Biography of Lord of the Rings Author J.R.R. Tolkien Part 1

About the famous author J.R.R. Tolkien, biography and history of the Lord of the Rings writer.


J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

He was a typically tweedy, pipe-smoking Oxford professor, an authority on early English languages and literature, with perhaps more than his share of endearing eccentricities. He used to begin his course on Beowulf with a commanding solo performance of the epic poem in the original Anglo-Saxon. He also devised crossword puzzles in Anglo-Saxon for the amusement and instruction of his pupils. He was known to have chased a surprised neighbor down the road dressed as an axwielding tribal warrior. And in his spare time he composed fables about an imaginary era peopled by small furry creatures called hobbits. Much to his and everyone else's surprise, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1956)--described by the London Times as having "all the ear-marks of a publishing disaster"--became a unique event in world literature, a best-selling fairy tale.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (Ronald to his family, "Tollers" to his Oxford cronies) was born in Bloemfontein. South Africa, where his father was a banker. He grew up with a strong inner sense of a "lost paradise," cherishing a far better world of memory and imagination. At the age of four he lost his father, who died alone in Africa while the rest of the family was in England on home leave. Tolkien's mother took refuge with her two sons (Hilary was two years younger than Ronald) in a charming cottage in the rural West Midlands; when they had to move to the grim factory town of Birmingham four years later, Tolkien felt as if he had been expelled from heaven. Then, when he was 12, his mother died, leaving her sons under the guardianship of a Catholic priest, Father Francis Morgan.

At the age of 16, while living in a Birmingham boardinghouse, Ronald met another orphan, 19-year-old Edith Bratt, with whom he fell in love. A year passed before Father Francis discovered that Tolkien's attention had been diverted from his schoolwork by the clandestine romance with this "older woman" who was living under the same roof as his ward. The shocked priest moved the Tolkien brothers to new lodgings and forbade Ronald to see or even write to his beloved. Following the highest chivalric ideal, Tolkien remained true to Edith for the next four years and proposed in a letter he wrote to her on his 21st birthday. When he learned she was engaged to marry another man, Tolkien persuaded her to call it off. They were married after he graduated from Oxford in 1916. It was not an ideal match, however. Tolkien later confided to one of his sons that he and Edith had been able to console one another, but they were never entirely able to overcome their childhood sufferings.

A linguistic genius, Tolkien and his cousin invented a language called Nevbosh, or New Nonsense, in which they wrote limericks. At Oxford, in addition to Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, and other esoteric tongues, he studied Finnish, which he found quite as intoxicating as if it had been alcohol. At various times he kept diaries in an alphabet that resembled a mixture of Hebrew, Greek, and Pitman shorthand.

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