Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle-Earth
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien best known as J.R.R Tolkien was an outstanding fantasy writer whose works remain relevant in modern literature and are the bed rock of the fantasy genre. Tolkien hails from humble roots and served in the military during the first world war. His experiences as a young adult and his fascination with languages are prominent in his works. Tolkien is the author of several critically acclaimed fantasy novels including the Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The creator of Middle earth also created 2 Elvish languages which he used in his books and in poems.
Learn more about Tolkien’s life and achievements in this John Ronald Reuel Tolkien biography:
Early Life and Education
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien aka J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on the 3rd, January 1892, to English parents. By age 3, Tolkien, his younger brother Hilary and their mother relocated back to England leaving their father who died soon after in South Africa. With the death of the patriarch, the family stayed in England in a quaint home in Sarehole, just outside the city Birmingham.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s family struggled to make ends meet eventually relocating to Moseley a suburb of Birmingham, just northwest of Sarehole. Tolkien was only 12 years old when his mother died. The orphan brothers John and Hilary lived in boarding homes and with relatives thereafter. Tolkien served as a ward to a catholic priest from age 16 till when he was about 20 years old. The earlier parts of Tolkien’s life, his contact with religion after serving as a ward to priests and his adolescent years in Birmingham would be strong influences in his works.
In 1910 and 1911, Tolkien was enrolled in King Edward’s School in Birmingham where he showed great interest in modern and classic languages, a foreboding sign of his future accomplishments in that regard. Also in 1911, Tolkien transferred to Exeter College, Oxford, where he majored in linguistics paying attention to languages such as Old English, Finnish, Welsh, and Germanic languages. He soon began experimenting with creating languages.
Career and Academic Achievements
Tolkien’s career began when he took a job as a lexicographer on the New English Dictionary. Later, he was appointed professor in English at the University of Leeds where he served till 1925 when he joined Oxford as an Anglo-Saxon professor. Tolkien spent the rest of his professional career in Oxford until 1959 when he retired.
J.R.R. Tolkien was highly fascinated with languages and during his undergraduate, he was already exploring his interest in creating new languages. Tolkien made very few scholarly publications yet his contributions to Philology cannot be under looked. His lecture “Beowulf, the Monsters and the Critics” and his essay on “English and Welsh” helped to transform the understanding the languages and the field of linguistics.
Tolkien was a founding member of the Inklings, a group of Oxford friends bound by their interests in languages and literature. Tolkien’s membership in The Inklings had much impact on his writing. The group provided the budding writer with assistance and served as resources for the literary development of Tolkien’s writing.
How many books did J.R.R. Tolkien write? Tolkien is recognised not only for his scholarly work and marvellous essays, but also for Middle earth related and philological works. Tolkien wrote over 29 books, some of which were published posthumously. He also contributed to or translated over 36 other books. Comradery, sacrifice, and heroism are recurring themes in his novels; influenced by his time in the army and his faith. The forefather of fantasy wrote and published epic adventure titles including The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth, Bilbo’s Last Song, Farmer Giles of Ham and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and many more.
Visit our homepage for a full list of Tolkien’s literary works.
Personal Life and Legacy
Tolkien met his wife Edith when he was only 16 and serving as a ward to a catholic priest. They married 5 years later in March of 1916 and in November 1917 Edith bore their first son John Francis Reuel. The couple would have two more sons Michael Hilary Reuel (October 1920), and Christopher Reuel (1924). In 1929 Edith gave birth to the pair’s last child and only girl Priscillia. Tolkien was a family man with the habit of writing illustrated letters from Santa Claus for his children every year. He would also tell them several magical bedtime stories. J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout catholic and firmly believed that fairy tales and myths had spiritual and moral values.
Tolkien’s achievements in fantasy writing have significantly influenced subsequent generations of writers who have imitated his style or written in reaction to his works. Ursula Le Guin is one of such authors who published a series of novels which used Tolkienian concepts such as a magical ring, dragons, a quest, and wizards. Internationally acclaimed horror writer Stephen King admitted to Tolkien’s influence in his fantasy series The Dark Tower and The Stand.
On the 2nd of September 1973, J.R.R. Tolkien died but even death did not mean the end of the Middle earth. His son Christopher published several of Tolkien’s works including a 12-volume History of Middle-earth series and The Silmarillion 1977. His books The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings have been adapted to movies by director Peter Jackson. There are also a good number of Tolkienian themed video games and interactive media.
J.R.R. Tolkien has been deceased for over half a century, yet his books and creations remain a testament to the immortality of his creativity, imagination, and spirit. His literary and scholarly works have had lasting impact on modern literature first by giving authority to fantasy as a standalone genre and then inspiring future generations to not only imitate his style but also to explore beyond the limitations of their minds. Characters and plots from Tolkien’s works have inspired movie adaptations, video games and a community of Tolkien enthusiasts who learn his languages. What more is there to say than that Tolkien lived a truly remarkable life? That he was able to explore such deep spaces in his mind and carried us all along on a thrilling adventure through his thoughts which he so beautifully transformed into thought-provoking, exciting, and awe-striking literary masterpieces.