Ondertexts
J.R.R. Tolkien
Search

J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien J.R.R. Tolkien[1†]

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, known as J.R.R. Tolkien, was an English writer and philologist, best known as the author of the high fantasy works “The Hobbit” and "The Lord of the Rings"[1†][2†]. He was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and passed away on September 2, 1973, in Bournemouth, Hampshire, England[1†][2†].

Tolkien’s career spanned several decades, during which he held prestigious academic positions. From 1925 to 1945, he served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a Fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Oxford[1†]. He then moved within the same university to become the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, holding these positions from 1945 until his retirement in 1959[1†].

Tolkien’s works, particularly “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, have had a profound impact on the genre of fantasy literature. His richly inventive epic fantasy has led to him being popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature[1†]. His writings, along with unpublished notes and manuscripts published posthumously by his son Christopher, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and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[1†].

Early Years and Education

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa[2†][3†]. His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, was a bank manager, and his mother was Mabel Suffield[2†][3†]. Tragically, his father died of rheumatic fever when Tolkien was just three years old[2†][3†]. After his father’s death, Tolkien, his mother, and his younger brother, Hilary, moved to Kings Heath, Birmingham, England[2†][3†].

Tolkien’s early education was primarily at home. However, he later attended King Edward’s School and St. Philip’s School in Birmingham[2†][3†]. In 1900, his mother converted to Roman Catholicism, a faith that Tolkien also practiced devoutly[2†]. Unfortunately, his mother passed away in 1904 due to acute diabetes[2†][3†]. After her death, Tolkien and his brother became wards of a Catholic priest, Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory[2†][3†].

In 1911, Tolkien enrolled at Exeter College, Oxford, initially to study classics[2†][3†]. However, he changed his course to study English language and literature in 1913[2†][3†]. He completed his studies with a First, the highest level of achievement, in 1915[2†][4†].

Tolkien’s early years were marked by loss and change, but they also laid the foundation for his profound interest in language and literature. His experiences during this time would later influence his writing and academic career[2†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

After completing his studies at Oxford, Tolkien served in the British Army during World War I, seeing action in the Battle of the Somme[1†]. After the war, he briefly worked on The Oxford English Dictionary[1†][2†].

In 1920, Tolkien began his academic career as a professor at the University of Leeds[1†][2†]. He specialized in Old and Middle English, and his academic work helped shape the field of medieval studies[1†][5†]. In 1925, he returned to Oxford as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a Fellow of Pembroke College[1†][2†][1†]. He held these positions until 1945[1†].

Tolkien then moved within the same university to become the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College[1†][2†][1†]. He held these positions from 1945 until his retirement in 1959[1†]. During his time at Oxford, Tolkien was a close friend of C.S. Lewis, a co-member of the informal literary discussion group The Inklings[1†].

Tolkien’s academic career was distinguished, but it is his contributions to literature that he is most known for. His children’s book “The Hobbit” was published in 1937 and achieved fame[1†][2†][1†]. This was followed by his richly inventive epic fantasy “The Lord of the Rings”, published in 1954-55[1†][2†][1†]. These works, along with unpublished notes and manuscripts published posthumously by his son Christopher, 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[1†].

Tolkien’s writings have had a profound impact on the genre of fantasy literature. His richly inventive epic fantasy has led to him being popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature[1†]. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on March 28, 1972[1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary career was marked by the creation of a rich and expansive fantasy world, brought to life through a series of novels, short stories, and poems. His works have had a profound impact on the genre of fantasy literature[6†][1†].

Tolkien’s works were not only influential in the field of literature but also adapted into successful movies and theater plays[6†][7†]. His ability to create a detailed and immersive world, complete with its own languages and histories, has left an indelible mark on the genre of fantasy literature[6†][1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

J.R.R. Tolkien’s work has been subject to extensive analysis and evaluation, given its profound impact on the genre of fantasy literature[9†][10†][11†]. His fiction dismayed most of his fellow scholars at the University of Oxford as much as it delighted most of his general readers[9†]. Such reactions sprang from their recognition of his vast linguistic talent, which underlay both his professional achievements and his mythical universe[9†].

Tolkien led two lives at once, quietly working as an Oxford tutor, examiner, editor, and lecturer while concurrently Middle-earth and its mythology were taking shape within his imagination[9†]. His lecture “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics” approached the Anglo-Saxon epic poem from an entirely new perspective and is considered a landmark in criticism of Western Germanic literature[9†].

Tolkien’s novels have been adapted for cinema and television, and many, though not all, of his fragmentary stories, articles, and letters have been published since his death[9†]. His histories of Middle-earth, a remarkable invented mythology comprising chronicles, tales, maps, and poems, were edited as a series by his son, Christopher Tolkien[9†].

Tolkien’s passion for mythology is evident in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is a testament to his zeal for philology[9†][11†]. He utilized elements of mythology to reinvent the past, creating a living, breathing, nearly palpable world through great depth[9†][11†].

In conclusion, J.R.R. Tolkien’s work has left an indelible mark on the genre of fantasy literature. His ability to create a detailed and immersive world, complete with its own languages and histories, has not only influenced literature but also adaptations in successful movies and theater plays[9†][12†].

Personal Life

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, known as J.R.R. Tolkien, was not only a renowned writer and scholar but also a devoted family man[2†][1†]. He met his future wife, Edith Bratt, when he was only 16 years old[2†][8†]. Despite the disapproval of his guardian, a Catholic priest, Tolkien’s love for Edith remained unwavering[2†]. On his 21st birthday, he asked Edith to marry him[2†]. They got married in March 1916[2†][8†][13†].

Tolkien and Edith had four children: John Francis Reuel (born November 1917), Michael Hilary Reuel (born October 1920), Christopher Reuel (born 1924), and Priscilla[2†][8†][4†]. Each of his children played a significant role in his life, with his son Christopher later publishing a series of works based on Tolkien’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts[2†][1†].

Tolkien’s personal life was marked by his deep faith. His mother converted to Roman Catholicism in 1900, a faith that Tolkien also practiced devoutly throughout his life[2†]. This faith significantly influenced his personal and professional life[2†].

Tolkien’s wife, Edith, passed away in 1971[2†][14†]. He lived for another two years before passing away on September 2, 1973, in Bournemouth, Hampshire, England[2†][1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

J.R.R. Tolkien’s legacy is undeniably profound and enduring. His works, particularly “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, have not only sold countless millions of copies worldwide but have also significantly influenced the genre of fantasy literature[2†][15†]. Tolkien’s ability to create not just fiction, but mythology, sets him apart from many other authors[2†][15†]. His stories are often compared to classics such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and Beowulf[2†][15†].

Tolkien’s character was that of a classical gentleman and scholar. His faith, love for family, and intellect have left a lasting impact on the modern world[2†][15†]. His monogamous love for his wife, Edith, was undying and is an inspiration in today’s times[2†][15†].

Even after his death in 1973, Tolkien’s creativity, imagination, and spirit continue to live on through his books and creations[2†][8†]. His impact on modern fantasy fiction is remarkable[2†][16†]. However, it’s important to note that while some of the changes to the genre ushered in by Tolkien’s work are positive, other aspects of his legacy are more problematic[2†][16†].

In conclusion, J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have transcended the realm of literature to become a part of popular culture. His richly inventive epic fantasies continue to captivate audiences, and his influence on the genre of fantasy literature remains unparalleled[2†][15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - J. R. R. Tolkien [website] - link
  2. Britannica - J.R.R. Tolkien: English author [website] - link
  3. The Famous People - J. R. R. Tolkien Biography [website] - link
  4. CliffsNotes - The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien Biography [website] - link
  5. Historic Cornwall - J R R Tolkien: A Life Of Achievement [website] - link
  6. Wikipedia (English) - J. R. R. Tolkien bibliography [website] - link
  7. The Tolkien Library - Books written by J.R.R. Tolkien [website] - link
  8. University of Wisconsin - The Tolkien Society - Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien: Creator of Middle-Earth [website] - link
  9. eNotes - J. R. R. Tolkien Analysis [website] - link
  10. The Wars of Tolkien: Trauma and War Comentary in the Lord of The Rings by Mike Fielden - None [document] - link
  11. Gradesfixer - Essays on The Lord of The Rings [website] - link
  12. Academia - JRR Tolkien: an analysis of how his life experiences shaped the Lord of the Rings [website] - link
  13. Deutsche Welle - J.R.R. Tolkien's life in pictures – DW – 01/03/2022 [website] - link
  14. Biography - J.R.R. Tolkien [website] - link
  15. Boss Hunting - The Legacy Of J.R.R. Tolkien, A History Of 'The Lord Of The Rings' Author [website] - link
  16. Eastern Washington University - Digital Commons - "The value hierarchies of J.R.R. Tolkien and his legacy: a reimagining " by Alexander Richburg [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.