J. R. R. Tolkien
the man who created a whole new world

Imagine if you will, a city, a fair haven at the point at which the sea calls Elves and brave Men forth to its wide arms.  The haven is created by Elves, crafted beautifully. If you were to stand on top of one of its many high towers, you would have gazed upon a very defensible city filled with beauty that only Elves can conjure.  You would have gazed at the sea, felt the sea air, and smelled the fresh seawater.  You would have heard its call to the entire world to enter the wide world of what some mariners call freedom and return with stories of grand adventures of the Sea.  All this has branded into it the mark of its creator, a man who is called J. R. R. Tolkien, who has a grand story about himself if only you will listen.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born to Arthur Reuel and Mabel Tolkien on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa (J. R. R. Tolkien). Arthur was a British bank manager who moved to Africa in the 1890’s for better business.  He and his wife were from Birmingham. John Tolkien was a sickly child and had many fevers while in South Africa.  His younger brother Hilary was born on February 17, 1894.  One of his earliest memories of being in South Africa was when he was bitten by a baboon spider, which is related to the tarantula.  He barely missed being poisoned by the bite.  The doctor who helped John recover from the bite was later to become Tolkien’s idea for the character Gandalf (Source Unknown).

When John was three, his mother took him and his younger brother, Hilary to England to visit her relatives on an extended vacation.  The reason for this venture was a cause of the environment in South Africa was not good for the sickly John, (commonly called Ronald by his family) and his mother and father thought that the English environment would be better for John’s health.  Arthur decided to stay behind in South Africa to work because the family did not have enough money for him to go with them as well at that time.  While John, his younger brother Hilary, and Mabel were in Birmingham, on February 15, 1896, Arthur died of rheumatic fever while they were on their holiday in England.  Since their father was dead, there was no reason to return to Africa, so the three of them stayed at Sarehole, a village near Birmingham (Tolkien’s Birmingham).

After Arthur died, the Tolkien family lived in slight poverty. Mabel was converted to Catholicism during their time in England, and as a result was shunned by her relatives who were Baptists.  She taught her children to also be good Catholics. She also homeschooled her children until they were old enough to go to school.  While in England the Tolkien family stayed with John and Hilary’s aunt May (Mabel’s sister) and Cousins Mary and Marjorie.  This is probably when they formed secret languages like Aniamalic, Nevbosh, and Naffarin.  Mabel tutored her children while living there. John liked reading books, but disliked “Treasure Island.”  He did enjoy fairy tales and his favorite book was “The Princess and the Goblin.”  As a cause of his mother teaching him botany, he loved plants and would enjoy drawing and sketching them (J. R. R. Tolkien, Wikipedia). He also enjoyed watching trains pass by on their way through the countryside.  He liked the Welsh names of places on the sides of the trains.  Sindarin, a language John would create in future was, it seemed, a derivative of Old Welsh (The Tolkien Trail).

When John Tolkien was seven, he took an entrance exam for King Edward’s School, but failed.  When he was nine, he retook the entrance exam and gained entrance that year.  At King Edward’s School, he formed a society called T. C. B. S. (Tea Club, Barrovian Society) which is named after their meeting place at the Barrow Store.  Some of John’s friends who were in the TCBS were: Robert Gilson the headmaster’s son, Christopher Wiseman, and Geoffrey Smith.  He started to write poetry while there, influenced by his friends. John wrote some consistent articles for the King Edward’s School newspaper, which included poetry.  In 1903, John got a scholarship at King Edward’s School.  He was eleven.  In 1904, Mabel died of diabetes.  So the orphaned Tolkien boys were cared for by Father Francis Xavier Morgan, who became their guardian (Tolkien’s Birmingham).

In 1911, at age nineteen, John began his first term at Exeter College.  He studied Anglo Saxon and other languages while there.  He took a trip to Switzerland, and it is believed that it was there that he got the idea for the Misty Mountains.  He also worked on the development of Elvish and some of the history of what would become Middle-Earth.  Five years later, John was awarded the Honors in English Literature.  He married Edith Bratt on March 22, 1916. Near the end of the year, Tolkien was forced into World War 1 (J. R. R. Tolkien in the First World War).
“I was pitched into it all, just when I was full of stuff to write, and of things to learn; and never picked it all up again” J. R. R. Tolkien had said  when he was at the Somme (J. R. R. Tolkien and the Somme). To the world this war was called the Great War, but for Tolkien and many other soldiers, there as nothing great about it (J. R. R. Tolkien: The Man Who created “The Lord of the Rings”). He returned to England before the war was over because he was injured and suffering from shock of the horrors of the war (enabling him to return home to his wife).

After he returned home from the war, his first son, John Francis Reuel Tolkien was born a year later.  He worked at Oxford as an assistant for the Oxford Dictionary for about two years on sections N-Z.  A year after his job with the Oxford Dictionary, his second son, Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien was born.  He began teaching reading of the English language at the University of Leeds.  A year later he became a professor of the English language at Leeds.  (Tolkien’s Oxford) That same year, 1924, his third son, Christopher John Reuel Tolkien was born.  The Tolkiens moved to Oxford where he becomes the Professor of Anglo Saxon for the next twenty four years.  In 1926, J. R. R. Tolkien meets C. S. Lewis.  In 1929, the Tolkiens had their last child, Priscilla Anne Reuel Tolkien, their first daughter (“The Tolkien Timeline”).

John Tolkien despised large cities and the world of industry because he could see that it was tearing down the agricultural lifestyle which he loved so dearly.  He enjoyed gardening and sitting at the foot of a tree in the Tolkien’s yard.  He would sit, read, write, or sleep there. He was a generally happy and cheerful person.  He enjoyed riding his bicycle to the university and around Oxford.  The Tolkien’s house was a generally messy place.  There were books piled high in John’s study, and wherever he went around the house.  There were also countless inkwells, pens, pipes and ashtrays for John’s leftovers from his pipe in many different parts of the house.  But, John was a very neat and tidy person. On occasion, while at his friend, C. S. Lewis’ office at Oxford, John would reprimand his friend for all the papers lying hidden in the corners of the room.  Edith Tolkien hated the social life that was common for the Oxfordian professor, but endured it for her husband’s sake. However she did enjoy visits with C. S. Lewis or Jack as his friends called him (common knowledge).
During the Second World War, when John was too old to fight, he volunteered to help out as a watchman for the city of Oxford, to make sure that during the night hours that people kept their shutters closed so as not to let the Nazi aircrafts see them.  John’s sons; John, Michael, and Christopher were all in the War at different times.  There was one story that Tolkien was on watch and saw in the distance a fire from a town that was close to Oxford (J. R. R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created “The Lord of the Rings”).
John formed a club of professors in Oxford who were interested in writing.  The club was at first called the Coal Biters, which is the Old Icelandic word kolbiter.  The name was changed, however to the Inklings because it was more commonly liked by the group (J. R. R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created “The Lord of the Rings”).

John was a strong Catholic due to the influences from his mother when he was a child.  His faith shows up a lot in his books, although he is not as outright with it as is his dear friend C. S. Lewis is in his writings.  John converted him to Christianity from Atheism when they were living in Oxford.  He believed that Catholicism was the only correct form of Christianity, since Roman Catholicism was one if the earliest roots of Christianity, besides Orthodoxy.  He thought that the Church of England was “a pathetic and shadowing medley of half remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs.” John was definitely a man who had to do what he believed was right.  He thought it was wrong to pull up a tree to see where its roots were.  Perhaps that is where “Anyone who breaks something to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom” came from. (J. R. R. Tolkien Quotes)

John loved spending time with his children and would spend hours telling them stories about a certain Bilbo Baggins.  As a result, during the next three years he wrote about Bilbo Baggins and an adventure he had.  In 1936, John completed his book about Bilbo, which was called The Hobbit.  A year later, the book is published and John is persuaded to write a sequel, so he begins work at once.  For most of his stories that he wrote, he was inspired by Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Germanic, Greek, and Finnish mythology, and, of course, the Bible.  In 1945, he became a Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford College, which he maintained until his retirement.  In 1948 the sequel of The Hobbit, was written. It was a trilogy called The Lord of the Rings.  Six years later The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, the first and second books of the trilogy were published.  The next year, The Return of the King the third book in the trilogy was finally published.  (Tolkien’s Biography) Between the writings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, he wrote many other stories which included Farmer Giles of Ham and Leaf by Niggle plus many poems.  For his book The Silmarillion, he was influenced by many Celtic and Gaelic myths (Who was Tolkien?).

In 1957, Edith Tolkien became ill.  Two years later, John retired from being a professor at Oxford.  In 1971, Edith Tolkien died of inflamed gall bladder.  A year later, John becomes a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  On September 2, 1973, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died.  He was eighty-one years old when he died.  Four years later, John’s son, Christopher Tolkien edited and published The Silmarillion from notes that John had written about the history of Arda. He is now known as the “father of modern fantasy.” (Grey Havens: Tolkien Chronology)

Tolkien had created a whole new world when he wrote stories. For him, when he put the last words down, the books were finished.  But they weren’t really finished. His stories went on and left him behind, for no story is ever done (John Steinbeck).