J.R.R. Tolkien The Mastermind of middle earth

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” For an unexplainable reason, Oxford professor J.R.R. Tolkien wrote these famous lines to his first book in an empty question space on a test. What exactly is a hobbit? Why does it live in a hole? These questions sparked his curiosity in the world of hobbits, leading him on a quest that led to years of work, several hit movies, and the world beloved saga. How was his work based off his life? Read on, to discover the course of his unexpected journey. Of course, that is just the beginning.

1892 Through 1907

J.R.R. Tolkien was born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien on January 3rd, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He lived there until about the age of four. One quote mentioning his years in Africa said that, “ His memories of Africa were slight but vivid, including a scary encounter with a large hairy spider, and influenced his later writing to some extent.” When his father died in 1896 from complications of rheumatic fever, his mother Mabel Suffield Tolkien moved J.R.R., then called Ronald, and his brother Hilary back to England.

They first settled in the country hamlet of Sarehole. After awhile, they settled in King’s Heath, where their home was near a railroad station. One quote said, “young Ronald’s developing linguistic imagination was engaged by the sight of coal trucks going to and from South Wales bearing destinations like “Nantyglo”, “Penrhiwceiber” and “Senghenydd”.”

The family generally lived in poverty, and in 1904, when Mabel was diagnosed and died from diabetes, the boys became orphans. After that, the boys spent their time between aunts, school, boarding homes and Father Morgan, a friend who made sure the boys were happy.

Tolkien’s homes were represented in his books, as one article perfectly states, “The dichotomy between Tolkien’s happier days in the rural landscape of Sarehole and his adolescent years in the industrial center of Birmingham would be felt strongly in his later works.” And it was. Sarehole was the basis for the Shire, the home of the hobbits. Much of Tolkien’s early life was used in his books. (Put Shire and Sarehole pictures here)

Top Two are of The Shire, Bottom Two are Sarehole

1908 Through 1916

Ronald had remarkable linguistic gifts. As one article stated, “He had mastered the Latin and Greek which was the staple fare of an arts education at that time, and was becoming more than competent in a number of other languages, both modern and ancient, notably Gothic, and later Finnish. He was already busy making up his own languages, purely for fun.”

Ronald also made several close friends at King Edward's, and after school they would meet in a spot in the Barrow Stores, which they named themselves (Tea Club, Barrovian Society) after. They stayed close friends, critiquing each other's literary work until 1916.

In 1908, there became a new figure in the picture. An article sums it up, saying, “Amongst the lodgers at Mrs Faulkner’s boarding house was a young woman called Edith Bratt. When Ronald was 16, and she 19, they struck up a friendship, which gradually deepened.” Father Morgan then took a hand, and forbade Ronald to see Edith for three years, until he would be 21. Ronald didn’t have much of a choice.

Edith Bratt

In the summer of 1911, he was invited to accompany a walking party in Switzerland. It is said that the trip “may have inspired his descriptions of the Misty Mountains, and of Rivendell.”

In Autumn, 1911, Ronald set off to Exeter College, in Oxford, surrounding himself in in the Classics, Old English, Germanic languages, Welsh and Finnish, until 1913. Then, he turned 21. He then, “swiftly though not without difficulty picked up the threads of his relationship with Edith.”

A hitch resulted in a change of subject from Classics to the more cordial English language and literature. One poem he discovered in the course was the Crist of Cynewulf. He was particularly captivated by the line,

“Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast Ofer middangeard monnum sended
Which translates as: Hail Earendel brightest of angels, over Middle Earth sent to men.”

This inspired some of his early writings, and the world he wrote of was called Middle Earth.

At the same time, his relationship with Edith was going well. [Edith] “converted to Catholicism and moved to Warwick, which with its spectacular castle and beautiful surrounding countryside made a great impression on Ronald. However, as the pair were becoming ever closer, the nations were striving ever more furiously together, and war eventually broke out in August 1914.”

1914 was the start of World War I. Unlike others, Ronald did not immediately rush to the front lines. He went back to Oxford, received a first class degree, and continued working on his fictional languages, this one called Qenya. [Tolkien] “finally enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers whilst working on ideas of Earendel the Mariner, who became a star, and his journeyings. For many months Tolkien was kept in boring suspense in England, mainly in Staffordshire.” When it appeared that he had to leave for France, and he and Edith married in Warwick on 22 March 1916.

However, while on duty in the trenches in Somme, he caved in to “trench fever”, a form of typhus-like infection common in unsanitary conditions and was sent back to England in early November. However, by Christmas, he was well enough to stay with Edith.

Unfortunately, all but one of his friends from the T.C.B.S. had perished during the war. “stirred by reaction against his war experiences, he had already begun to put his stories into shape, “… in huts full of blasphemy and smut, or by candle light in bell-tents, even some down in dugouts under shell fire” [Letters 66].” Throughout his life, J.R.R. Tolkien experienced so many factors that were influenced in his books.

1917 Through 1955

Although his illness continued to recur through the years of 1917 and 1918, when he had remission he continued to service at different camps well to be promoted to lieutenant. When he was stationed in the Hull area that “he and Edith went walking in the woods at nearby Roos, and there in a grove thick with hemlock Edith danced for him. This was the inspiration for the tale of Beren and Lúthien... He came to think of Edith as “Lúthien” and himself as “Beren”.” Ronald and Edith’s first son, John Francis Reuel, was born on November 16, 1917.

From the time when he fell ill, Ronald had been looking for academic employment. He became the Assistant Lexicographer for the New English Dictionary (Oxford English Dictionary). During the time, he also publicised one of his works, reading The Fall of Gondolin at Exeter College. But in the summer of 1920, he applied for the post of Reader (Associate Professor) in the English Language at the University of Leeds. To his surprise, he was appointed. While at Leeds, he collaborated with E.V. Gordon on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He continued to write The Lost Tales and working on Elvish languages. Leeds also oversaw the births of two more sons, Michael Hilary Reuel in October 1920, and Christopher Reuel in 1924.

In 1925, the post of Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford became vacant, and Ronald successfully got the job. In 1945 he changed his position to the Merton Professorship of English Language and Literature, which he retained until his retirement in 1959.

Family life was smooth. Edith bore their last child and only daughter, Priscilla, in 1929. However, his social life was quite the opposite. He became a founding member of a writing club loosely based in Oxford, called “The Inklings”. Prominent members included Charles WIlliams, Owen Barfield and C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia). They frequently met for drinks and discussed each other's literary work.

C.S. Lewis, a member of the Inklings

One day, this occurred: “However, according to his own account, one day when he was engaged in the soul-destroying task of marking examination papers, he discovered that one candidate had left one page of an answer-book blank. On this page, moved by who knows what anarchic daemon, he wrote ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ ” In a very Tolkien way, he began to wonder. What was a hobbit? Why did it live in a hole? He began to investigate, telling the story to his children and such, until an unfinished script came into the hands of Susan Dagnall at George Allen and Unwin, a publishing firm.

She urged Tolkien to finish the story, and he did. She then gave the script to Stanley Unwin, the Chairman of the firm. “He tried it out on his 10-year old son Rayner, who wrote an approving report, and it was published as The Hobbit in 1937. It immediately scored a success, and has not been out of children’s recommended reading lists ever since. It was so successful that Stanley Unwin asked if he had any more similar material available for publication.”

The people loved The Hobbit so much they called for a sequel. So Tolkien set out to work on “The New Hobbit”. It was published as The Lord of the Rings in three parts during 1954 and 1955. It was soon seen that neither author or publisher was ready for the wave of success that The Lord Of The Rings brought along.

1959 Through Today

Although the books were an enormous success, there were some issues. Fans stood gaping at the Tolkien’s home, and others that would call from different time zones, filled with questions about the books. So he and Edith moved to Bournemouth, a pleasant but unexciting South Coast resort (Hardy’s “Sandbourne”). Edith died November 29th, 1971.

Ronald and Edith

J.R.R. Tolkien died on September 2nd, 1973. However, his works still live on. In 1977, his son Christopher published The Silmarillion. In 1980 Christopher also published a selection of his father’s incomplete writings from his later years under the title of Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. Several other works were published. J.R.R.’s works lived on after his death, notably with the releases of The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movies directed by Peter Jackson. J.R.R. was one of the most influential writers of all time, and one of the most loved. His books are impossible to put down. And if you wonder, How in the world does he have these ideas? Now you know that they often aren’t just stories at all.

"Luthien" and "Beren" are on the gravestone

Sources: The Tolkien Society https://www.tolkiensociety.org/author/biography/ Biography.com http://www.biography.com/people/jrr-tolkien-9508428T Tolkien Libraryhttp://www.tolkienlibrary.com/abouttolkien.htm

Created By
Taylor Ferrarone


Created with images by MasaHu - "new zealand ring shot the hobby" • cocoparisienne - "railway tracks track seemed" • pequeno_hobbit - "The Shire" • sheilaellen - "Burrow" • raider of gin - "Millpond at Sarehole" • xegxef - "japan tea japanese" • Rennett Stowe - "Yosemite Falls in a Deep Freeze" • InspiredImages - "castle warwick england" • webandi - "candle light candlelight" • Muffet - "tree ornament" • idreamlikecrazy - "One Ring to rule them all"

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