10 Facts About J. R. R. Tolkien

Author: Sherry Helms

J. R. R. Tolkien is one of the most common names that can be found on almost every bookshelves. Most of the book enthusiasts know him for his master works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings TrilogyThe Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. He is widely regarded as the father of the “modern fantasy literature”. We all love him for the high fantasy he created in his works.

Today, on the occasion of his 121st birth anniversary, we’ve dug out some worth knowing facts about John Ronald Reuel Tolkien that we think every fans of Tolkien would love to know about. Here goes the same:

From Lifetime

1.  Since Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and then a writer, he didn’t share the enthusiasm for the success and fandom of his fantasy fiction works. It always displeased him that his scholarly works went largely unknown by the general public, who rather flocked to his fantasy writings. He never expected his stories to become popular, but by sheer accident a book called The Hobbit, which he had written some years before for his own children, and eventually became popular enough to  for the publishers to ask Tolkien to produce a sequel.

2.  Writing fantasy fiction was simply a hobby to Tolkien. He rather give importance to his scholarly works, which included Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, a modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and A Middle English Vocabulary.

3. He was pretty romantic. At age 16, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Mary Bratt, who was three years older to him. His guardian, a Catholic priest, was horrified that his ward was seeing a Protestant and ordered the boy to have no contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed, pining after Edith for years until the fateful evening of his twenty-first birthday when he wrote to Edith a declaration of his love and asked her to marry him. She broke off her engagement to another man, converted to Catholicism, and the two were married for the rest of their lives. As per Tolkien’s will, their shared tombstone has the names “Beren”and “Luthien”engraved on it, referring to a famous pair of star-crossed lovers from one of the fictional worlds he created.

4. Tolkien’s relationship with C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia), was not in that shape as it seemed to be. His fellow Oxford don, C.S. Lewis  is often considered as his closest friend and confidant throughout the lifetime. But the truth is, the pair had a much more troubled relationship. Initially, the authors were in close friendship, but their relationship got soured as Tolkien perceived Lewis to have anti-Catholic leanings and scandalous personal life. Nevertheless, the two did resolve to some degree in later life, Tolkien did hardly appreciate Lewis’s writings. He objected strongly to C. S. Lewis’s use of religious references in his stories, which were often overtly allegorical.

5. Tolkien loved to participate in club events. Wherever he worked, he was personally initiated the formation of literary and scholarly clubs. For example, he formed the Viking Club during his tenure as a professor at Leeds University. And, when he was at Oxford, he created the Inklings, a literary discussion group.

6. A philologist by profession, he invented languages for fun. Language and grammar for Tolkien was a matter of aesthetics and euphony. In his writing, he widely used the languages he created on his own. The most developed of them  are Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin. A notable addition came in late 1945 with Adûnaic or Númenórean, a language of a “faintly Semitic flavour” He even wrote many songs and poems in his fictional languages. The popularity of Tolkien’s books has had a small but lasting effect on the use of language in fantasy literature in particular, and even on mainstream dictionaries, which today commonly accept Tolkien’s idiosyncratic spellings dwarves and dwarvish (alongside dwarfs and dwarfish), which had been little used since the mid-19th century and earlier.

7. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972. In the same year Oxford University conferred upon him an honorary Doctorate of Letters.


8. The works of Tolkien have been kept publishing posthumously almost as prolifically as when he was alive. His scribblings and random notes, along with manuscripts that he never troubled to publish, have been edited, revised, compiled, redacted, and published in dozens of volumes after his death. Tolkien’s son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts that brought to us Tolkien’s posthumous works like The Silmarillion, The History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.

9. Forbes ranked him the 5th top-earning dead celebrity in 2009.

10. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″.

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