J.R.R.

TOLKIEN

Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa on January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
was the second son to Arthur Tolkien and Mable Suffield Tolkien. He spent the first three
years of his life living in South Africa, moving to his parents hometown of Birmingham in
1895. His father died a year later, and Tolkien spent the remainder of his life living in or
around Birmingham.
The Tolkien family was devoutly Catholic, and when his mother died in1904 when he
was twelve, he and his brother Hillary were placed under the guardianship of the family
priest. When John was sixteen, he met and fell in love with Edith Bratt, a girl three years his
senior. The priest who was serving as his guardian, Francis Morgan, forbade John to see
Edith until he was twenty-one and no longer under his care. John and Edith were married in
1916; he was twenty-four, she twenty-seven.
From an early age, Tolkien proved to be an excellent scholar and was fascinated with
languages and often made up his own. When he was eighteen, he attended King Edward’s
School and then Oxford a year later, where he studied literature and numerous languages
including Old English, Finnish and Welsh. After finishing his degree, John enlisted in the
service for World War I.
Shortly after Tolkien and Edith were married, John was shipped out to France, where
he fought in the Somme Offensive. While serving, he contracted trench fever and was sent
home to Birmingham to be treated. Having this illness is believed to have played a great
part in surviving in Somme, as it kept him away from the brutal battleground. While being
treated, John began to write a collection of stories called “The Book of Lost Tales,” later to
be known as The Silmarillion.
After the war ended and Tolkien recovered, he returned to Oxford where he worked as
a lexicographer helping to write part of the Oxford English Dictionary. After a four year post
at the University of Leeds, he returned to Oxford again, but as a professor of Anglo-Saxon,
until he retired in 1959. While at Oxford, Tolkien inexplicably wrote in a student’s notebook:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” This was simply nonsense at the time, but
Tolkien began building on it until he reached the epic known as The Hobbit, or There and
Back Again. The Hobbit was set in Middle Earth, the world of The Silmarillion. The Hobbit
was published as a children’s story and was not expected to be particularly popular.
However, after its incredible popularity, the publishers asked Tolkien to write a sequel. The
sequel in question was originally very much like The Hobbit, but eventually grew darker and
much more serious. The story, now split from one book to three, had a much stronger
connection to The Silmarillion, a compilation of folk tales, history and myths.
Although The Silmarillion was the first book to be set in Middle Earth, it was the last
Tolkien was working on. While writing the final draft in 1973, Tolkien died of pneumonia.
His son Christopher finished the editing, and The Silmarillion was published four years after
his death. Tolkien’s contribution to world literature lives on past his death, with millions
continuing to enjoy his books today.




resources
http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/features/2002/11/tolkien/jrr-tolkien-biography.shtml
http://www.biographyonline.net/writers/tolkien_jrr.html
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/contributor/j-r-r-tolkien
http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/J.R.R._Tolkien
http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/abouttolkien.htm
The Lord of the Rings Part Three: The Return of The King; “About the Author” section