J.R.R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien)
This Famous Person Game - May 2015
by Mike McLeod
J.R.R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien), or Ronald, as he was called by friends and family, was a professor of Middle English and Old English (also known as Anglo-Saxon) at the University of Oxford. He mastered Latin and Greek as a boy and Finnish other languages as an adult. For a lark, he would create his own languages. All of this explains how Tolkien wrote such in-depth and at times, difficult-to-read novels as The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King and others.
The Hobbit was written as a children’s story, and it had an interesting conception. While grading exam papers in about 1930, Tolkien described the beginning thusly: “One of the candidates had mercifully left one of the pages with no writing on it (which is the best thing that can possibly happen to an examiner), and I wrote on it: ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ Names always generate a story in my mind: eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like.”1
The collector in all of us wonders: where is that exam booklet today?
Anyway, thus began a saga that would sell 100 million copies of The Hobbit in about 30 languages and lead to the selling of about 150 million copies of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.2 The six Peter Jackson Hobbit and Rings movies have thus far grossed $5.9 billion worldwide at a cost of about $1 billion to create and market.3
Born on Jan. 3, 1892, Tolkien’s father Arthur was a bank clerk who moved with his wife to South Africa to further his banking career. There, Ronald was born, but at the age of three, he and his mother moved back to England with his father to follow. Unfortunately, Arthur died before he was able to leave the country. This left the family in financial straits.
In 1904 at the age of 12, Tolkien lost his mother Mabel to diabetes; insulin was not discovered until about 1921. In an act of great charity, the family’s Catholic priest took in and raised Ronald and his brother Hilary Arthur.
After Great Britain entered World War I in 1914, Tolkien enlisted in the army as an officer in 1916. Ronald married Edith Bratt in March of 1916, and in June, he left for France and fought in the skirmishes in the Battle of the Somme. He saw some action in France but contracted trench fever and was eventually sent back to a hospital in England. During the war and recuperation, he began writing his stories of elves, dwarves and gnomes; some of those stories later appeared in his Book of the Lost which was published posthumously, along with other books, through the editorial efforts of his son Christopher. In all, the Tolkiens had three sons and a daughter.
After the war ended, Tolkien wrote for the Oxford English Dictionary before eventually being hired by a university. He remained in education for the rest of his career.
Tolkien was close friends with C.S. Lewis and is credited with helping Lewis convert to Christianity from atheism.
Ronald was devoted to and totally in love with Edith throughout his life. She died two years before he did on in Sept. 2, 1973. They are buried together in the same grave in Oxford, England.
The year before he died, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the Order of the British Empire honor and appointed him the level of Commander. There are five levels in the Order of the British Empire, the top two being Knights. Commander is level three, but even so, it is a great honor.
Never to be forgotten, J.R.R. Tolkien will always remain as a legend of literature and the true Lord of the Rings.
J.R.R. Tolkien was identified by Julie Kimbrell of the Old School Antique Mall in Sylva, N.C., Leslie Leaver from Simpsonville. S.C., and Sharron Lawson of Roswell, Ga.
2 TheNewAmerican.com, “Seventy-Five Years Later, The Hobbit Still Enchants Us,” by Bruce Walker, 21 September 2012.
3 The-numbers.com, “Box Office History for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Movies.”
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