“J. R. R. Tolkien. ” On January 3rd, 1892, in the little town of Bloemfontein, South Africa, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born to Arthur Tolkien and Mable Suffield. Just a few years earlier, Arthur Tolkien had to move to South Africa to take a job managing a bank, because his piano manufacturing business went under (Notable British Authors 12). Mable soon joined him and they had their two sons, Ronald and Hilary soon after. While in South Africa, Mable noticed young Ronald was starting to look unhealthy and very sick (Stade 8).
She thought it would be best if she took Ronald back home. Grudgingly, Arthur let his wife and two young sons go back to England. Soon after Ronald, Mable, and Hilary left South Africa, Arthur Tolkien passed away, leaving the little family with almost no money (Stade 14). Mable taught her kids through home schooling, all the way through elementary school, teaching them many languages, such as Norse, Gothic, Finnish, and Welsh (Stade 23). These inspired Ronald to one day write his own languages.
Sadly, when Ronald was only 12, his mother passed away from diabetes, leaving both her children as orphans (Stade 25). Father Francis Morgan agreed to take them into his orphanage (Notable British Authors 33). In that orphanage, Ronald met his future wife, Edith Bratt, whom was three years older (Notable British Authors 34). Father Morgan saw how smart Ronald was, and feared Edith would distract him from his school work, and cut off all communications until Ronald was 18 and had finished his studies (Stade 28).
When he and Edith reunited in 1913, they found over the years that they had very little in common, but still on the night before his battalion was sent to France, Edith and Ronald were married (Stade 34). Through the years, Edith and Ronald had four children, the first born in November of 1917 (Shippey 78). In the privacy of his home Tolkien wrote many short stories for his children as bedtime stories. These eventually became one long story, and are known as The Silmarillion (Harvey 47).
His children loved the stories, and asked him for another. The longest story he wrote for them is one people all over the world know, The Hobbit (Harvey 26) He was encouraged to publish The Hobbit, and because of its quick and immense popularity, the publisher, Stanley Unwin Firm, immediately asked for a sequel (Stade 67). While Tolkien was happy to oblige, it did take him quite a while to write (Stade 84). His sequel is what we know today as The Lord of the Rings trilogy. When Tolkien gave Unwin his novel, it was all one book (Stade 85).
Tolkien then split into three separate parts, to ensure there wouldn’t be risk for the publisher if the book fell through (Stade 85). Though, Tolkien shouldn’t have feared anything, because, by 1965, the trilogy had an almost cult like following on college campuses and other schools (Harvey 64). From 1925-1959, Tolkien edited the 14th century romance novel, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, along with E. V. Gordon. Although Tolkien was just the editor and translator, he is often seen as the author on many copies of this book, and its sequels (“Chronology of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Life”).
Beowulf: The Monsters and Critics was a lecture Tolkien wrote in 1963 and was published in Proceedings of the British Academy later that year. It has been revered as one of the most informative lectures in the studies of Beowulf, and is useful to anyone wishing to learn more about the classic poem (“Chronology of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Life”). Tolkien’s most famous works are most definitely The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. It is the story of Frodo Baggins, the “nephew” of Bilbo Baggins and the bearer of the One Ring of Power.
He takes the quest to destroy the ring at Mount Doom, to make sure the ring can never corrupt anyone again (Harvey 124). Tolkien started writing his languages for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings before he even started thinking of writing a book (Stade 98). When Ronald and his younger brother Hilary were homeschooled in England, Ronald always enjoyed anything concerning language (Stade 99). When he was very young, his mother noticed that if she mentioned anything new about language, Ronald picked up on it immediately.
Not only could he read at the young age of four, but he could write proficiently, and Mable had been teaching him Latin (Stade 102). He loved learning the meaning of the new word almost as much as he loved learning the word itself. While he was still young, he earned a full scholarship to King Edward’s school in Birmingham (Stade 112). After elementary schooling, Ronald moved on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in English from Oxford in 1915. While in Oxford, Tolkien studied classics, but finally concentrated on language and literature (Stade 126).
He attended Oxford on a scholarship he won, trying to escape lower and middle class, knowing that’s where he’d be stuck if he didn’t get a higher education. Tolkien wanted to make sure he finished his bachelor’s degree before enlisting in the military, so he had something to fall back on when the war ended. In deciding to stay back and finish his education before enlisting in the army, Ronald took a lot of grief from his family, friends, and everyone around him. When Tolkien did enlist, he received a commission as a second lieutenant and trained as a signal officer.
In March of 1916, Tolkien’s battalion received word that they were being sent to France (Stade 147). On the eve of their deportation, Ronald and Edith Bratt were married, because he feared he may not have the health to do it when he returned. In France, Tolkien fought in the Battle of Somme, a battle that claimed over 600,000 British soldier’s lives, though thankfully Tolkien was not harmed (Stade 154). However, in November of 1916, Tolkien had to be evacuated back to England with a horrible case of Trench Fever. Although his recovery was slow, his health did recover.
Ronald Tolkien, however, never returned to the battlefield (Stade 158). In 1920, after recovering from Trench Fever, Ronald was appointed to be reader in the English Language at Leeds University (Notable British Authors 213). While there, he, with the help of E. V. Gordon, edited a well known version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Notable British Authors 215). Editing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight helped to gain the attention at Oxford and he soon became the Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Stade 237). Tolkien taught at Oxford for 34 long years, which he cherished very much.
His students often described him as “eccentric and often incomprehensible lecturer, but dedicated to helping advanced students learn more than they were offered. ” (Stade 239). Tolkien’s most significant academic achievement was at the Gollancz Memorial Lecture at the British Academy in November 1936, when he released Beowulf: The Monsters and Critics (Stade 341). It was very influential in establishing the great old poem into the Anglo-Saxon world. On November 29, 1971, Edith Bratt Tolkien died, and was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, in Oxford (Stade 412).
When she died, Ronald had the name Luthien engraved onto her headstone, following after her name (Stade 413). Twenty-one months later, when Ronald died, he had Beren engraved on his stone, signifying two characters in his books that were joined together (Stade 416). Their grave stones read as follows: Edith Mary Tolkien, Luthien, 1889–1971. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892–1973 (Stade 418). John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was eighty-one, and Edith Mary Bratt Tolkien was eighty-two. They were buried, side by side, in Wolvercote Cemetery (Stade 419).