J. R. R. Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor who is best known as the author of the classic high-fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
Find out more amazing facts about him, here!
1. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born 3 January 1892, in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State.
2. His parents were Arthur Reuel Tolkien, an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel, née Suffield.
3. Tolkien’s paternal ancestors were middle-class craftsmen who made and sold clocks, watches and pianos in London and Birmingham. The Tolkien family had emigrated from Germany in the 18th century but had become “quickly intensely English”.
4. The couple had left England when Arthur was promoted to head the Bloemfontein office of the British bank for which he worked.
5. Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel, who was born on 17 February 1894.
6. As a child, he was bitten by a large baboon spider in the garden, an event some think later echoed in his stories, although Tolkien admitted no actual memory of the event and no special hatred of spiders as an adult.
7. In another incident, a young family servant, who thought Tolkien a beautiful child, took the baby to his kraal to show him off, returning him the next morning.
8. When he was three, he went to England with his mother and brother on what was intended to be a lengthy family visit.
9. His father, however, died in South Africa of rheumatic fever before he could join them.
10. This left the family without an income, so Tolkien’s mother took him to live with her parents in Kings Heath, Birmingham.
11. Soon after, in 1896, they moved to Sarehole (now in Hall Green), then a Worcestershire village, later annexed to Birmingham.
12. He enjoyed exploring Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog and the Clent, Lickey and Malvern Hills, which would later inspire scenes in his books, along with nearby towns and villages such as Bromsgrove, Alcester, and Alvechurch and places such as his aunt Jane’s farm of Bag End, the name of which he used in his fiction.
17. Tolkien could read by the age of four and could write fluently soon afterwards.
18. His mother allowed him to read many books.
19. He disliked Treasure Island and The Pied Piper and thought Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was “amusing but disturbing”.
20. He liked stories about”Red Indians” (Native Americans) and the fantasy works by George MacDonald.
21. In addition, the “Fairy Books” of Andrew Lang were particularly important to him and their influence is apparent in some of his later writings.
23. Mabel Tolkien was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1900 despite vehement protests by her Baptist family, which stopped all financial assistance to her.
24. In 1904, when J.R.R. Tolkien was 12, his mother died of acute diabetes at Fern Cottage in Rednal, which she was renting.
25. She was then about 34 years of age, about as old as a person with diabetes mellitus type 1 could live without treatment-insulin would not be discovered until two decades later.
26. Prior to her death, Mabel Tolkien had assigned the guardianship of her sons to her close friend, Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory, who was assigned to bring them up as good Catholics.
27. After his mother’s death, Tolkien grew up in the Edgbaston area of Birmingham and attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and later St. Philip’s School.
28. In 1903, he won a Foundation Scholarship and returned to King Edward’s. While a pupil there, Tolkien was one of the cadets from the school’s Officers Training Corps who helped “line the route” for the 1910 coronation parade of King George V. Like the other cadets from King Edward’s, Tolkien was posted just outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
29. In Edgbaston, Tolkien lived there in the shadow of Perrott’s Folly and the Victorian tower of Edgbaston Waterworks, which may have influenced the images of the dark towers within his works.
30. Another strong influence was the romantic medievalist paintings of Edward Burne-Jonesand the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery had a large collection of works on public display.
31. While in his early teens, Tolkien had his first encounter with a constructed language, Animalic, an invention of his cousins, Mary and Marjorie Incledon.
32. At that time, he was studying Latin and Anglo-Saxon. Interest in the language soon died away, but Mary and others, including Tolkien himself, invented a new and more complex language called Nevbosh.
33. The next constructed language he came to work with, Naffarin, would be his own creation.
34. At college, he was a member of the T.C.B.S (the Tea Club and Barrovian Society). Many of the members had a fondness for drinking tea by the school, and in the school library.
35. He graduated from Exeter College, Oxford with a first-class honours degree in English Language and Literature.
36. He was greatly influenced by his travels in Switzerland and its landscapes. This features heavily in Bilbo’s travels over the Misty Mountains in The Hobbit (1937).
37. In 1916, he married Edith Mary Bratt.
38. During World War I, he was assigned the role of signal officer. During his time, he contracted trench foot on numerous occasions and finally arrived back in England in 1916.
39. He wrote The Book of Lost Tales in Staffordshire, whilst recovering from his time at the Somme.
40. Whilst walking in Kingston Upon Hull, Edith danced by a river bank, and this inspired Tolkien for his future characters, Beren and LAthien’s, first meeting.
41. Tolkien and his wife had four children: John Francis Reuel Tolkien (1917), Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien (1920), Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (1924), and Priscilla Mary Anne Reuel Tolkien (1929).
42. While The Hobbit was written for children, The Lord of the Rings became darker, and took a more serious tone.
43. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit (1937), The Fellowship of the Ring (1954) and The Two Towers (1954) while living at 20 Northmoor Road in North Oxford.
44. During World War II, he was earmarked as a codebreaker.
45. Queen Elizabeth II gave Tolkien the Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972.
46. Tolkien was a devout Roman Catholic.
47. With his aptitude of languages, Tolkien had learnt: Danish, Dutch, French, German, Gothic, Greek, Italian, Latin, Lombardic, Middle and Old English, Old Norse, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh and Medieval Welsh.
48. After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher published many of his father’s works and manuscripts, including The Silmarillion (1977).
49. The first signed edition of The Hobbit reportedly went for $85,000 at auction.
50. In 2003, 25th March was announced as Tolkien Reading Day in schools.
51. In 2001, director Peter Jackson began filming for the three The Lord of the Rings films in New Zealand. It had such stars as Christopher Lee as Saruman, Sir Ian McKellan as Gandalf and Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins. The cast features many more.
52. In 2012, Peter Jackson released the first of a three-part series of The Hobbit. It features such stars such as Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, Sir Ian McKellan (reprising his role as Gandalf) and Andy Serkis.
53. Tolkien left a significant body of work unpublished, which is son Christopher Tolkien later published. This included, The Silmarillion, The History of Middle Earth and Unfinished Tales.
54. Initially, Tolkien only wanted The Lord of the Rings to be published alongside the Simlarillion, almost going to another publisher.
55. When Tolkien’s son joined the army, he listed his father’s occupation as ‘Wizard!’
56. In one sense Tolkien was a typical conservative. He was highly critical of the Stalinist and Hitler regime’s. But, he also had a strong libertarian streak and once said: ‘My political opinions lean more and more to anarchy.’
57. Tolkien credited the works of William Morris as being a great inspiration.
58. In 1999 Amazon.com customers voted Lord of the Rings as the most popular book of the Millenium
59. Tolkien was voted 94th on the list of Greatest Britons
60. One of his favourite sayings was: Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!
61. He was buried at Wolvercote cemetery with his wife Edith. The description reads:
Edith Mary Tolkien, Lúthien, 1889-1971
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973