J.R.R. Tolkien


J.R.R. Tolkien was born at the third of January 1892 in Bloemfontein in South-Africa, as the son of a bankmanager. Contrary to what many believe, Tolkien doesn't have an Irish, but a German heritage. The name is a anglicization of Tollkiehn, that is Tollkühn. His ancestors emigrated from Saksen to England more then 200 years ago. His father passed away when John Ronald was 3 years old and was visiting England together with his mother and little brother Hilary. Mother Tolkien and her sons did not return to South-Africa but settled down in Sarehole, a village to the south of Birmingham. The village posed for Hobbiton in Tolkien's work.

In 1900 the Tolkien family moved to the suburbes of Birmingham, in view of the education of the children. At King Edward School Tolkien excelled in Latin and Greek, after his mother herself had taught him French and some Latin. And it also was during this time that he started developing his own languages as a hobby. What would play such a mayor part in his later creative work. Besides this, he also possessed 'a fundamental passion' for mythes and fairy tales, but especially for heroic legends, that lay between fairy-tales and history.

When his mother died in 1904, Tolkien became in tutelage to the Catholic priest father Francis Morgan, who brought him up in the Roman-Catholic church. It's hardly surprising that Tolkien, with his interest in languages, went to study English linguistics and literature in Oxford. He was especially capable in Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Ancient Icelandic. (The books written in these languages were Beowulf and the Eldest Elda, and would have a big impact on his own stories)

During the First World War Tolkien served in the Lancashire Fuseliers. Meanwhile he had married his childhood friend Edith Bratt. In November 1916 he returned to England, because he suffered from 'trenchesfeaver'. While he was recovering, he started writing 'the Book of Lost Tales' in 1917, that finally would become The Silmarillion.

After the Armistice in November 1918 Tolkien returned to Oxford with his family. There he worked at the Oxford English Dictionary for a short period. After that he taught at the University of Leeds for several years, and returned to Oxford in 1925 as professor of Anglo-Saxon, which he remained till his pension in 1959.

He started writing the Hobbit with the intention to write something to amuse his children. The Hobbit immediately found a publisher and became a success. His publisher wanted him to work on a sequal to his book. At first Tolkien didn't want to do this, because that would distract him from the for him much more important project: his mythology and the elven languages. Finally he gave way and started Lord of the Rings. This tale became longer and longer, and according to Tolkien, no longer was a sequal to The Hobbit, but to The Silmarillion. Tolkien at first wanted the two books to be published at the same time, but his publisher disagreed and after some racket Tolkien decided not to go through with it.

Lord of the Rings was published and was very succesfull amongst the general public. So succesfull that Tolkien's private life started to suffer from it. Because of his wife's weak health the Tolkiens moved to Bournemouth in 1968, where they tried to stay out of the public eye as much as possible. His wife passed away in 1971, after which he returned to Oxford again. A year later Queen Elisabeth decorated him as Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1973, Tolkien passed away.