J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien


Who Was J.R.R. Tolkien?

J.R.R. Tolkien was an English fantasy author and academic. Tolkien settled in England as a child, going on to study at Exeter College. While teaching at Oxford University, he published the popular fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The works have had a devoted international fan base and been adapted into award-winning blockbuster films.

Early Life and Family

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892, to Arthur Tolkien and Mabel Suffield Tolkien. After Arthur died from complications of rheumatic fever, Mabel settled with four-year-old Tolkien and his younger brother, Hilary, in the country hamlet of Sarehole, in Birmingham, England.

Mabel died in 1904, and the Tolkien brothers were sent to live with a relative and in boarding homes, with a Catholic priest assuming guardianship in Birmingham. Tolkien went on to get his first-class degree at Exeter College, specializing in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic languages and classic literature.

World War I

Tolkien enlisted as a lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and served in World War I, making sure to continue writing as well. He fought in the Battle of the Somme, in which there were severe casualties, and was eventually released from duty due to illness. In the midst of his military service, he married Edith Bratt in 1916.

Books: 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings'

The award-winning fantasy novel The Hobbit — about the small, furry-footed Bilbo Baggins and his adventures — was published in 1937, and was regarded as a children’s book, though Tolkien would state the book wasn’t originally intended for children. He also created more than 100 drawings to support the narrative.

Over the years, while working on scholarly publications, Tolkien developed the work that would come to be regarded as his masterpiece — The Lord of the Rings series, partially inspired by ancient European myths, with its own sets of maps, lore and languages.

J.R.R. Tolkien in 1955

Tolkien released part one of the series, The Fellowship of the Ring in 1954; The Two Towers and The Return of the King followed in 1955, finishing up the trilogy. The books gave readers a rich literary trove populated by elves, goblins, talking trees and all manner of fantastic creatures, including characters like the wizard Gandalf and the dwarf Gimli.

While Rings had its share of critics, many reviewers and waves upon waves of general readers took to Tolkien’s world, causing the books to become global bestsellers, with fans forming Tolkien clubs and learning his fictional languages.

Tolkien retired from professorial duties in 1959, going on to publish an essay and poetry collection, Tree and Leaf , and the fantasy tale Smith of Wootton Major . His wife Edith died in 1971, and Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, at the age of 81. He was survived by four children.

Legacy and New Adaptations

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series are grouped among the most popular books in the world, having sold tens of millions of copies. The Rings trilogy was also adapted by director Peter Jackson into a highly popular, award-winning trio of films starring Ian McKellen , Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and Viggo Mortensen , among others. Jackson also directed a three-part Hobbit movie adaptation starring Martin Freeman, which was released from 2012 to 2014.

Tolkien's son Christopher has edited several works that weren't completed at the time of his father's death, including The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin , which were published posthumously. The Art of the Hobbit was published in 2012, celebrating the novel's 75th anniversary by presenting Tolkien's original illustrations.

Underscoring the enduring popularity of Tolkien's famed fantasy world, in November 2017, online retail and entertainment behemoth Amazon announced that it had acquired the TV rights for the book series. In its statement, the company revealed plans to "explore new storylines preceding Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, " with the potential for a spinoff series, thereby exciting fans with the promise of a prequel to the familiar deeds of Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf and the rest.

The author's life was the subject of the 2019 feature Tolkien , a biopic starring Nicholas Hoult and steeped with references to The Lord of the Rings .


  • Name: John Ronald Ruel Tolkien
  • Birth Year: 1892
  • Birth date: January 3, 1892
  • Birth City: Bloemfontein
  • Birth Country: South Africa
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: J.R.R. Tolkien is an internationally renowned fantasy writer. He is best known for authoring 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy.
  • Writing and Publishing
  • Fiction and Poetry
  • Astrological Sign: Capricorn
  • Exeter College
  • King Edward's School
  • Death Year: 1973
  • Death date: September 2, 1973
  • Death City: Bournemouth, Dorset
  • Death Country: England

We strive for accuracy and fairness.If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us !


  • Article Title: J.R.R. Tolkien Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/authors-writers/jrr-tolkien
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 11, 2019
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014
  • If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it's my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth.
  • Children aren't a class. They are merely human beings at different stages of maturity. All of them have a human intelligence which even at its lowest is a pretty wonderful thing, and the entire world in front of them.
  • The hobbits are just what I should like to have been but never was—an entirely unmilitary people who always came up to scratch in a clinch.

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Biography Online


Biography of J.R.R Tolkien

biography j r r tolkien

Early life J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in 1892, Bloemfontein, South Africa. After three years in South Africa, he returned to England with his Mother Mabel; unfortunately, his father died one year later, leaving him with little memory of his father. His early childhood was, by all accounts, a happy one; he was brought up in the Warwickshire countryside (many regard this idealised upbringing as the basis for the Shire in Lord of the Rings).

In 1904, when John was just 12, his mother Mabel died from diabetes leaving a profound mark on him and his brother. After his mother’s passing, he was brought up by the family’s Catholic priest, Father Francis Morgen. From an early age, J.R.R. Tolkien was an excellent scholar, with an unusually specialised interest in languages. He enjoyed studying languages especially Greek, Anglo Saxon, and later at Oxford, Finnish.


J.R.R.Tolkien in Oxford


J.R.R.Tolkien and the First World War

At the outbreak of the First World War, J.R.R. Tolkien decided to finish off his degree before enlisting in 1916. Joining the Lancashire Fusiliers, he made it to the Western Front just before the great Somme offensive. At first hand, J.R.R. Tolkien witnessed the horrors and carnage of the “Great War”; he lost many close friends, tellingly he remarked “By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead ”. J.R.R. Tolkien survived, mainly due to the persistent re-occurrence of trench fever, which saw him invalided back to England.  He rarely talked about his experiences directly, but the large-scale horrors of war will undoubtedly have influenced his writings in some way. Perhaps the imagery for the wastelands of Mordor may have had a birth in the muddy horrors of the Western Front.

It was back in England, in 1917, that J.R.R Tolkien began working on his epic – “ The Silmarillion “. The Silmarillion lies at the heart of all Tolkien’s mythology, it is a work he continually revised until his death in 1973. The Silmarillion makes hard reading, in that, it is not plot driven, but depicts the history of a universe, through an almost biblical overview. It moves from the Creation of the Universe to the introduction of evil and the rebellion of the Noldor. It is in The Silmarillion that many roots from the Lord of the Rings stem. It gives the Lord of the Rings the impression of a real epic. It becomes not just a story, but also the history of an entire world and peoples.

Writing the Hobbit

Initially, J.R.R Tolkien’s writings on The Silmarillion were known by very few. He found his time absorbed in teaching and other duties of being a professor. He also found time to write important papers on medieval literature. These included seminal works on, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight , and Beowulf . In 1945, he was given the Merton professorship and gained additional duties of teaching and lecturing.


It was sometime after 1930 that Tolkien gained an unexpected inspiration to start writing the Hobbit. It was whilst marking an examination paper that he jotted in the margins of a paper the immortal words; “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.” Unlike the Silmarillion , The Hobbit was a simple fairy tale and adventure for children. Hinting at evil things, it still ends in a happy ending for all and is primarily concerned with a triumph of good over evil. In the course of the next few years friends, including C.S. Lewis , read his manuscript and gave good reviews. In the course of time, the publisher Allen and Unwin were sent a copy. Rayner, the 10-year-old son of Mr Unwin, gave a glowing reference and the Hobbit was published in 1937 to great commercial success.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis

J.R.R.Tolkien was good friends with C.S. Lewis and together they were key members of the ‘Inklings’ an informal Oxford literary club, where writers met together to read out poetry and short stories. Tolkien had a strong Catholic faith throughout his life; he often discussed religion with C.S.Lewis. Lewis later said that his conversations with Tolkien were a key factor in his decision to embrace Christianity. However, their relationship cooled over the years. There was a little friction over C.S.Lewis relationship with Joy Davidson, but they remained firm friends and C.S.Lewis was always a stout literary defender of Tolkien’s work. (Though Tolkien was somewhat less enthusiastic about the work of C.S.Lewis.)

Lord of the Rings


Due to the sheer scope and length of the book, the publishers Allen and Unwin were wary of publication. They worried about whether it would be a commercial success. Eventually, they decided to publish the book, but split it up into six sections; they also offered no payment to J.R.R Tolkien, until the book moved into profit. The first edition was published in 1954 and soon became a good seller. However, it was in 1965 when the book was published in America, that it really took off becoming an international bestseller. Somehow the book managed to capture the mood of the 1960s counterculture, and it became immensely popular on American campuses. Tolkien became a household name, and The Lord of the Rings would soon become renowned as the most popular book of all time.

Although the book has received the most powerful popular acclaim, it has not always received the same commendation from the literary world. In 1972, Oxford University conferred on Tolkien the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters. This was not for his writing, but his researches on linguistic studies. Tolkien, however, would have taken no offence at this award. For Tolkien, his linguistic studies were as important if not more so than his fictional literary endeavours.

He did not particularly enjoy the fame that came from his literary success, and in 1968 he moved to Poole to gain a little more privacy. Speaking of his own simple tastes he described his similarity to hobbits.

“I am in fact a Hobbit (in all but size). I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food (unrefrigerated), but detest French cooking; I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms (out of a field); have a very simple sense of humour (which even my appreciative critics find tiresome); I go to bed late and get up late (when possible). I do not travel much.”

– Letter to Deborah Webster (25 October 1958)


Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan . “Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net , Published 1st Feb 2009. Last updated 30th January 2017.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien at Amazon

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

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William Caxton and Early Printing in England at Amazon

Related Pages


  • J.R.R.Tolkien Quotes
  • Why is the Lord of the Rings so Popular?
  • The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Humphrey Carpenter. Glasgow, 1995, Harper Collins.
  • “Biography: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien” 26 Jun 02 Carpenter, Humphrey. J R R Tolkien: A biography. Glasgow, 2002, Harper Collins.

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J.R.R. Tolkien

By jake rossen | aug 10, 2020.

biography j r r tolkien


There aren't many 20th century authors whose popularity could match that of English fantasy icon J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973). The mind behind The Lord of the Rings and various other works set in Middle-earth has inspired generations of creators and helped establish the high-fantasy genre as one of the most powerful in the marketplace today. He's earned armies of admirers and spawned plenty of imitators over the decades, but few, if any, have managed to rival his accomplishments. For more on Tolkien’s compelling life and work, keep reading.

1. J.R.R. Tolkien was a soldier in World War I.

During his service in World War I, J.R.R. Tolkien came down with "trench fever," which is a bacterial disease carried by lice that earned its nickname because of how common it was among soldiers fighting in trenches. Pictured above is an example of what life in the trenches looked like.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. His family would move to Birmingham, England, in 1896 after his father died, and Tolkien's mother would pass away just a few years after that. From there, Tolkien ended up living with relatives and in boarding homes under the supervision of a priest. He eventually earned a first-class degree at Exeter College in 1915, studying English Language and Literature . Afterwards, he enlisted for duty in the British Army and was placed in the Lancashire Fusiliers infantry regiment during World War I, where he was involved in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Tolkien was released after contracting "trench fever," a bacterial disease carried by lice that causes fever, muscle pain, headaches, and enlargements of the spleen and liver. Before heading into the war, Tolkien married Edith Bratt , whom he had known since he was 16.

2. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis met at Oxford University.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, along with other members of The Inklings, would regularly meet at The Eagle and Child bar in Oxford, England, to talk shop.

In 1925 , a 33-year-old Tolkien became a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, notably lecturing on works like Beowulf . There, Tolkien started a writer’s group, The Inklings, where he later fraternized with C.S. Lewis. The future The Chronicles of Narnia author was also a professor, and the two smoothed out some initial dislike to form a friendship. Both men were fascinated by Norse mythology and used their meet-ups with The Inklings to encourage one another to pursue their fiction work.

3. J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t think The Hobbit was a children’s book.

Since its publication in 1937, author J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit has sold more than 100 million copies.

While at Oxford, Tolkien began working on the book that would kick off the Middle-earth saga, The Hobbit , which centers on Bilbo Baggins, a diminutive hero who endures a series of adventures along with a troupe of dwarves and the wizard Gandalf. When the book was published in 1937, it was considered by some to be written for children, though Tolkien said that wasn’t his intention. In a nod to his future efforts offering illustrated maps for his Lord of the Rings saga, Tolkien also created over 100 drawings to add dimension to his first novel.

4. J.R.R. Tolkien’s wife inspired his characters.

The burial site of Edith and J.R.R. Tolkien, with "Luthien" and "Beren" inscribed on the headstone.

Tolkien clearly drew inspiration for his Lord of the Rings series from studying mythology and fantasy fiction. But he also found his muse in his wife, Edith Tolkien. One day, according to a feature on Newsweek , Tolkien watched as Edith danced in a wooded area in Yorkshire. As the war pressed on, Tolkien was soothed by his wife’s grace. Struck by her beauty and elegance, Tolkien began writing a story about an Elvish princess named Lúthien and her love, Beren. The tale was so important to the couple that the characters' names were engraved on their joint headstone.

The story of Beren and Lúthien eventually found its way into The Silmarillion , a collection of tales that gave more detail to the world of Middle-earth. An expanded version, simply titled Beren and Lúthien , was published as its own standalone book in 2017, more than 40 years after Tolkien's death.

5. J.R.R. Tolkien was a terrible driver.

In 1932, Tolkien purchased a Morris Crowley automobile. Because cars were still a relatively new phenomenon, Tolkien had not had much of an opportunity to practice controlling the vehicle. By all accounts, he was a terror behind the wheel, driving on flat tires, crashing into stone walls, and speeding through intersections.

6. J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien, carried on his father’s legacy.

Author J.R.R. Tolkien began working on stories that comprised The Silmarillion as far back as 1914, but he wouldn't live to see them published. It was his son, Christopher, who edited and completed the tales, which were then published in 1977.

Born in 1924, Christopher Tolkien was said to have assisted in his father’s work at a very early age. As a child, he would point out mistakes in bedtime stories and was tasked with reviewing The Hobbit for errors. Later, Christopher drew the main Middle-earth map for The Lord of the Rings . When J.R.R. Tolkien died in 1973, Christopher became the executor of his father’s estate, seeing to it that unpublished works like The Silmarillion saw the light of day. Christopher passed away in 2020 at the age of 95.

7. The J.R.R. Tolkien movie based on his life was disavowed by his estate.

Lily Collins and Nicholas Hoult played Edith Bratt and J.R.R. Tolkien, respectively, in the 2019 film Tolkien.

In 2019, Fox Searchlight released Tolkien , a biopic based on the author's life, starring Nicholas Hoult, from the X-Men franchise, as J.R.R. Tolkien and Lily Collins as wife Edith. The film examines Tolkien’s wartime experiences and his efforts to create his fictional worlds. But the Tolkien estate was unhappy with the movie, saying in a statement that it didn’t approve or authorize it and had no involvement in the production.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth reading order.

Tolkien’s enduring legacy is his Middle-earth saga, which places a heavy focus on the efforts of hobbits Frodo, Sam, and others to confront the Dark Lord Sauron and prevent him from obtaining the One Ring that would give him dominion over the world. The saga grew to encompass several titles beyond The Lord of the Rings and can be read in the order in which they were published:

  • The Hobbit (1937)
  • The Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (1954)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (1955)
  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962)
  • The Silmarillion (1977, posthumous)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980, posthumous)
  • The History of Middle-earth (1983-1996, posthumous)
  • The Children of Húrin (2007, posthumous)
  • Beren and Lúthien (2017, posthumous)
  • The Fall of Gondolin (2018, posthumous)

Most Notable J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes:

  • “If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth.”
  • “Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” (From The Fellowship of the Ring )
  • “Courage is found in unlikely places.” (From The Fellowship of the Ring )
  • “Not all those who wander are lost.” (From The Fellowship of the Ring )
  • “Short cuts make long delays.” (From The Fellowship of the Ring )
  • "The war made me poignantly aware of the beauty of the world."

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J. R. R. Tolkien

English writer and philologist (1892–1973) / from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, dear wikiwand ai, let's keep it short by simply answering these key questions:.

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE FRSL ( / ˈ r uː l ˈ t ɒ l k iː n / , ROOL TOL -keen ; [lower-alpha 1] 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer and philologist . He was the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

From 1925 to 1945, Tolkien was the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a Fellow of Pembroke College , both at the University of Oxford . He then moved within the same university to become the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College , and held these positions from 1945 until his retirement in 1959. Tolkien was a close friend of C. S. Lewis , a co-member of the informal literary discussion group The Inklings . He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.

After Tolkien's death, his son Christopher published a series of works based on his father's extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion . These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings , form a connected body of tales, poems , fictional histories, invented languages , and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda and, within it, Middle-earth . Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.

While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre . As a result, he has been popularly identified as the "father" of modern fantasy literature —or, more precisely, of high fantasy, and is widely regarded as one of the most influential authors of all time.

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Professor J.R.R. Tolkien C.B.E. was a renowned scholar of the English language best remembered for his works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings , which have become two of the most well-known, best-loved and biggest-selling books of all time.

This section contains biographical and bibliographical information together with answers to frequent questions.

A short outline of Tolkien’s life

biography j r r tolkien

A chronology of Tolkien’s life

biography j r r tolkien

A full bibliography

biography j r r tolkien

A suggested critical reading list

biography j r r tolkien

Resources for students of Tolkien

biography j r r tolkien

Answers to frequent enquiries

biography j r r tolkien

  • The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien

  • Literature Notes
  • J.R.R. Tolkien Biography
  • Book Summary
  • The Fellowship of the Ring
  • The Two Towers
  • The Return of the King
  • About The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • Character List
  • Summary and Analysis: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Maps, Prologue, and Note on Shire Records
  • Book 1, Chapters 1–6
  • Book 1, Chapters 7–12
  • Book 2, Chapters 1–5
  • Book 2, Chapters 6–10
  • Summary and Analysis: The Two Towers
  • Book 3, Chapters 1–6
  • Book 3, Chapters 7–11
  • Book 4, Chapters 1–6
  • Book 4, Chapters 7–10
  • Summary and Analysis: The Return of the King
  • Book 5, Chapters 1–5
  • Book 5, Chapters 6–10
  • Book 6, Chapters 1–5
  • Book 6, Chapters 6–10
  • Character Analysis
  • Frodo Baggins
  • Gandalf the Grey
  • Character Map
  • Critical Essays
  • This Is Worse Than Mordor!": The Scouring of the Shire as Conclusion"
  • The Temptation of the Ring
  • Full Glossary for The Lord of the Rings
  • Essay Questions
  • Practice Projects
  • Cite this Literature Note

Early Years

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's early life was marked by loss. Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892, Tolkien lost his father at age four. Life in industrial Birmingham, England, contrasted dramatically with his exotic birthplace. When the family converted to Catholicism, a faith that Tolkien followed throughout his life, relationships with his extended family suffered. When he was twelve, his mother died of diabetes, at the time an untreatable illness. At sixteen, Tolkien met Edith Bratt, a fellow orphan who would later become his wife, but his guardian, Father Francis Morgan, ordered him not to see her until his twenty-first birthday.

Tolkien earned a scholarship to Oxford University and enrolled in 1911, where he studied English language and literature. When he turned 21 in 1913, Tolkien contacted Edith and renewed their romance. In 1915, he completed his studies with a First, the highest level of achievement, and on March 22, 1916, he and Edith were married. War had broken out on the continent while Tolkien was at Oxford, and after graduation, he took up his commission in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He survived the Battle of the Somme, one of the harshest battles of World War I, and returned to England suffering from trench fever. Millions of young men, including many of Tolkien's boyhood friends, did not come home.

A Scholar's Life

Tolkien's first job after the war was researching word origins for the Oxford English Dictionary . He soon found a position as Reader of English language at the University of Leeds in 1920, and in 1924, the university appointed him Professor. In 1925, he returned to Oxford University as Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the remarkably young age of 33. Tolkien was an excellent teacher, and his dramatic lectures on Beowulf were legendary. His academic writing includes a translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and his landmark essays "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" and "On Fairy-Stories." In 1945, he became Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford, and he continued in that position until his retirement.

Tolkien and his wife, Edith, had four children: sons John, Michael, and Christopher and daughter Priscilla, born between 1917 and 1929. The family lived quietly in Oxford while Tolkien pursued his academic studies and personal writing. John eventually entered the priesthood. Michael and Christopher both served in World War II, later becoming educators, and Priscilla was a social worker. Christopher, who followed in his father's footsteps as a university lecturer, also oversees Tolkien's literary estate and has edited many volumes of his father's notes.

Tolkien also enjoyed an active social life with his colleagues at the university. He became a founding member of the all-male club known as the Inklings, who met frequently to talk, drink beer at the local taverns, and discuss writing. Members included many authors, most famously C.S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. For many years, they convened at least once a week to read both their favorite literature and their own works in progress. This group became the first critical audience for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Fantasy and Fame

From an early age, Tolkien pursued an active life of the imagination. In childhood, he and his brother Hilary would play at vanquishing evil dragons, and Tolkien added to his early mastery of Greek, Latin, Gothic, and Finnish, a talent for inventing languages of his own. As a young man, he tried his hand at poetry, going so far as to publish a few pieces, but by the time he returned from the War, he had begun an ambitious collection of loosely connected stories, poems, and songs that told the history and legends of the elves, eventually known as The Silmarillion. After his children were born, he began enthusiastically telling them stories, many of which he wrote down. For many years, he carefully composed and illustrated letters for his children from Father Christmas, detailing life and adventures in the frozen north.

Then, while he was grading exam papers during the summer holiday to supplement his professor's salary, Tolkien wrote on a fortuitously blank page what became one of the most well-known opening sentences in English literature: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." In trying to answer, for himself, the question of what exactly a hobbit might be, Tolkien composed the delightful story of Bilbo Baggins, a stay-at-home little hobbit who goes off on an adventure and comes back with both greater maturity and a magic ring. In 1937, the story was published by Allen and Unwin as The Hobbit.

Much to Tolkien's surprise, The Hobbit became a successful children's book, receiving favorable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Naturally, the publisher requested a follow up. To their dismay, it took Tolkien seventeen years to produce the requested sequel (with another world war intervening), and the result was not another delightful children's story, but an epic saga of heroic struggle against evil that was over a thousand pages long. Nevertheless, The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes in 1954 and 1955. The books received mixed reviews, ranging from the glowing words of C.S. Lewis and W.H. Auden to a complete dismissal by Edmund Wilson.

The books sold well, but neither the publisher nor the professor was prepared for the cultural phenomenon that The Lord of the Rings became. When a pirated Ace paperback edition in 1965 propelled the novels to cult status, the 73-year-old Tolkien found himself in the remarkable position of being both a retired Oxford professor and a hero of the counterculture. Until his death on September 2, 1973, Tolkien remained both flattered and puzzled by the adulation of his fans.

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J.R.R. Tolkien and his works

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tolkien's Fiction & Scholarly Work

Tolkien is best known for his fantasy fiction. He began writing The Hobbit on the blank pages at the end of his students' exams, and it was read to his children as bedtime stories. But it was part of an epic fantasy far bigger than any children's fairy-tale...as was seen when The Lord of the Rings was published seventeen years later in 1954-1955. Tolkien died before finishing the Silmarillion, the great history of his imaginary universe. The work was under constant revision (and expansion) through most of his life. His son, Christopher Tolkien, was able to complete it and publish a set of 'histories' of Middle Earth using his father's notes and unfinished manuscripts. These now contain eleven volumes of material from J.R.R. tolkien's notes on the languages, legends, and people of his fictitious universe.

In addition to being one of the preeminent fantasy writers of our century, Tolkien was a scholar of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse languages. He was a translator, critic, and philologist (classical linguist.) He worked as a translator of the Jerusalem Bible and wrote definitions and researched word origins for the Oxford English Dictionary. His works of translation and criticism include Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf and the Critics.

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tolkien's Legacy

J. R. R. tolkien's writing, especially his fiction, has inspired a wealth of scholarly criticism, as well as films, parodies, artwork, and fan clubs. There are now guides and atlases to Middle Earth, literary magazines devoted to Tolkien and his contemporaries, yearly calendars, etc. He has of course inspired many of the fantasy writers of the late twentieth century as well.

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J. R. R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien, or John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, a renowned English poet, author, and academic, was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa . His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, worked as a banker, while his mother, Mabel, dedicated herself to homemaking. From an early age, Tolkien exhibited a profound passion for reading and writing, achieving fluency in both by the age of four. His mother, perceiving his emerging talent, acquainted him with literature and languages, nurturing his intellectual advancement. Mabel not only kindled Tolkien’s love for books but also encouraged his exploration of the natural world, leading to his keen interest in botany. Beyond literary pursuits, he displayed artistic talents, often sketching the wonders of nature during his leisure time. Tolkien’s developmental period was distinguished by a multifaceted array of passions, encompassing a thirst for knowledge, mastery of languages, fascination with plants, and expression of artistry. These formative experiences provided the basis for his exceptional literary vocation, solidifying his standing as a revered storyteller worldwide.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s illustrious life was shaped by education. After his initial studies at home, he began a formal educational journey that would form the basis for his future accomplishments. He received his primary education at King Edward’s School and St. Philip’s School provided him with the opportunity to delve into the classics, explore the rich tapestry of classic literature, and develop his fascination with Germanic and Anglo-Saxon languages. He furthered his academic endeavors at Exeter College, Oxford, where he pursued both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, culminating in the year 1916. Nevertheless, this period coincided with the outbreak of World War I, which prompted Tolkien to fulfill his obligation to his country by enlisting in the Lancashire Fusiliers. It was during this period that he was confronted with the daunting crucible of the Battle of the Somme, a demonstration of his perseverance and valor. Although he faced the challenges of trench warfare and trench fever, he emerged from the war with a profound sense of purpose that he later integrated into his literary works.

Personal Life

J.R.R. Tolkien’s personal life was characterized by a romantic journey that was both sincere and enduring. When he was just sixteen years old, he met Edith Mary Bratt, a lady who was three years older than him, which ignited a profound and lasting affection. However, obstacles hindered their love when Tolkien’s guardian expressed disapproval, mandating that he postpone their union until his twenty-first birthday. Nevertheless, they exchanged vows on March 22, 1916, at St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Warwick. Tolkien had four children, adding depth to his life’s tapestry.

Some Important Facts about J. R. R. Tolkien

  • The Lord of the Rings has been translated into twenty-five languages and sold one hundred million copies worldwide.
  • After WWI, he worked on the Oxford English Dictionary, which was started in 1918. He primarily focused on the Germanic words beginning with “W” discovering their origin and etymology .
  • He mastered many languages such as German, French, Greek, Middle English, Gothic, Spanish, and Italian.
  • He was ranked 92 on the BBC Network’s 100 Greatest Britons in 2002.
  • He was given the Commander of the British Empire’s Order by the Queen for his services to literature.

Writing Career

J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing journey began after World War I. He worked as a researcher for The Oxford English Dictionary, using his linguistic skills. He started his academic writing with the translation of ‘Sir Gawain’ and wrote famous essays like ‘The Monsters and the Critics,’ ‘On Fairy- Stories ’ and explored ‘ Beowulf ’. In 1937, he achieved success with ‘ The Hobbit ’ a fantasy novel featuring Bilbo Baggins and his adventures . Tolkien also drew inspiration from European myths and folklore , evident in his monumental work, ‘The Lord of the Rings’. This epic combined myths with a richly detailed world, including maps and languages. His other notable works include ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’, ‘The Return of the King’, ‘Tree and Leaf’ and ‘Smith of Wootton Major’. Tolkien’s writing legacy endures as a masterful storyteller in the realm of fantasy literature.

Tolkien’s unparalleled, polished, and antiquated approach to writing, reflecting the impact of Irish Mythology, Catholicism, Gaelic mythology, Biblical History, and the World Wars, continues to enthrall successive generations. His commanding imagination and distinctive creative approach are manifested through uncomplicated yet convincing language. The inclusion of poetic elements sets his writing apart from others. Regarding literary devices , he turns toward imagery , rhetorical devices , symbolism , foreshadowing , and metaphors . Some of his major thematic strands are fantasy, war, good versus evil, pride and courage , death and immortality, and fate versus free will.

Some Important Works of J. R. R. Tolkien

Best Works: Some of his best works include The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, the Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book, Tree and Leaf, Bilbo’s Last Song, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth, The War of the Ring and The Fall of Gondolin .

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s Impact on Future Literature

Tolkien’s literary legacy is a testament to his intellect and wit . His contributions to the genre of high fantasy, specifically regarding ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ have left a lasting impact on the realms of entertainment and fantasy literature. The author’s passing has not diminished the popularity and prestige of his books as they continue to be firmly ensconced in the hearts of readers. The narratives of Tolkien are so captivating that they have inspired various films, dramas , and a vast global following beyond the written form. The detailed documentation of his intricate worlds and captivating characters still serves as a source of inspiration for up-and-coming writers who aspire to create their own literary works. Thus, Tolkien’s legacy remains, serving as a guiding beacon for generations of storytellers yet to come.

Important Quotes

  • “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.” So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  • “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  • “Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” (The Fellowship of the Ring)
  • “The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say” (The Fellowship of the Ring)

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The Tolkien Estate

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892 in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State (now South Africa), to Arthur and Mabel Tolkien. His parents, both originally from Birmingham, had moved to South Africa so that Arthur could pursue his career in banking. When Tolkien was three years old, his mother took him and his younger brother Hilary to visit their family in England. The visit became permanent when his father died unexpectedly in South Africa. Mabel settled with her two young sons in Sarehole, a small village just outside Birmingham, which was later to inspire the Shire in Tolkien’s writings.

Tolkien won a scholarship to the prestigious King Edward VI School in Birmingham when he was eight years old and the family moved back to the city for the remainder of his school-days. He excelled in languages studying French, German, Latin and Greek and also taking an interest in Old English, Middle English and Gothic. Unfortunately his mother developed diabetes when he was twelve years old and her health began to deteriorate rapidly. Mabel was a recent convert to Catholicism and she arranged for Father Francis Morgan, a sympathetic Catholic priest, to become the boys’ guardian. She died within the year and although Ronald and his younger brother Hilary were now orphans, Father Francis maintained daily contact with them and gave them love and financial support for the rest of his life.

At school Tolkien found a group of like-minded friends: Geoffrey Smith, Chris Wiseman and Rob Gilson were all precociously talented, in literature, mathematics and drawing respectively. They gathered in the school library illicitly brewing mugs of tea and when they were discovered and ejected, they decamped to Barrows department store where they could drink tea and continue their discussions uninterrupted. The Tea Club and Barrovian Society, or T.C.B.S. for short, was formed. These young men were drawn into close comradeship by a common desire to create something of beauty in the world but within a few years their dreams would be shattered by the war.

Tolkien applied to study Classics (Literae Humaniores, also known as Greats) at Oxford and on his second attempt he won a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, matriculating in 1911. After two years of fairly lax study, he was given permission to change from Classics to English, so that he could pursue his growing interest in Germanic philology, and more specifically Old Norse, Old English and Middle English. In the same year, 1913, he was reunited with Edith Bratt, a fellow orphan whom he had met in shared lodgings in Birmingham. Initially Tolkien’s guardian had tried to extinguish their youthful romance. Fearing that a relationship would distract Tolkien from his studies, he had banned any contact between them for three years. As soon as Tolkien reached his twenty-first birthday and the prohibition was lifted, he wrote to Edith and they became engaged within a week.

World War 1

The renewal of their relationship gave him a new focus and he worked harder at his studies, graduating with a first class degree in June 1915. He immediately enlisted in the army, taking a commission in the Lancashire Fusiliers where he hoped to be placed in the same battalion as his school-friend, Geoffrey Smith. After training for a year in Staffordshire and Yorkshire, he qualified as a signalling officer. Aware of the approaching danger, he and Edith married in March 1916 and three months later he was sent to France for the start of the Somme offensive. He saw first-hand the horrors of trench warfare and the utter destruction of man, beast and landscape. Five months later he was sent back to England on a hospital ship suffering from trench fever. He was plagued by this recurring condition for the next two years and spent long periods in hospital, punctuated by stints of defensive duty on the east coast. It was during this time that he began to write down ‘The Lost Tales’, a series of heroic tales of the Elves from a far-distant time. These stories were the forerunner of The Silmarillion , his epic history of Elves and Men and Gods, which occupied him throughout his life and from which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings eventually sprang. He may have been driven to write these stories down by the proximity of death. Certainly by the time the war ended Rob Gilson and Geoffrey Smith of the T.C.B.S. were dead, along with many of Tolkien’s university friends. Shortly before he died Geoffrey Smith had exhorted Tolkien to pursue the ideals they shared, ‘may you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them, if such be my lot.’

Early career

With a wife and young son to support, he returned to Oxford at the end of the war and found employment working on the Oxford English Dictionary as a lexicographer. A year later in 1920, he gained his first academic position as Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, becoming a professor there four years later. His Middle English Vocabulary , written for students using Kenneth Sisam’s Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose , was published in 1922 and his edition of the medieval romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight , co-edited with Eric Gordon, was published in 1925. In the same year he returned to Oxford as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a fellow of Pembroke College. For the next twenty years he taught Old English, Old Norse, Gothic and Germanic philology to undergraduates, supervised postgraduate research and pursued his own academic research. His British Academy lecture, ‘Beowulf: the monsters and the critics’ delivered in 1937, was a ground-breaking work which overturned decades of critical thought on this Old English epic poem. Another lecture, ‘On Fairy-stories’, delivered at St Andrew’s in 1939, set out to define fantasy and later came to be recognized as his justification for writing fantasy literature.

The Inklings

At Oxford Tolkien met C.S. Lewis, a colleague in the English Faculty. They soon discovered a shared love of northern myths and legends and would converse late into the night, ‘of the gods & giants & Asgard’. They were invited to attend meetings of an undergraduate club called the Inklings and when the club later foundered, they attached the name to a group of their own friends who met in pubs or college rooms to read aloud their works-in-progress, to drink, talk and debate. The Inklings, and C.S. Lewis in particular, would become crucial in encouraging Tolkien to finish his great work.

In his spare time he continued to work on his legendarium; sketching out thousands of years of history, inventing languages, writing stories, plotting maps and painting landscapes. He also made up stories for his four children: John (born 1917), Michael (born 1920), Christopher (born 1924) and Priscilla (born 1929). Some of these stories were written down and illustrated, and one of them, The Hobbit , found its way to a publisher’s assistant who persuaded Tolkien to submit it for publication. It was published by George Allen & Unwin in 1937 with Tolkien’s own illustrations, maps and dust jacket design. The first print run sold out in three months and it became a perennial children’s classic.

The Lord of the Rings

The success of The Hobbit led his publisher, Stanley Unwin, to ask for more about hobbits. Tolkien submitted instead some of the unfinished prose and verse tales from ‘The Silmarillion’ but when these were roundly rejected, he sat down to write a Hobbit sequel. The story quickly outgrew its original form as a children’s story and burgeoned into an epic fantasy tale for adults. It took twelve years to complete, at the end of which Tolkien reflected, somewhat ruefully, that he had produced a ‘monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and very terrifying romance, quite unfit for children’. The work, The Lord of the Rings , was both a sequel to The Hobbit and to his unpublished legendarium, ‘The Silmarillion’. In fact the works were so closely related in Tolkien’s mind that he decided The Lord of the Rings could only be published in conjunction with the, as yet unfinished, ‘Silmarillion’. His publisher baulked at the idea and lengthy negotiations with a rival publisher, Collins, also stalled. Three years later Tolkien wrote a chastened letter to George Allen & Unwin, declaring, ‘better something than nothing’. The huge size of the work and doubts as to its potential readership were major concerns but Rayner Unwin (son of Sir Stanley) was convinced of its merits and decided to publish it even if the firm suffered a financial loss. It appeared in three volumes between 1954 and 1955. Literary critics were divided over its merits but sales far outstripped both the publisher’s and the author’s expectations and it has continued to sell in astonishing numbers and to be translated into an ever-increasing number of languages.

Later career

In 1945, while still struggling to finish The Lord of the Rings , Tolkien was elected Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford. His academic focus now switched from Old to Middle English and he had to prepare an entirely new set of lectures and seminars for texts that he had not taught since 1925. In the same year he published a short allegorical story, Leaf, by Niggle , which reflected some of his own concerns that The Lord of the Rings would never be completed. A few years later he published another short story, the comic tale of Farmer Giles of Ham , illustrated by Pauline Baynes. He retired in 1959 having served as a professor at Oxford for thirty-four years.

In retirement Tolkien hoped to complete ‘The Silmarillion’, which he had been working on for over forty years, and for which his publisher (and his readers) were now clamouring. However the success of The Lord of the Rings created its own workload and he was constantly called on to answer fan mail, give interviews and make appearances. He also had academic work to complete and his long-awaited edition of Ancrene Wisse , a medieval prose work, was finally published in 1962. In the same year he published a volume of poetry from Middle-earth, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. A short fairy tale, Smith of Wootton Major, was published in 1967, described by Tolkien as ‘An old man’s book already weighted with the presage of “bereavement”‘, and in 1968 he collaborated with the composer Donald Swann to produce a songbook, The Road Goes Ever On .

He and Edith moved from Oxford to Bournemouth in 1968, hoping that in relative seclusion he would be able to complete his life’s work. Edith’s health was already failing though and she died in November 1971 leaving Tolkien bereft after fifty-five years of marriage. He returned to Oxford to live in a flat owned by Merton College but the completion of ‘The Silmarillion’ proved too great a task for him. He died on 2nd September 1973, aged eighty-one, while visiting friends in Bournemouth and is buried in Oxford alongside his beloved wife Edith. Their gravestone is marked with the additional names, Beren and Lúthien, whose love defeated the Dark Lord and overcame death itself in the First Age of Middle-earth.

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  • World Biography
  • J. R. R Tolkien Biography

J. R. R. Tolkien Biography

Born: January 3, 1892 Bloemfontein, South Africa Died: September 2, 1973 Bournemouth, England English writer, essayist, poet, and editor

J. R. R. Tolkien gained a reputation during the 1960s and 1970s as a cult figure (a person with a devoted following amongst a small group of people) among youths discouraged by war and the technological age from his work The Hobbit and the trilogy that followed, The Lord of the Rings.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, the son of English-born parents in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State of South Africa, where his father worked as a bank manager. To escape the heat and dust of southern Africa and to better guard the delicate health of Ronald (as he was called), Tolkien's mother moved back to a small English village with him and his younger brother when they were very young boys. Tolkien would later use this village as a model for one of the locales in his novels. Within a year of this move their father, Arthur Tolkien, died in Bloemfontein, and a few years later the boys' mother died as well.

The Tolkien boys lodged at several homes from 1905 until 1911, when Ronald entered Exeter College, Oxford. Tolkien received a bachelor's degree from Oxford in 1915 and a master's degree in 1919. During this time he married his longtime sweetheart, Edith Bratt, and served for a short time on the Western Front with the Lancashire Fusiliers (a regiment in the British army that used an older-style musket) during World War I (1914–18), when Germany led forces against much of Europe and America).

Begins writing

In 1917, Tolkien was in England recovering from "trench fever," a widespread disease transmitted through fleas and other bugs in battlefield trenches. While bedridden Tolkien began writing "The Book of Lost Tales," which eventually became The Silmarillion (1977) and laid the groundwork for his stories about Middle Earth, the fictional world where Tolkien's work takes place.

After the war Tolkien returned to Oxford, where he joined the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary and began work as a freelance tutor. In 1920 he was appointed Reader in English Language at Leeds University. The following year, having returned to Oxford as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, Tolkien became friends with the novelist C. S. Lewis (1898–1963). They shared an intense enthusiasm for the myths, sagas, and languages of northern Europe, and to better enhance those interests, both attended meetings of the "Coalbiters," an Oxford club, founded by Tolkien, at which Icelandic sagas were read aloud.

During the rest of Tolkien's years at Oxford—twenty as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, fourteen as Merton Professor of English Language and Literature—Tolkien published several well-received short studies and translations. Notable among these are his essays "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" (1936), "Chaucer as a Philologist [a person who studies language as it relates to culture]: The Reeve's Tale" (1934), and "On Fairy-Stories"(1947); his scholarly edition of Ancrene Wisse (1962); and his translations of three medieval poems: "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," "Pearl," and "Sir Orfeo" (1975).

J. R. R. Tolkien. Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos.

Tolkien retired from his professorship in 1959. While the unauthorized publication of an American edition of The Lord of the Rings in 1965 angered him, it also made him a widely admired cult figure in the United States, especially among high school and college students. Uncomfortable with this status, he and his wife lived quietly in Bournemouth for several years, until Edith's death in 1971. In the remaining two years of his life, Tolkien returned to Oxford, where he was made an honorary fellow of Merton College and awarded a doctorate of letters. He was at the height of his fame as a scholarly and imaginative writer when he died in 1973, though critical study of his fiction continues and has increased in the years since.

The world of Middle Earth

Tolkien, a devoted Roman Catholic throughout his life, began creating his own languages and mythologies at an early age and later wrote Christian-inspired stories and poems to provide them with a narrative framework. Based on bedtime stories Tolkien had created for his children, The Hobbit concerns the efforts of a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, to recover a treasure stolen by a dragon. During the course of his mission, Baggins discovers a magical ring which, among other powers, can render its bearer invisible. The ability to disappear helps Bilbo fulfill his quest; however, the ring's less obvious powers prompt the evil Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor, to seek it. The hobbits' attempt to destroy the ring, thereby denying Sauron unlimited power, is the focal point of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which consists of the novels The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), The Two Towers (1954), and The Return of the King (1955). In these books Tolkien rejects such traditional heroic qualities as strength and size, stressing instead the capacity of even the humblest creatures to win against evil.

Throughout Tolkien's career he composed histories, genealogies (family histories), maps, glossaries, poems, and songs to supplement his vision of Middle Earth. Among the many works published during his lifetime were a volume of poems, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962), and a fantasy novel, Smith of Wootton Major (1967). Though many of his stories about Middle Earth remained incomplete at the time of Tolkien's death, his son, Christopher, rescued the manuscripts from his father's collections, edited them, and published them. One of these works, The Silmarillion, takes place before the time of The Hobbit and tells the tale of the first age of Holy Ones (earliest spirits) and their offspring.

Nonetheless, Tolkien implies, to take The Lord of the Rings too seriously might be a mistake. He once stated that fairy stories in itself should be taken as a truth, not always symbolic of something else. He went on to say, "but first of all [the story] must succeed just as a tale, excite, please, and even on occasion move, and within its own imagined world be accorded literary belief. To succeed in that was my primary object."

Nearly thirty years after his death, the popularity of Tolkien's work has hardly slowed. In 2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released as a major motion picture. The magic of Tolkien's world won over both the critics and public alike as the movie was nominated in thirteen categories, including Best Picture, at the Academy Awards; it won four awards. Two more films are scheduled for release by the end of 2003.

For More Information

Bloom, Harold, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2000.

Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography. London: Allen & Unwin, 1977. Reprint, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Grotta, Daniel. J. R. R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 2002.

Neimark, Anne E. Myth Maker: J. R. R. Tolkien. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1996.

Pearce, Joseph. Tolkien: Man and Myth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998.

Shippey, T. A. J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

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Humphrey Carpenter

J.r.r. Tolkien: A Biography Paperback – Illustrated, June 6, 2000

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  • Print length 304 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher William Morrow
  • Publication date June 6, 2000
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 0.62 x 8.25 inches
  • ISBN-10 0618057021
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  • Lexile measure 1250L
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Fans who want to delve even deeper into Tolkien's life should pick up a copy of Carpenter's The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien . --P.M. Atterberry

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"A panorama of vignettes done with poise and exhaustive command. A man emerges whole." The Washington Post "J.R.R. Tolkien left his impress upon a whole generation as few recent writers have done ... an excellent biography." Newsweek "Excellent." Newsweek —

About the Author

Humphrey Carpenter, the author of THE BRIDESHEAD GENERATION and THE INKLINGS, among other books, was given unrestricted access to all of Tolkien's papers for his biography of Tolkien, J.R.R. TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY.

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow; Reprint edition (June 6, 2000)
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  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0618057021
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0618057023
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 1250L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 9.8 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.62 x 8.25 inches
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How J.R.R. Tolkien's Real Life Inspired These Key Pieces of Lord of the Rings

The horrors of war both on and off the battlefield were a big theme in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, based off of Tolkien's own WWI experience.

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J.r.r. tolkien fought in a brutal battle, tolkien's beliefs on war and violence shaped lotr's story, the dead marshes were inspired by his wwi experiences.

  • Tolkien's experiences in fighting in WWI's Battle of the Somme inspired the action and intensity in The Lord of the Rings .
  • Although the battles in The Lord of the Rings are riveting, it's very clear that Tolkien's negative beliefs on war were clear in the books.
  • The Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was inspired by the atmosphere of Northern Europe during WWI.

The themes of war and the hellish nature of its violence and industry have always been a large and overarching theme in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even though Tolkien himself was an academic of linguistics and ancient literature, from which many of his inspirations derived, much of his real-life experiences about his own military service added a brutal nuance and intense themes to his stories. At 24, Tolkien was a 2nd Lieutenant in World War I with the Lancashire Fusiliers. He and two of his friends enlisted, and he would be the only one to return.

The Lord of the Rings ' message about fellowship , bravery, and the brutal reality of nature's sacrifices amid such human atrocities was deeply inspired by these horrific times. Although The Lord of the Rings involves a war between a very clear good and evil, unlike WWI, Tolkien uses the corruption of powerful politicians and monarchs, tempted by the promise of power and influence, to bring nuance to his blended fantasy inspired by classic European folklore. It was at this juncture, between the romanticism of morality-play adventures and the experiential trauma of war, that Tolkien's works build something truly personal and emotional about the world of Middle-earth, whilst saying something about the real world.

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  • The Battle of the Somme was in 1916.
  • WWI occurred between 1914-1918.

Tolkien's first action he saw in WWI was at the Battle of the Somme. This battle was fought with the British and French on one side, and the German Empire on the other. Battles were fought with trench warfare, leading to the creation of tunnels, ditches, and foxholes where soldiers could take cover, live, and sleep during their fight at the front. The constant barrage of artillery, followed by the call to charge as soldiers charged "over the top" and fought in brutal no man's lands between their trenches was a bloody, muddy, and brutal business. WWI saw the hyper-industrialization and innovation of new and improved weapons , as well as the end of more obsolete warfare. It's at this apex, that Tolkien had a front-row ticket to the worst of humanity's desire for power, and the mounds of bodies it could leave in its wake.

The battle lasted for five months, J.R.R. Tolkien enlisted with two of his best friends. In those five months, Tolkien would use time in between the fighting to begin writing The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was truly inspired by the courage of humanity, thrown up against seemingly indomitable odds and destruction. The idea of people being so small and being able to accomplish things despite the ominous horrors of the battlefield ahead echoes time and time again in The Lord of the Rings . The film Tolkien beautifully represents this very important and story-shaping time in his life as he writes bits and pieces and is inspired by the battle itself in his writings.

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  • In 1954, Tolkien finally published The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring , the first of a trilogy.
  • In 1937, Tolkien had already published The Hobbit , a lighter adventure tale set in Middle-earth.

It's clear to see, through The Lord of the Rings books and movies where Tolkien stood when it came to his feelings on war. After returning as the sole survivor of the friends he enlisted with, Tolkien was greatly affected by World War I and the Battle of the Somme. The idea of being separated from one's friends during war and losing loved ones amid battle is seen often in The Lord of the Rings . Merry and Pippin are swept away by the orcs in The Fellowship of the Ring , then only to be separated by Circumstance and arm themselves for a full-scale war by The Return of the King . In a way, when it came to Tolkien's main characters, he wrote about the feeling of great loss of friends and the connection of their friendship without letting the cynicism of the real world tempt him to kill any of them off. Tolkien had lived that, and it's likely in a way, he wanted people to feel that with him, but without the permanence that he had to.

On the greater scope of war, Tolkien is very aware of the military-industrial complex that was building up in the early 1900's. Metalworking and coal mining to fuel the engines of war would be an inspiration for Saruman's corruption of Isengard and the clear-cutting of its forests. Mordor would, of course, be the ultimate example of this industrial evil rising and tempting the powers that be to turn on one another. The First World War was fought mainly by royalty and for royalty, resulting in a great schism in beliefs on war and the wastefulness of human life by major political powers. Tolkien would subtly insert this awareness into two main examples; Theoden when he is directly corrupted by Saruman through Grima Wormtongue, and the grief-stricken Denethor of Gondor. Although one of these leaders would eventually come to and fight with his people against the great evils, Denethor could not see past his own hate and greed for the throne, and would rather end his line than stand with his people against the odds.

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  • The Dead Marshes was the location of The Battle of Dagorlad in the 2nd age.
  • It is featured in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol pass through it to get to Mordor.

Tolkien derived a great deal of his darker inspirations for Middle-earth from his time enlisted in the British army during WWI. Much of it he wrote when he was recovering from illness which also builds a parallel to him writing himself as Frodo when he finishes Bilbo's book whilst still feeling the pains of the Morgul blade. The Morgul Blade wound in this case could also be seen as the traumas of the war he must permanently live with as well. Although it's not completely confirmed, but rather insinuated, Tolkien had mentioned that he may have subconsciously written one of the spookier locales in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, based on the atmosphere of Northern Europe during World War I.

The Dead Marshes was an ominous expanse that was once the site of an ancient battle, where the dead could still be seen beneath the water, and where their trapped spirits thrived in malevolent agony. Because trench warfare was such a brutal and wet climate to fight in, constantly mired in mud, motes of burning vehicles and people, and decaying bodies pressed into the ground, it's no surprise that Tolkien could have imagined what the battlefield would look like hundreds of years later if it was left unkept and the spirits remained to haunt it. Even though Tolkien couldn't admit fully to The Dead Marshes being inspired by The Somme, he did say that it was likely a subconscious inspiration inserted into the construction of the locale and its lore.

The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings is a series of epic fantasy adventure films and television series based on J. R. R. Tolkien's novels. The films follow the adventures of humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits and more in Middle-earth.


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