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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) gained a reputation during the 1960s and 1970s as a cult figure among youths disillusioned with war and the technological age. His continuing popularity evidences his ability to evoke the oppressive realities of modern life while drawing audiences into a fantasy world. John Ronald Reuel was born on the third of January, 1892, at Bloemfontein, South Africa, where his father, Arthur, had taken a position with the Bank of Africa. In 1895 Tolkiens mother, Mabel Suffield, moved back to England with her children, because Tolkiens health was affected by the climate.

Arthur Tolkien hoped to return to England soon, but he contracted rheumatic fever the following autumn and died early in 1896. After a few months of living with her parents, Mabel Tolkien rented a cottage on the edge of Birmingham, and from then until her death in 1904, she and here two sons lived in rented houses on the edges of the city. After her death, Mabel Tolkiens parish priest, Father Francis Morgan, took responsibility for the upbringing and education of her sons.

Tolkiens only means of escape from a lower-middle-class commercial life was winning an academic scholarship, which, with some difficulty, he did in 1910, gaining entrance to Exeter College, Oxford. In 1908 Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, an orphan like himself. In 1910 Father Morgan forbade him to communicate with her until he was of age, to which Tolkien obeyed. At Oxford he began studying classics but soon concentrated on English language and literature, being awarded first-class honors in his final examination in 1915.

He revisited Edith Bratt five days after his twenty-first birthday, and they were formally betrothed in 1914 when, at Tolkiens insistence, she converted to Roman Catholicism(Kroeber 519). Tolkien went into combat for a short while on the Western Front. After returning to Britain in 1917, he began writing The book of Lost Tales which ultimately became The Silmarillion and laid the groundwork for his stores about Middle-earth. Tolkien returned to Oxford, where he joined the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary and began work as a self-employed tutor.

In 1920 he was appointed Reader in English Language at Leeds University, where he collaborated with E. V Gordon on an highly praised translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, published in 1925. The following year Tolkien returned to Oxford and became friends with C. S. Lewis. They both attended meetings of The Coalbiters, a club founded by Tolkien, where Icelandic sagas were read aloud(Byers 259). Almost all of Tolkiens work was never published. But in 1936 he was persuaded by friends to let the firm of Allen an Unwin to take a look at his typescript of The Hobbit. This story was said to delight all who read.

Allen an Unwin decided to publish the book and it sold so well that they asked Tolkien to write a sequel. Tolkien wanted to, but it took him fifteen years to complete it(Kroeber 520). After thirty years of being a professor Tolkien finally began being recognized and rewarded for his academic achievements. In 1945 he was named an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University college in Dublin, Ireland and the University of Liege in Belgium. It wasnt until the 1950s that Tolkien started to be known out side his own field. In 1953 he was invited to give the William Paton Ker Memorial Lecture at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Tolkien was also given a honorary membership in the Hid Islezhe bokmennta felag, an Icelandic society. All of his honors came so late in life because he hardly published anything. But it is said that it is good that he became recognized as a scholar first and not a writer(Grotta 123-124). Tolkiens wrote his first story at the age of seven. But it was not till after the First World War that he began writing seriously. What he wrote in the 1920s and into the 1930s was basically The Silmarillion, accompanied by Lost Tales volumes. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings became his most popular works.

Even though The Silmarillion was the basic lay out of all his books, it was not published until four years after his death. Even though Tolkien became very popular for his books, he never exploited his fame. He seemed to be embarrassed and troubled by the popularity of his books. One of influences of his writing was the moving he went through as a child. The sudden move from Africa, a flat hot desert, to England, rolling grassy hills, seemed to open his mind. One of the main reasons he wrote was to entertain his children. He told them about his world. And only a small majority of his stories got published(Kroeber 521).

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