Tolkien Biography

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Why a biography

When I first understood what our assignment was, I had a hard time deciding what to do with it. But one time when I sat thinking about this “problem” I remembered our Swedish essay we wrote last semester and I thought I maybe could make a biography again but this time in English. So I started to look for information about different writers I like on the internet and asked some of my friends if they knew anything of value. I found a lot about Tolkien but there wasn’t much that I could use. But then one day I found a perfect site on the internet and I took it. And I started to write and it went pretty well.

But then one day I found our computer gone. I asked my father about it and he said he was just going to fix some few things and it would be back in a couple of days as good as new. Well that was what he said. When our computer came back from its little renewing it had lost all its old information, so I had to start from scratch again.

Why JRR Tolkien? And what I wanted to know
I had the same problem as last time I wrote a biography: I didn’t know who I should write about. I wanted it to be an English writer and one, among many others, name that popped up in my head was J K Rowling. After a few days, when I was watching The Lord of The Rings at school I remembered that there was another English writer I really liked: JRR Tolkien. So I began to rethink my plans and after a bit of time I decided to go with Tolkien. The thing that made me choose him were the curiosity I felt. I wondered what made a person want to build this world. So I change my plans and then the actual work begun.

First I had to decide what I wanted to know. The only thing I knew about Tolkien was that he was famous for his trilogy Lord of the Rings but he had written other books too, and he had written them somewhere when one of the world wars was coming to an end. I had already red Lord of the Rings (LotR) and Bilbo a Hobbits tale so I had already had the chance to be amazed over this man.

I wanted to know a bit about his childhood but no details just were he lived and with who and witch relationships he had, with friends, parents and brothers and sister. I wanted to know were he worked, if he had any children and wife. But what I most wanted to know was what made him get on the track of building own languages and making his own fantasy world. Who inspired him to create different characters and people? Who he had seen as an elf or hobbit?



Childhood and studying
Tolkien was born John Ronald Reul Tolkien. He was born in South Africa were his mother and father, Mabel and Arthur Tolkien, lived at the time. Arthur had worked as a bank clerk in England. But the business didn’t go well so he decided to move to Africa where the diamond and gold business went on very well and they needed for sure bank clerks.
It went very well for him as he had thought. And at 1891 he had made enough money to by a house and marry Mabel who was thirteen years younger.
And the third of January 1892 Mabel gave birth to a boy.

Tolkien had a lot of different names. At first his parents began to call him Ronald but in school his friends called him John Ronald. And as an adult they just called him his last name Tolkien, and as he grew older and older he simply was called by his initials: J.R.R.T.
I’ve decided to call him Tolkien, because then I don’t have to choose any of his first names.

You already know that he was born in South Africa. But when Mabel had given birth to Tolkien’s brother, Hilary, she started to feel uncomfortable in South Africa while Arthur enjoyed it more than ever. Tolkien didn’t feel so good in the hot climate so when Tolkien was three years old his mother took her two boys with her to spend a holiday in England.

The same year when they were visiting Tolkien’s grandparents in Birmingham they got a message from Africa, Arthur had caught rheumatic fever. Mabel wanted to go back as soon as she got the message, but they didn’t leave England before the telegram of Arthur’s death reached them.
Mabel didn’t have any other choice than to stay in England and continue her life there with her two sons. It was no big money Arthur left behind and Mabel had to get a place to live. She rented a house outside Birmingham. It was quiet and calm, perfect for her two sons to grow up in, she thought.

When Tolkien grew older he really liked the environment, he loved to stroll around in the woods around the house. The most fascinating, he found one day, was a mill and the adjacent pond.
Mabel thought her two sons by herself, and Tolkien was able to write at the age of four. She also taught them the basic of Latin. Tolkien learned different languages easy so Mabel started to teach him French. He was a good at drawing and he used to draw trees.

Mabel had grown up in a Christian family but one Sunday she and her sister May went to a catholic church, they converted to the Catholicism. But the family’s anger soon affected them, May was not suppose to go to the new church any more and the financial help Mabel had known of since Arthur’s death disappeared directly. It didn’t stop her.

When Tolkien turned seven he tried to get in to The King Edward’s school but he didn’t pass. The year after he tried again and he did. Tolkien’s Uncle helped them with the school fee; Mabel had to move from the country in to Birmingham when Tolkien started school.

At first they moved around in the city but after a while Mabel found a house that lay near by a catholic church. Mabel took Tolkien, when he was ten, from King Edwards School and put him and his brother in the catholic Latin school that belonged to the church. It was cheaper than the old school and Mabel thought it was important that they got a catholic education. They got a good relationship with Father Francis Xavier Morgan.

Tolkien was more mature than his friends, so Mabel took him out of school. He got a scholarship to King Edwards so he went back to his old school again.
At King Edwards he learned to hate Shakespeare but at the same time he learned to love middle ages literature.

Tolkien’s life took a great turn when he was twelve. His mother became ill in diabetics and after spending a few days on the country side, after leaving hospital, she died.
Father Francis became the two brother’s guardian and after their mothers death Tolkien turned, more than ever, to the church. Father Francis was a good guardian and they were well taken cared of. They lived with an aunt because Father Francis had no room.

Tolkien enjoyed his study, especially the language studies. He studied Latin, Greek, French, and German and on his spear time he also studied ancient English and Anglo-Saxon
It was at this time he got interested in the construction of a language. He started to develop his own language. He started with Spanish, witch he couldn’t speak but he had access to books in Spanish through Father Francis. He called it “naffarin” it had its own grammar and acoustics.

But after a while Tolkien found gothic language an extinct language, and he left his own language. He began to fill out the holes he found in this “new” language. When he was finished with this he created one that was very similar to the German language.

When Tolkien was sixteen and Hilary was thirteen, father Francis found out that they didn’t like very much to stay in their aunts house. So he asked Mrs Faulkner, who lived behind the church, if he could rent a room in her house for the boys. They moved in. There where many rooms and one of them were rented by a nineteen year old girl. Her name was Edith Bratt and she was an orphanage just like the Tolkien brothers. She and Tolkien, who was very mature for his age, became very close friend and it didn’t take long for them to fall in love.

Edith and Tolkien tried to keep their romance secret, but the rumours spread fast, it came to father Francis ears and he demanded Tolkien to end the relationship, and so he did. Father Francis found another home for the boys and Tolkien almost never met Edith. At the same time he went to Oxford to try to get a scholarship, but he didn’t get it. He went back home depressed and without a scholarship. He started to meet Edith in secrecy and they talked about the future. Edith was going to move to Cheltenham and Tolkien thought it would be the best. He shouldn’t be able to meet Edith until he had turned 21 when his guardian didn’t have any responsibility over him.


Tolkien’s work life and family life

He became a librarian at King Edwards. He and his other friends who also worked there started a tea club. They called it Tea club of Barrovian Society or T.C.B.S. He enjoyed his time at King Edwards but his goal was Oxford University.

When he was 19 he went to Oxford an second time to try for a scholarship and he got it this time. He liked Oxford from the very beginning but he had a hard time getting the money to last. He started his own club, witch by the way were very similar to T.C.B.S. He enjoyed smoking pipe tobacco and he didn’t study hard. His main subject was language research and this was the subject he liked the most. When he was at Oxford, he discovered Finish and he fell in love with it. He started to develop another language with Finish as a start out. It would be this language he used in his books later on under the name quenya or high Elvish. At the same time as he found Finish he started to get interested in the northern mythology.

At the third of January 1913 he became 21 and his guardian didn’t have any responsibility over him, so he wrote a letter to Edith in witch he expressed his love for her and asked her to marry him. But Edith was already engaged and was planning to get married. Tolkien didn’t care. He went to Cheltenham, to change that fact, and he talked to Edith for a very long time and she broke the engagement and got engaged with Tolkien instead. According to Tolkien outlook they couldn’t get married until Edith converted to Catholicism. About a year went by before she converted.

When England declared Germany war Tolkien continued his Oxford life. He began to write poems about Earendil, witch later would be discovered in his books. After a while he took recruitment. He didn’t get any injuries but he got fever and was sent home to England. Two of the members in T.C.B.S got killed in the war. When he came home he decided to start on the project ha had had in mind for a while – a mythology of England he started to write it in an old note pad and on the front side he wrote “The book of lost tales”.

A couple of time it looked as he would have to go back into the war, but he got ill at the time it came up. Tolkien and Edith enjoyed their life. Edith got pregnant. The sixteenth of November 1917 she gave birth to a little son, his name was John Francis Reul. Tolkien went back into the military again but he didn’t have to go to the front. He got sick again and when he recovered his strength the war practically was over. He lost almost all of his dearest friends in the war.
He tried to get a job at Oxford and he got one. He started to build his own alphabet witch he called R&; Mils alphabet. He started to write his journal with this alphabet but, as the perfectionist Tolkien was, he made changes all the time, and soon he had a trouble reading his journal. After a while he started to teach in his own home and soon Edith and Tolkien thought they could afford renting a house. Tolkien soon made enough money on his teaching and he could quit his work at Oxford. He tried to get a work at Leeds University, he got it and they moved to the north of England. Edith got pregnant again and gave birth to her second son, who was named Michael Hilary Reul.

Tolkien became a professor at Leed University at 1924 and Edith gave birth to another son, Christopher Reul.
1925 they moved back to Oxford. Tolkien had got the available professors post in Anglo-Saxon.
Four years later they got their last child. A long expected daughter. Her name was Priscilla Mary Reul.

The family lived a normal happily life. Tolkien lived a life like the most of the professors at Oxford. He started to write on a story that would be fun for his children. When Tolkien had worked at Oxford in about a year C.S. Lewis began to work there also. They became very good friends. Just like Tolkien Lewis had had a predilection for northern mythology since he was a teenager.

They started to read each others script and gave each other detailed criticism. They started a club: The Inklings. They smoked pipe tobacco, drank tea and red out loud. When the Second World War began they got another member to the club, who would make some marks in the fantasy literature. His name was Charles Williams. Williams really enjoyed reading Tolkien’s work while Tolkien didn’t like Williams’s script.

There were only male members and there were never any women invited to the meetings. Williams wrote amazing stories for adults while Tolkien and Lewis wrote for both children and adults. Williams Wrote stories were the reality got mixed up with the fantasy world but both Tolkien and Lewis let there fantasy world be one whole world all though Lewis wrote many scripts with reality involved but he never mixed the different worlds.

The End
Rayner Unwin was the son of one of Tolkien’s closest friends. He got the script of Bilbo in 1936, ha was asked to read it and make a report. He red it and this is what he wrote:
“October 30 1936

Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who lived in his hobbit hole and never went out for adventures. But at last Gandalf the wizard and his dwarfs persuaded him to go. He had a very exciting time fighting goblins and wogs. After a great fight with goblins he returned rich.
This book, with the help of maps, doesn’t need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of five and nine”.
This was all, but it didn’t need any thing else. So if Rayner Unwin told his father that it should be published it was.

At 1945 the same year as the Second World War stopped the first book in the trilogy was for sale. First it was some complications about witch publishing house he should choose. He hadn’t been fully satisfied with Allen & Unwin who published Bilbo. They had refused to give out Silmarillon, witch meant a lot to Tolkien. Collins publishing house was interested in publishing both LotR and Silmarillon and that was exactly what Tolkien wanted. Allen & Unwin wanted to split it up into three or four parts, but Tolkien wasn’t that flattered by the proposal. After a while it looked as Collins would be the ones who gave out the books. But then Collins contacted Tolkien and explained that he had to shorten LotR down. Tolkien hated the idea of a shorter book and when he told Collins publishing house that he planed to make Silmarillon just as long as LotR they got terrified, they hadn’t seen the whole script jet.

Allen & Unwin heard about this and they contacted Tolkien… and then Tolkien contacted Collins and said that if they didn’t produce LotR and Silmarillon immediately he would let it go to Allen & Unwin. Collins didn’t like the ultimatum. Paper was expensive after the war and they thought it would be too expensive.

Allen & Unwin didn’t think that the books would sell so they offered Tolkien 50% of the profit to secure their own expenses. Then the first book came out. The reviews were both good and bad. The other part came out later on the same year but the third and last part was delayed. Tolkien wasn’t finished with the appendix jet but about a year after, it was published.
The LotR was popular and sold more and more. Tolkien got his salary. The first one was more than a whole year’s salary at Oxford and the other time it was even more.

The fan letters started to drop in. he answered them as well as he could. They started to translate the books into many languages, witch Tolkien observed very carefully.
He started to audit and rewrite Silmarillon but the work didn’t go very fast as he had so much else to do.

When I was looking for information of what he did after his retirement I found different data. In one place it says that Tolkien didn’t see Lewis as often as he did before, and this was because he didn’t like that Lewis got married. In 1963 Lewis died. Edith and Tolkien moved to Bournemouth. But on another place it says that Edith and Tolkien moved to Bournemouth at 1969 when Tolkien retired. So I’m not quite sure when he retired but I know that in 1971 Edith got sick and she was taken to a hospital. On November 20 she died. Tolkien didn’t want to stay so he moved back to Oxford again.

He got an offer; he could stay at Merton College with everything he wanted. The work with Silmarillon and he had decided that if he died before the work was complete his son Christopher would be the one to complete it.
Tolkien died at September 2 1973 when he was visiting some friends in Bournemouth.


The Books

Many people think that LotR is Tolkien’s master piece but he himself just saw it as a small part of the mythology.

Tolkien’s books are extraordinary. They are so incredibly detailed that you can’t almost find anything that he hasn’t explained. If you would ask someone who really know Tolkien’s world you wouldn’t be able to ask one question she couldn’t answer. Like, in Bilbo there is a dwarf named Glóin, if you asked this person what she knew about Glóin she would be able to explain his whole family and where they originate from. Tolkien was so specific when he wrote that he left no loose end. But of course you can find some questions you can’t find the answer on. And you never will. Because the only one who knew the answers to everything was of course Tolkien himself and he is dead.

Now many years after the publishing of LotR I’ve found similar things in a rather new fantasy serial. In Harry Potter. This serial is about a boy who discovers that he is a wizard. He starts to go to Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry. He fights the dark lord Voldemort who killed Harry’s parents when he was one year old. If you just reed about this books you d...

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Inactive member [2002-12-19]   Tolkien Biography
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=1447 [2019-10-18]

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