Ronald Reuel Tolkien
(January 3rd, 1892 - September 2nd, 1973)
J.R.R.Tolkien is one of our best-loved authors of all time. He
wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, mythic sagas
about a world called Middle-earth and the struggle of good against evil.
Tolkien, the son of English parents, was born on the 3rd January, 1892
in Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State of South Africa. At the
age of four, his mother and younger brother moved back to England to better
guard the delicate health of Ronald (as he was called). Within a
year their father, Arthur Tolkien, died in Bloemfontein, and the family
moved to Sarehole, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham, England.
Tolkien spent a happy childhood in the countryside and his sensibility
to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his pictures.
His mother died when he was only twelve and both he and his brother were
made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward's School, Birmingham.
The boys lived at several different homes from 1905 until 1911, when Ronald
entered Exeter College, Oxford. Tolkien received his B.A. from Oxford in
1915 and an M.A. in 1919. During the interim, he married his longtime
sweetheart, Edith Bratt, and served for a short time on the Western Front
in World War I with the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the battle of
the Somme. The couple eventually had four children. While in
England recovering from "trench fever" in 1917, Tolkien began writing "The
Book of Lost Tales," which eventually became The Silmarillion (1977)
and laid the groundwork for his stories about Middle-earth. In 1920
Tolkien was appointed Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds
which was the beginning of a distinguished academic career culminating
with his election as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at
Oxford. Tolkien became friends with the famous author C. S. Lewis.
They shared an intense enthusiasm for the myths, sagas, and languages of
northern Europe. Tolkien took tremendous delight in the writing and
reading of stories. He wrote for his children and told them the story
of The Hobbit. Having heard Tolkien's first hobbit story read
aloud at a meeting of the Inklings (a weekly meeting at which works-in-progress
were read aloud and discussed and critiqued by the attendees, all interspersed
with free-flowing conversation about literature and other topics), C.S.
Lewis urged Tolkien to publish The Hobbit, which appeared in print
in 1937. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel
to The Hobbit and gradually Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings,
a huge story that took twelve years to complete and which was not published
until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement, Tolkien
and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien
returned to Oxford after his wife's death in 1971 where he was made an
honorary fellow of Merton College and awarded a doctorate of letters.
He died on September 2nd, 1973 leaving The Silmarillion to be edited
for publication by his son, Christopher.
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