J. r. r. tolkien

Who to be Tolkien?


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892–1973) was a major scholar of the English language, specialising in Old y Middle English. Twice Professor the Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University the Oxford, he likewise wrote uno number the stories, including most famously los Hobbit (1937) and The lord of los Rings (1954–1955), i m sorry are set in uno pre-historic era in an developed version of our mundo which he referred to as by the Middle English surname of Middle-earth. This to be peopled by males (and women), Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Orcs (or Goblins) and of food Hobbits. He has regularly been condemned by the Eng. Lit. Establishment, con honourable exceptions, but loved through literally numerous readers worldwide.

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In los 1960s he to be taken up by many members of the nascent “counter-culture” largely because of his concern with environmental issues. In mil novecientos noventa y siete he came peak of three british polls, organised respectively by Channel cuatro / Waterstone’s, los Folio Society, y SFX, the UK’s leading science fiction media magazine, among discerning readers asked to vote for los greatest publication of ns 20th century. You re welcome note likewise that his surname is spelt Tolkien (there is no “Tolkein”).

Childhood and Youth

The name “Tolkien” (pron.: Tol-keen; equal stress on both syllables) was thought by the family (including Tolkien himself) to it is in of german origin; Toll-kühn: foolishly brave, or stupidly clever—hence the pseudonym “Oxymore” i beg your pardon he occasionally used; however, this quite probably was a german rationalisation that an originally Baltic Tolkyn, or Tolkīn. In any type of case, his great-great grandfather john (Johann) benjamín Tolkien involved Britain with his brother Daniel from Gdańsk in about mil setecientos setenta y dos and rapidly became thoroughly Anglicised. Absolutely his father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, taken into consideration himself naught if no English. Arthur to be a banco clerk, and went come South áfrica in los 1890s for better prospects the promotion. Over there he was joined by his bride, Mabel Suffield, whose household were not just English through y through, but West Midlands since time immemorial. So john Ronald (“Ronald” come family y early friends) was born in Bloemfontein, S.A., on tres January 1892. His storage of africa were slight however vivid, including uno scary encounter with ns large hairy spider, y influenced his later on writing to some extent; slight, since on quince February mil ochocientos noventa y seis his father died, and he, his mother and his younger brother Hilary went back to England—or much more particularly, the West Midlands.

The West Midlands in Tolkien’s childhood were ns complex mixture of the grimly industria Birmingham conurbation, and the quintessentially rural stereotype the England, Worcestershire and surrounding areas: Severn country, the land of los composers Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Gurney, y more distantly los poet A. E. Housman (it is also just across los border desde Wales). Tolkien’s life to be split between these two: the then very rural hamlet that Sarehole, con its mill, just south of Birmingham; y darkly ciudad de la ciudad Birmingham itself, whereby he was ultimately sent to king Edward’s School. Through then the family had actually moved to King’s Heath, whereby the casa backed onto un railway line—young Ronald’s occurring linguistic imagination was engaged by los sight of coal trucks walk to y from del sur Wales bearing destinations like” Nantyglo”,” Penrhiwceiber” and “Senghenydd”.

Then they moved to the somewhat much more pleasant Birmingham suburb the Edgbaston. However, in the meantime, something of extensive significance had actually occurred, i m sorry estranged Mabel and her children from both political parties of ns family: in 1900, together con her sister May, she was received into ns Roman Catholic Church. From then on, both Ronald and Hilary were lugged up in the faith of Pio Nono, and remained devout Catholics throughout their lives. The parish priest that visited los family regularly was los half-Spanish half-Welsh Father francis Morgan.

Tolkien family members life was typically lived on the genteel lado of poverty. However, the situation worsened in 1904, when Mabel Tolkien to be diagnosed as having diabetes, usually fatal in those pre-insulin days. She passed away on catorce November of the year leaving the two orphaned boys effectively destitute. In ~ this señalar Father francisco took over, y made sure of los boys’ cosas as well together spiritual welfare, although in the short ax they to be boarded with an discontent aunt-by-marriage, Beatrice Suffield, and then with un Mrs Faulkner.

By this time Ronald was currently showing remarkable etymological gifts. He had mastered the Latin y Greek i m sorry was ns staple fare of an arts education and learning at that time, y was becoming an ext than proficient in a number of various other languages, both modern and ancient, notably Gothic, y later Finnish. The was currently busy comprising his very own languages, purely for fun. He had additionally made a number of nearby friends at king Edward’s; in his later years at school they met regularly delaware hours as los “T. C. B. S.” (Tea Club, Barrovian Society, named delaware their meeting location at ns Barrow Stores) y they continued to exchange mail closely and exchange y criticise every other’s literary work-related until 1916.

However, another complication had arisen. Amongst ns lodgers in ~ Mrs Faulkner’s boarding house was a young woman called Edith Bratt. When Ronald to be 16, y she 19, castle struck up a friendship, which slowly deepened. Ultimately Father francis took uno hand, and forbade Ronald to view or even correspond con Edith for numero 3 years, until he to be 21. Ronald stoically obeyed this injunction to ns letter. In the summer that 1911, the was invite to join un party on uno walking holiday in Switzerland, i m sorry may have inspired his explanation of the Misty Mountains, y of Rivendell. In los autumn of that year that went as much as Exeter College, Oxford whereby he stayed, immersing self in los Classics, viejo English, los Germanic language (especially Gothic), Welsh y Finnish, till 1913, once he quickly though not without an obstacle picked up los threads of his relationship con Edith. He then obtained ns disappointing 2nd class degree in Honour Moderations, ns “midway” stage of un 4-year Oxford “Greats” (i.e. Classics) course, although con an “alpha plus” in philology. As uno result the this he changed his school desde Classics to the more congenial English Language y Literature. One of the poems he uncovered in los course of his viejo English researches was the Crist of Cynewulf—he was amazed specifically by the cryptic couplet:

Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast

Ofer middangeard monnum sended

Which equates as:

Hail Earendel brightest of angels,

over Middle planet sent to men.

(“Middangeard” was an old expression for the everyday mundo between heaven above and Hell below.)

This motivated some the his very early and inchoate attempts in ~ realising a world of ancient beauty in his versifying.

In los summer of 1913 he took a job as tutor y escort to two Mexican boys in Dinard, France, un job which ended in tragedy. Though no fault of Ronald’s, the did nothing to respond to his obvious predisposition versus France y things French.

Meanwhile ns relationship con Edith was going much more smoothly. She converted to Catholicism and moved to Warwick, which with its spectacular castle y beautiful neighboring countryside made a great impression top top Ronald. However, as los pair were coming to be ever closer, the naciones were striving ever more furiously together, y war eventually broke out in agosto 1914.

War, lost Tales y Academia

Unlike so numerous of his contemporaries, Tolkien did no rush to sign up with up instantly on los outbreak the war, but returned to Oxford, where he operated hard and finally achieved ns first-class degree in June 1915. In ~ this hora he was also working on various poetic attempts, and on his designed languages, especially one that he pertained to call Qenya , which was heavily influenced by Finnish—but the still felt the lack of un connecting thread to carry his vivid but disparate imaginings together. Tolkien ultimately enlisted as uno second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers whilst working on idea of Earendel los Mariner, who became a star, y his journeyings. For many months Tolkien was kept in boring suspense in England, largely in Staffordshire. Ultimately it showed up that he have to soon embark for France, and he and Edith married in Warwick on veintidos March 1916.

Eventually he was certainly sent to active duty on the Western Front, just in hora for the Somme offensive. After four month in and out of the trenches, he surrendered to “trench fever”, a form that typhus-like infection common in the insanitary conditions, y in at an early stage November was sent espalda to England, where he invested the próximo month in centro de salud in Birmingham. By Christmas he had actually recovered sufficiently to stay with Edith at an excellent Haywood in Staffordshire.

During these final few months, all yet one that his near friends of ns “T. C. B. S.” had been killed in action. Partially as an action of piety to their memory, but likewise stirred through reaction against his battle experiences, the had already begun to put his stories right into shape, “… in huts completamente of blasphemy and smut, or by candle luz in bell-tents, also some debajo in dugouts debajo shell fire” . This notified of his imagination occurred into the Book that Lost tal (not published in his lifetime), in which many of the major story of los Silmarillion appear in their an initial form: luego of ns Elves and the “Gnomes”, (i. E. Deep Elves, the later Noldor), con their language Qenya y Goldogrin. Below are found los first taped versions of los wars against Morgoth, los siege and fall of Gondolin and Nargothrond, y the tales of Túrin y of Beren y Lúthien.

Throughout 1917 and 1918 his illness kept recurring, although periods of remission allowed him come do home service at miscellaneous camps sufficiently fine to be supported to lieutenant. That was once he was stationed in the Hull area the he y Edith walk walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and there in ns grove thick con hemlock Edith danced because that him. This was the inspiration for ns tale the Beren and Lúthien, a recurrent layout in his “Legendarium”. He concerned think the Edith as “Lúthien” and himself as “Beren”. Their first son, John francisco Reuel (later Father hombre Tolkien) had already been born on dieciséis November 1917.

When ns Armistice was signed on once November 1918, Tolkien had currently been putting el fin feelers to obtain scholastic employment, and by ns time he to be demobilised he had been appointed Assistant languist on the new English dictionary (the “Oxford English Dictionary”), then in preparation. When doing los serious philological work affiliated in this, he additionally gave among his Lost como its an initial public airing—he read los Fall the Gondolin to ns Exeter college Essay Club, wherein it was well got by one audience which consisted of Neville Coghill and Hugo Dyson, two future “Inklings”. However, Tolkien go not continue to be in this job for long. In the summer of mil novecientos veinte he used for ns quite senior blog post of leader (approximately, combine Professor) in English Language at los University of Leeds, y to his surprised was appointed.

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At Leeds as well as teaching he collaborated con E. V. Gordon on los famous edition of señor Gawain y the environment-friendly Knight, y continued writing y refining the Book of lost Tales and his created “Elvish” languages. In addition, he y Gordon founded a “Viking Club” because that undergraduates devoted mainly come reading viejo Norse sagas y drinking beer. It was for this sociedad that he and Gordon initially wrote their Songs for the Philologists, a mixture of traditional songs y original verses analyzed into viejo English, old Norse y Gothic come fit timeless English tunes. Leeds additionally saw the birth of two more sons: michael Hilary Reuel in October 1920, and Christopher Reuel in 1924. Climate in 1925 the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship that Anglo-Saxon at Oxford fell vacant; Tolkien successfully used for the post.

Professor Tolkien, the Inklings and Hobbits

In uno sense, in return to Oxford as un Professor, Tolkien had come home. Although that had few illusions about los academic life as uno haven of unworldly scholarship (see for instance Letters 250), the was however by temperament a don’s don, y fitted exceptionally well into ns largely male mundo of teaching, research, los comradely exchange of ideas y occasional publication. In fact, his academic publication document is an extremely sparse, something that would have been frowned top top in these days the quantitative personnel evaluation.

However, his rare scholarly publications were often exceptionally influential, most notably his class “Beowulf, los Monsters y the Critics”. His seemingly practically throwaway comments have actually sometimes helped to transform the understanding that a específico field—for example, in his essay on “English y Welsh”, con its explanation of the origins of los term “Welsh” y its recommendations to phonaesthetics (both these piece are built up in the Monsters and the Critics y Other Essays, currently in print). His scholastic life was otherwise mostly unremarkable. In 1945 he adjusted his chair to the Merton Professorship that English Language and Literature, i beg your pardon he retained until his retirement in 1959. Apart from all los above, he taught undergraduates, y played an essential but unexceptional component in academic politics and administration.

His family life was equally straightforward. Edith bore their final child y only daughter, Priscilla, in 1929. Tolkien gained into ns habit of writing the niños annual illustrated letters together if representar Santa Claus, y a selection of these was published in mil novecientos setenta y seis as ns Father Christmas Letters. He additionally told them numerous bedtime stories, the which much more anon. In adulthood hombre entered los priesthood, Michael and Christopher both observed war servicio in the Royal aire Force. Afterwards michael became a schoolmaster and Christopher ns university lecturer, and Priscilla ended up being a sociedad worker. They lived quietly in north Oxford, y later Ronald and Edith live in the suburb the Headington.

However, Tolkien’s social life to be far representar unremarkable. He soon became one of the founder members of ns loose grouping of Oxford friends (by alguna means every at the University) with casta interests, known as “The Inklings”. Ns origins of ns name to be purely facetious—it had to do with writing, and sounded mildly Anglo-Saxon; over there was alguna evidence the members the the grupo claimed to have an “inkling” of los Divine Nature, as is occasionally suggested. Other significant members included the above—mentioned Messrs Coghill and Dyson, and Owen Barfield, charles Williams, y above all C. S. Lewis, who came to be one that Tolkien’s closestly friends, y for whose regreso to Christianity Tolkien to be at least partly responsible. The Inklings frequently met because that conversation, drink, and frequent reading desde their work-in-progress.

The Storyteller

Meanwhile Tolkien continued emerging his mythology y languages. As discussed above, that told his children stories, several of which he developed into those published posthumously as Mr. Bliss, Roverandom, etc. However, according to his very own account, one día when the was engaged in los soul-destroying job of noting examination papers, he discovered that one candidate had actually left one web page of one answer-book blank. Top top this page, moved by who knows what anarchic daemon, he wrote “In ns hole in the ground there lived un hobbit“.

In usual Tolkien fashion, he then determined he necessary to find fuera what un Hobbit was, what sort of a hole it lived in, why it lived in ns hole, etc. Desde this examination grew a tale the he told to his younger children, and even passed round. In mil novecientos treinta y seis an incomplete typescript of the came right into the mano of Susan Dagnall, an employee of los publishing firm of George todos and unexpected (merged in mil novecientos noventa with HarperCollins).

She asked Tolkien to end up it, and presented los complete historia to Stanley Unwin, los then Chairman of los firm. That tried it out on his 10-year old estaban Rayner, who wrote an approving report, and it was published as the Hobbit in 1937. It instantly scored uno success, and has not been fuera of children’s recommended analysis lists ever before since. It was so successful that Stanley Unwin request if that had any more ir a buscar material obtainable for publication.

By this hora Tolkien had begun to make his Legendarium right into what he believed to be ns more presentable state, y as he later noted, clues of the had already made their means into ns Hobbit. He was currently calling the completamente account Quenta Silmarillion, or Silmarillion because that short. That presented few of his “completed” como to Unwin, who sent out them to his reader. Los reader’s reaction was mixed: dislike of ns poetry y praise for the prose (the material was the historia of Beren y Lúthien) but los overall decision at the time was the these were no commercially publishable. Unexpected tactfully relayed this blog post to Tolkien, however asked him again if he to be willing come write un sequel to los Hobbit. Tolkien was disappointed at ns apparent fail of ns Silmarillion, however agreed to take up the challenge of “The new Hobbit”.

This soon emerged into something much an ext than ns children’s story; for the highly complex 16-year history of what ended up being The señor of los Rings consult the works detailed below. Suffice it to say that ns now adult Rayner Unwin was deeply affiliated in los later step of this opus, handle magnificently with un dilatory and temperamental writer who, at one stage, was offering ns whole work-related to a commercial rival (which rapidly backed off when los scale y nature of ns package came to be apparent). It is many thanks to Rayner Unwin’s advocacy that us owe los fact the this publication was published at every – Andave laituvalmes! His father’s firm decided to incur the probablemente loss that £1,000 for the succès d’estime, and publish the under ns title the The lord of ns Rings in numero 3 parts during mil novecientos cincuenta y cuatro and 1955, with estados unidos rights going come Houghton Mifflin. It soon became noticeable that both author and publishers had greatly underestimated ns work’s public appeal.

The “Cult”

The lord of los Rings rapidly concerned public notice. It had actually mixed reviews, ranging from the ecstatic (W. H. Auden, C. S. Lewis) to los damning (E. Wilson, E. Muir, P. Toynbee) y just around everything in between. Ns BBC placed on un drastically condensed radio adaptation in doce episodes on ns Third Programme. In mil novecientos cincuenta y seis radio to be still a dominant medium in Britain, and the third Programme was the “intellectual” channel. So far desde losing money, sales so exceeded los break-even señalar as to do Tolkien regret that he had actually not taken beforehand retirement. However, this was still based only upon hardback sales.

This advance produced blended feelings in ns author. On the one hand, that was exceptionally flattered, and to his amazement, ended up being rather rich. On ns other, he could only deplore those whose idea of ns great pilgrimage was come ingest The lord of los Rings y LSD simultaneously. Arthur C. Clarke y Stanley Kubrick had raza experiences with 2001: a Space Odyssey. Entusiastas were causing increasing problems; both those who came to gawp at his house and those, especially from California who telephoned at 7 p.m. (their time—3 a.m. His), to demand to recognize whether Frodo had succeeded or fail in the Quest, what was ns preterite of Quenyan lanta-, or even if it is or no Balrogs had actually wings. So he readjusted addresses, his phone call number walk ex-directory, y eventually he y Edith moved to Bournemouth, uno pleasant but uninspiring south Coast resort (Hardy’s “Sandbourne”), detailed for the number that its elderly well-to-do residents.

Meanwhile los cult, not simply of Tolkien, but of the fantasy literature that he had revived, if no actually inspired (to his dismay), was really taking off—but that is another story, to be told in an additional place.

Other Writings

Despite all the fuss over The lord of los Rings, between mil novecientos veinticinco and his death Tolkien walk write y publish a number of other articles, including un range of scholarly essays, many reprinted in the Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (see above); one Middle-earth associated work, los Adventures the Tom Bombadil; editions y translations of center English functions such as los Ancrene Wisse, maestro Gawain, sir Orfeo and The Pearl, y some story independent of los Legendarium, together as the Imram, los Homecoming the Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, los Lay of Aotrou and Itroun—and, especially, Farmer Giles the Ham, sheet by Niggle, y Smith that Wootton Major.

The circulation of publication was only temporarily slowed through Tolkien’s death. Ns long-awaited Silmarillion, edited through Christopher Tolkien, showed up in 1977. In mil novecientos ochenta Christopher also published uno selection of his father’s incomplete writings from his later years under los title of Unfinished tal of Númenor and Middle-earth. In ns introduction to this job-related Christopher Tolkien ad in pass to los Book of shed Tales, “itself ns very considerable work, of ns utmost interest to one concerned with the origins of Middle-earth, however requiring to be gift in a lengthy y complex study, if at all” (Unfinished Tales, p. 6, paragraph 1).

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The tu, vete of ns Silmarillion had rather taken George allen & unexpectedly by surprise, and those the Unfinished tales even more so. Obviously, there was ns market also for this reasonably abstruse material y they chose to risk embarking top top this “lengthy and complex study”. Even an ext lengthy and complex 보다 expected, ns resulting doce volumes of los History the Middle-earth, debajo Christopher’s editorship, verified to be uno successful enterprise. (Tolkien’s publishers had adjusted hands, and names, several tiempo between the start of los enterprise in 1983 and ns appearance of the paperback version of Volume 12, the Peoples that Middle-earth, in 1997.) gastos generales time, other posthumous publications emerged including Roverandom (1998), The children of Húrin (2007), Beowulf (2014), Beren y Lúthien (2017), and most recently The fall of Gondolin (2018).


After his retirement in 1959 Edith y Ronald relocated to Bournemouth. On veintinueve November mil novecientos setenta y uno Edith died, y Ronald soon went back to Oxford, to rooms provided by Merton College. Ronald passed away on 2 September 1973. He y Edith are hidden together in uno single con entusiasmo in ns Catholic section of Wolvercote cemetery in the del norte suburbs of Oxford. (The disgustado is fine signposted desde the entrance.) los legend on ns headstone reads: