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The Hobbit Study Guide

The Hobbit Study Guide

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Published by: Ormo@Normo on Jul 15, 2009
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11/12/2012

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The Hobbit study guide
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Introducing J. R. R. Tolkien
 
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) wasa major scholar of the English language,specialising in Old and Middle English. TwiceProfessor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford, he also wrote anumber of stories, including most famously The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings(1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented version of the world whichhe called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth.
 His Life
 
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, as he waschristened, was born in Bloemfontein, SouthAfrica in 1892. His early and barelymemorable years were spent dividedbetween the city and a country farm. Hisfather, an English banker, was makingefforts to establish a branch in that country.Many of Tolkien's early memories of SouthAfrica and are reported to have influencedhis later works.He left South Africa to return to England withhis mother and his brother, Hilary. His father,Arthur, was supposed also to return toEngland within the next few months.However, Arthur Tolkien died of rheumaticfever while still in South Africa. This left thegrieving family in relatively dire straights andon a very limited income. They soon movedto Birmingham, England, so that youngTolkien could attend King Edward VI school.His mother, Mabel, converted to Catholicismand the religion would have a long lastingeffect on young Tolkien. The family wasbefriended by the Parish Priest, Father Francis Morgan, who would see the Tolkiensthrough some troubled times.An avid reader, Tolkien was influenced bysome of the great writers of his day includingG.K. Chesterton and H.G. Wells. It wasduring this period of financial hardship, butintellectual stimulation that Tolkien sufferedthe loss of his devoted mother. Shesuccumbed to diabetes in 1904 whenTolkien was only 12 years of age. Father Morgan took over as his guardian, placinghim first with an aunt and then at a boardinghouse for orphans. It was at this boardinghouse, at the age of 16 that he would meetand fall in love with Edith Bratt. Naturally,their relationship was frowned upon. Tolkienand Edith were caught in affectionatecircumstances - they bicycled together out tothe countryside surrounding the city and hada picnic.Throughout his life, Tolkien had cultivated alove of language, especially ancientlanguages. At Oxford he would major inphilology, which is the study of words andlanguage. He would be much influenced byIcelandic, Norse and Gothic mythology. Evensome of the characters and place names hewould later develop would be drawn from thenames from ancient sagas. The forest of Mirkwood, which played a prominent roll inboth The Hobbit and in "The Lord of theRings" was borrowed from Icelandicmythology. The names of many of thedwarves in The Hobbit were actualplacenames in the myths.While still attending college, he looked up hislost love, Edith Bratt, and proposedmarriage. She had accepted a proposal fromanother, but in the end was persuaded toreturn to Tolkien. They would marry in 1916.World War I, the war to end all wars, came in1914. It would forever mark the end of manyof the Empires of Europe and would unleashdeath across the European Continent.Tolkien lost many of his friends in the war,and he himself would serve as an officer onthe front lines at the Battle of the Somme. Hecaught trench fever in 1917 and was sent
 
 
back to England to recuperate. He would notsee front line service again.Throughout his schooldays he had been adetermined poet and scholar. His interest inlanguage was such that he had evendeveloped his own languages based looselyon Finnish and Welsh. It was whilerecuperating in Birmingham, with his wife athis side, that he began to create a mythologybehind his languages. This work would oneday result in his famous novels.It was about this time that Tolkien wasblessed with the first of his four children.After the war he was offered a professorshipat the University of Leeds. Besides lecturing,he continued work on his mythology. He feltthat he, in a sense, was creating England'smythology. In 1925 Tolkien with a colleaguepublished a translation and analysis of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." It was aturning point in his career. It brought himnotice at Oxford where he was offered theprofessorship of Anglo-Saxon.The Hobbit, the work that would make himfamous, came out in 1936. He began it oneevening while grading exam papers. Seatedat his desk, he opened up an exam novelletto find the first page blank. He was surprisedand pleased that the student had somehowentirely skipped the page. It seemed aninvitation to write, and in that space hebegan his work on The Hobbit.The finished manuscript of The Hobbit fellinto the hands of George Allen and Unwin,Publishers. Unwin paid his own ten year oldson a shilling to read the story and report onits publishability. The young man lavishedpraise on the novel, and Unwin decided totake a risk on it.The Hobbit soon became a best seller andmade Professor Tolkien famous. He wasalready well-known as a scholar for his workin Philology, and he was also part of a groupof friends who called themselves theInklings. The centre of this group was C.S.Lewis who would long be one of Tolkien'sbest friends and admirers.In the late 1930's Tolkien began writing the"Lord of the Rings". Work on the story wouldgo on for ten and a half years. He gave firstchance at publication to Allen & Unwin, thepublishers of The Hobbit. But it was rejectedby a staff editor when Unwin was away onbusiness in France. The younger "Unwin"was now in the family publishing business.He found out about the rejected manuscript,wrote to his father in France, requestingpermission to take on the project. Recallingthe success of The Hobbit, but scepticalabout a "hobbit novel" written for adults, heacquiesced to his son's request reluctantly."The Lord of the Rings" was published inthree parts and would become a hugepublishing success.Fame and fortune were both a blessing anda bane for Tolkien. He enjoyed the popularityof his work. Yet, he was burdened with workresponding to his adoring public. After hisretirement at Oxford, he and his wife Edithmoved to Bournemouth in 1966. Edith diedin 1971. The loss of his life's companion didnot sit well with Tolkien; yet he struggled onfor some two years till his death of Pneumonia on 2 September 1973.

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