5 FACTS ABOUT J.R.R TOLKIEN
We’re a bit late to the party with this one (by five days or so) but we had a lot of orders to fulfil when we got back to the office after Christmas last week, so our main focus was getting them out the door and on their way to you. Having said that we didn’t want to miss the opportunity of, in celebration of his birthday last week, writing about arguably THE best fantasy writer of all time - J.R.R Tolkien.
Tolkien and his famous works are adored all around the world; we all know his books inside out - the plot, the characters, the world he created - along with the film franchise they inspired. But what about the man behind the idea? What about his life?
We spent some time researching Tolkien to find out a little more about him and discovered so many interesting facts and anecdotes. Seriously, if you’ve got a moment, a quick search online will lead to a world of discovery. If not then we’ve covered some of our favourites in the remainder of this blog post.
1. ORPHANED BY TWELVE.
Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa where he spent the first three years of his life. Tragedy first struck the family in 1896 when his mother took him and his younger brother to visit their grandparents in England. During their visit the boys’ father, who had remained at home to work, died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. His death left the family so poor that they had no way of getting back to South Africa.
The trio remained in England where Tolkien’s mother, a talented linguist, spent time tutoring her children, giving Tolkien a lifelong passion for languages. His mother sadly died from diabetes in 1904, leaving Tolkien an orphan at twelve.
2. A FORBIDDEN LOVE
Tolkien met his future wife, a fellow orphan, at the age of sixteen after moving into the Edgbaston boarding house where she already lived. Edith was three years older than Tolkien, but the pair were soon spending a large amount of time together and quickly fell in love.
Unfortunately Tolkien’s then guardian, Francis Xavier Morgan, deemed their relationship as nothing more than a distraction, preventing Tolkien from reaching his full potential, and forbade them from seeing one another until he had turned twenty one.
Tolkien remained dedicated to Edith in their time apart and spent the evening before his twenty first birthday writing her a letter, asking for her hand in marriage. Edith believed she had been forgotten about by her former lover and was already promised to another man, however after receiving the letter she broke things off with him immediately. Tolkien and Edith soon married and the pair remained together and in love for the next fifty nine years.
3. TOLKIEN THE LECTURER
Tolkien, as well as being a successful author, was a much-loved lecturer and professor at Oxford University. He worked there for thirty four years from 1925 until he retired in 1959. Tolkien was the Professor of Anglo-Saxon where he transformed the view of Middle English and Anglo-Saxon epic poems such as Beowulf - those lectures in particular were apparently deemed legendary amongst his students.
4. A LITERARY FRIENDSHIP
Tolkien had a large circle of friends, most of them fellow academics, with a number of them sharing his passion and interest for literature and writing. The friends started a weekly literary discussion group and named themselves The Inklings. The intention was to read and discuss the unfinished works of their members, including Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
For a long period of time Tolkien’s closest friend was C.S Lewis, most famous for writing The Chronicles of Narnia series. The two matched each other intellectually and had a lot in common, including shared past experiences and a passion for imagination led writing. “He was for long my only audience,” he once wrote. The pair remained friends for a number of years however an undercurrent of rivalry and differing opinions on what constituted good literature led to the pair drifting and not seeing each other at all in the latter part of their lives.
Despite their disagreements, it’s clear that the pair always cared deeply for one another. Lewis’ death spurred Tolkien to write a letter to Lewis’ daughter explaining how her father’s passing felt “like an axe-blow near the roots.”
5. KING OF THE BEDTIME STORY
Tolkien’s first successful novel, The Hobbit, began as a bedtime story for his young children who were fascinated by the tales of adventure their father would come up with each night. The plot was subject to rigorous editing, with five year old Christopher Tolkien pointing out any inconsistencies as the story developed each evening and new characters and creatures were introduced.
After a glowing review from ten year old Rayner Unwin, whose father owned a publishing house, The Hobbit (finished, refined and edited) was published in 1937. It was positively received by children and adults alike.