J.R.R. Tolkien – Life and Works

By | Oct 20, 2009

In Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien was born. His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien was an English banker and had moved to Bloemfontein with his wife Mabel as part of his job. By the time Tolkien was 13 both of his parents had died, first his father in 1896 and after moving back to England his mother in 1904. During his life Tolkien was noted as an expert in Middle English Literature holding professorships at Leeds and Oxford. But he is perhaps best known as the author of The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings was first published as three volumes; The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King on July 21, 1954, on November 11, 1954 and on October 20, 1955 respectively in the United Kingdom. The book was created as a single volume and was broken up into sections by the publisher. When The Fellowship of the Ring was published, a index was promised. However that complete Index and Appendices were not complete until the 1966 revised edition was printed. These Appendices gave a view of the World of Middle-Earth and it’s three Ages that Tolkien began in 1917.

Tolkien was an English Army soldier during World War One and served with the 11th Battalion in France. In October of 1916 he contracted Trench Fever. During his recovery in 1917 he started work on a tale he called The Fall of Gondolin part of a larger project he would call The Book of Lost Tales.

It was also during this recovery period that while walking with his wife Edith that inspired The Tale of Beren and Luthien. It is a tale of the immortal Elf-maiden Luthien who fell in love with the mortal man Beren. To Tolkien, Edith was Luthien with him self being Beren. On their grave stone, he had Luthien inscribed along with her name. Edith Tolkien died on November 29, 1971. When he died nearly two years later the name Beren was added with his name.

The Tolkien’s had four children, John Francis Reuel (November 17, 1917 – January 22, 2003), Michael Hilary Reuel (October 22, 1920 – February 27, 1984), Christopher John Reuel (born November, 21 1924) and Priscilla Mary Anne Reuel (born June, 18 1929). While his children were young he began telling them a fairy tale of a Hobbit by the name of Bilbo Baggins who lived in a hole in the ground.

With the encouragement of his friend C.S. Lewis, (Lewis would later create his own children tales The Chronicles of Narnia), Tolkien finished The Hobbit tale in 1933. In 1936 the manuscript was shown by a family friend of publisher Stanley Unwin. The Hobbit was published in 1937. The Lord of the Rings was begun as its sequel in 1937 and took until 1953 to complete. Tolkien was exacting in the writing of his tales and would work his Middle-Earth mythology his entire life, with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit being the only major works of this mythology published during his life.


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