tomes that I took nearly three weeks to finish them.
Considered in the light of fantasy action adventure, Tolkien is not dynamic. Gandalf is quite ineffectual, plying a sword at times and casting spells which are quite lowpowered (in terms of the D&D® game). Obviously, neither he nor his magic had any influence on the games. The Professor drops Tom Bombadil, my personal favorite, like the proverbial hot potato; had he been allowed to enter the action of the books, no fuzzy-footed manling would have been needed to undergo the trials and tribulations of the quest to destroy the Ring. Unfortunately, no character of Bombadil's power can enter the games, either for the selfsame reasons! The wicked Sauron is poorly developed, virtually depersonalized, and at the end blows away in a cloud of evil smoke . . . poof! Nothing usable there. The mighty ring is nothing more than a standard ring of invisibility, found in the myths and legends of most cultures (albeit with a nasty curse upon it). No influence here, either. . . .Of course, his reading of Tolkien is extremely facile. He's much less likely to incur the wrath of Tolkien's fans by being bored by Lord of the Rings than he is to have made the ridiculous claim that it's allegorical of World War II (especially odd considering that it was at least half written before the war.) I've rarely ever found anyone who thought Tom Bombadil was the most interesting character and wish he'd... what, gone and fought Sauron in a duel?
Well, whatever. Nobody has to like the Lord of the Rings, even if one's reasons for not doing so are banal and based more on an obvious misunderstanding than anything else. But rather than talk about whether he should have included more Tolkienisms, I think the more interesting question is in this small selected quote:
The seeming parallels and inspirations are actually the results of a studied effort to capitalize on the then-current craze for Tolkien's literature. Frankly, to attract those readers and often at the urging of persons who were playing prototypical forms of D&D games I used certain names and attributes in a superficial manner, merely to get their attention! I knew full well that the facade would be dispelled by the actualities of play. I relied on the power of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game to overcome the objections which would naturally occur when diehard Tolkien enthusiasts discovered the dissimilarity. This proved to be the case far more often than not. Tolkien fans entered the D&D game fold, and became a part of its eager audience, despite the fact that only a minute trace of the Professor's work can be found in the games. As anyone familiar with both D&D games and Tolkien works can affirm, there is no resemblance between the two, and it is well nigh impossible to recreate any Tolkien-based fantasy while remaining within the boundaries of the game system.See, that right there was always my primary disconnect with D&D. Maybe almost everyone else did get over the bait and switch, but I didn't. I found D&D more and more strange precisely because it became obvious that I couldn't recreate anything that resembled what I loved about fantasy literature while remaining within the boundaries of the game system.
And not just Tolkien, although obviously that was my favorite. Quite honestly, in spite of the fact that Gygax claims inspiration (and it can be found here and there) in authors like Howard, Leiber, Lovecraft, Merritt, Burroughs, etc. the reality is that the game doesn't really resemble anything that any of them wrote either. And I cordially (or maybe it's not as cordial as it should be) dislike the nebbish, anti-pulp crap of guys like Moorcock, de Camp, Farmer, and Zelazny, etc. that Gygax cites as as important as guys that I do like much better.
But let's face it; when my junior high colleagues were spending their time during class doodling dungeons on graph paper, I was doodling Christopher Tolkien style overland maps instead. The degree to which I couldn't replicate something that felt more like the Prydain books or the Tolkien books, or some of the other high fantasy that I was mostly reading at the time was a major turn-off to me.
Today, I read much less high fantasy, but it's not really fair to say that I like sword & sorcery better than high fantasy, or that dungeoncrawling bears any more resemblance to sword & sorcery than it does to high fantasy anyway. To be perfectly honest, I'd have had the exact same complaint about D&D if I had focused more on the Burroughs and Howard rather than Tolkien as my main inspiration back in junior high.
I'm not actually quite sure what to call the kind of fantasy I prefer now, honestly. Certainly I'm a big fan of stuff that borrows liberally from both high fantasy and sword & sorcery in many ways; much more of the themes and characterizations of the latter but with literary structure that more closely resembles the former. And clearly I'm a huge fan of some genre splicing, particularly with regards to horror conventions, which create a weird hybrid of swashbuckling action and dark fantasy horror.