J. R. R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors of all time. If I were ever to find a time machine, preferably a blue one with the Doctor inside, one of my top things to do would be to go back in time and meet him. I love him and his work so much, I did a whole study on him when I was in school. When I decided to do another author spotlight, I thought, why not one of my favorite authors?
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in South Africa. His father was bank clerk who moved to South Africa for better prospects, then was joined by Tolkien's mother. His time in South Africa was short, and one of his most vivid memories was of a large spider. (Often thought to be where his idea for Shelob came from.) He had one younger brother born while they were in Africa.
His family returned to England when he was three, but his father died while in South Africa shortly after. Their family lived in poverty for quite a while. Tolkien started going to school and showed a keen gift for languages. Over the years he translated many books and created many languages. His mother died when he was twelve, leaving him and his brother in the care of a priest.
Tolkien met his wife, Edith, at 16, when they lived in the same boarding house. However, his priest guardian refused to let them be together until he was 21. As soon as he turned 21, he wrote Edith telling her how much he loved her. They married in 1916 and had four children over the course of their life.
When the Great War broke out, many of Tolkien's friends went out and were killed. He himself eventually joined the army, but got trench fever, which affected him so much that he couldn't fight the rest of the war. His son Christopher later fought in World War 2.
He became a professor at Oxford, where he started The Hobbit on the back of an exam paper. He continued to have a successful career, wrote more books, and translated others. Edith died in 1971 and Tolkien died less than a year later. Engraved on their tombstone are the names Beren and Luthien. He was 81.
Tolkien was both a writer and a translator of books. Many of his manuscripts were never finished, which his son Christopher later edited and published. I'll divide this list up by translations, published works, and posthumous works.
The Story of Kullervo
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun
The Fall of Arthur
The Lord of the Rings
The Father Christmas Letters (Not a book actually, but a collection of letters that he sent his children each year from Father Christmas. They are so adorable.)
Leaf by Niggle
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
On Fairy Stories
Smith of Wootton Major
Farm Giles of Ham
Bilbo's Last Song
The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (Also not an official book, but a collection of his letters to various people that are fascinating to read.)
The Book of Lost Tales
The History of Middle Earth (This is written by Christopher Tolkien, talking about how Middle Earth and LOTR came to be.)
The Children of Hurin
Beren and Luthien (Not out yet, but it will be later this year. I can't wait.)
What I Enjoy About His Work
The thing I love about Tolkien's works are that they are so rich and full of depth. Middle Earth was made as sort of an English mythology, and he worked on it from when he started The Lord of the Rings until he died. It was his passion project, which you can tell.
Today, we jump from book to book quickly, always moving on to a new idea. Most authors today couldn't imagine spending years working lovingly on one project, and continuing to write stories there. If most authors spent even a fraction of the time on worldbuilding as he did, books would be much better.
I also enjoy that Tolkien wrote so diversely. From children's books like Roverandom and The Hobbit to his adult fantasies of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, he has something for everyone. You can start kids on him from a young age.
His books have some of the best re-readability as well. People, myself included, return to them again and again. They aren't something you read once and never return to. They draw you back to them. I know I notice new things every time I re-read LOTR. It's beautiful.
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Also, I wanted to point out that I now have a page for my novels. Just look at the pages bar across the top, or click here, to read blurbs and notes about where they are in the writing process. Once I get my author site up, hopefully later this year, that will point you there instead. Let me know what you think.
Let's talk! What's your favorite Tolkien fact? How many times have you read The Lord of the Rings? (I've read it around 4 times.) Tell me in the comments.