On January 3, 1892, Mabel Tolkien gave birth to her first son, John Ronald Reuel, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Later known as JRR, he would create a literary universe that would become known around the world, making him one of the most famous writers of all time.
Tolkien’s mother, however, did not live to see her son’s success – she died when he was just 12 years old. But it was she who laid the foundation for his later career by reading him fairy tales and legends and teaching him Latin, French and German. Young JRR absorbed his mother’s stories and became fascinated with languages.
Later, he even invented his own.
Growing up in the “County”
When Mabel died, her two sons were placed in the care of Father Francis Morgans, who became their guardian. The boys grew up in a suburb of the English city of Birmingham called Sarehole. It was green, untouched and idyllic, much like the landscape where Tolkien later made his hobbits live.
John stood out as an exceptionally good student. Fascinated by the languages and myths of Old English, he and some classmates from King’s Edward School founded their own semi-secret society called the Tea Club Barrovian Society, where they discussed literature and poetry.
During this time, Tolkien also began to write. It didn’t take long for him to invent his first language – which he would also do for his later novels.
Newly married and in the trenches
Tolkien first studied the classical languages of Latin and Greek at Exeter College, Oxford, before turning enthusiastically to Welsh.
By this time, World War I had reached its peak, and Tolkien’s university studies were nearly complete. At 24, he was called to the front in the north of France.
Four months earlier he had married his wife, Edith. “Leaving my wife was like death for me,” he later wrote.
While many of his closest friends lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme, Tolkien survived.
He returned to Oxford and henceforth sought the tranquility of a simple life. Tolkien became a lecturer and later a professor of ancient English language and literature.
By day he lectures and by night he writes, creating a fantastic universe with its own history, cultures and languages.
From professor of literature to author of the century
Tolkien originally wanted The Hobbit be a bedtime story for her children.
He coined the word “hobbit” and imagined them as small human-like creatures with fur on their feet, who lived in caves in the verdant Shire.
He also gave hobbits some characteristics that he himself possessed: a love of nature, simple cooking, and an aversion to travel.
Many years passed before Tolkien submitted the story to a publisher.
When “The Hobbit” was published in 1937, it captivated readers of all ages and quickly gained fame.
His publisher was inundated with letters from readers hungry for a sequel.
However, it took 15 years before Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings. After all, writing was his hobby, not his profession.
The fantasy epic “The Lord of the Rings” was published in the mid-1950s and made the British professor the author of the century. Tolkien has since become a cult figure, with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ alone selling over 150 million copies to date.
The film trilogy based on the book and directed by Peter Jackson has grossed around $3 billion and won 17 Oscars. The three films that tell the story of “The Hobbit” were also very successful.
A posthumous release
Peter Jackson, who directed “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit,” recently remastered all six films, which were released in a box set titled “Middle-earth” in fall 2021.
In June 2017, another book by Tolkien was published posthumously. “Beren and Luthien”, a love story between a mortal and an immortal elf, is one of the many works he was unable to complete and publish during his lifetime. It was actually one of Tolkien’s earliest stories – he started writing it over 100 years ago.
Both names are engraved on the joint gravestone of Tolkien and his wife Edith, who have been married for 50 years. Shortly after her death, he wrote in a letter: “I never called Edith Luthien, but she was the originator of the story.
Although the world-renowned author passed away in 1973, his stories still captivate the world today.
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