Faithful Heroes: J.R.R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien is best remembered for his literary works, The Lord of he Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillon. Many of his works have an undercurrent of Biblical teaching.

Tolkien was a member of The Inklings, a literary group, which also included C. S. Lewis. Tolkien was influential in Lewis conversion from atheism to Christianity.

J. R. R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in South Africa, to Arthur Reuel Tolkien, an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel. The couple would have three sons and a daughter. He is said to have been a very devoted father.

He returned to England on a visit with his mother and brother when he was three. During their absence his father died of rheumatic fever, leaving the family destitute. The Tolkien family moved in with is maternal grandparents and he was taught by his mother. He fell in love with the fantasy stories of Lewis Carroll and George MacDonald.

His mother was disowned by her family when she joined the Catholic church. She died when Tolkien was twelve from diabetes. He later wrote of her, “My own dear mother was a martyr indeed, and it is not to everybody that God grants so easy a way to his great gifts as he did to Hilary and myself, giving us a mother who killed herself with labour and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith.” He would be a staunch Catholic the remainder of his life.

He and his brother remained under the care of Father Francis after their mother’s death. He began to learn Latin and Anglo-Saxon and his cousins introduced him to a constructed language.

J. R. R. Tolkien

He later stated Bilbo’s journey was based on his 1911 Switzerland holiday. Later that year he entered Exeter College where he studied the classics, literature and the English language. He graduated in 1915 with first-class honors.

He met Edith Mary Bratt when he was sixteen, but because she was protestant Father Morgan forbid them from meeting, talking or corresponding until he was 21. He obeyed the decree, except on one occasion, before writing to her on the eve of his 21st birthday. The couple married on March 22, 1916.

In June 1916, he received a military post in France during World War I. To pass the boredom of time he would write poetry. Health issues probably saved his life, where many comrades were being killed, and he spent much time in the hospital. He left the army in November 1920 with the rank of Lieutenant.

He then worked for the Oxford English Dictionary and took a post as a professor at the University of Leeds, as the youngest professor. In 1925, he took a professorship at Pembroke College.

J. R. R. Tolkien

He began to translate Beowulf, but never published it. His son would in 2014.

The Hobbit was published in 1937 and was very successful as publishers began to request a sequel. This led to The Lord of the Rings, which was published in three volumes in 1954-1955.

During World War II he worked as a codebreaker. In 1945, he moved to Merton College in Oxford, England as a Professor of English and Literature.

In 1961, C. S. Lewis nominated him for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Edith Tolkien died on November 29, 1971 at the age of 82 after more than 50 years of marriage. One Tolkien biographer wrote, “Those friends who knew Ronald and Edith Tolkien over the years never doubted that there was deep affection between them. It was visible in the small things, the almost absurd degree in which each worried about the other’s health, and the care in which they chose and wrapped each other’s birthday presents; and in the large matters…A principal source of happiness to them was their shared love of their family. This bound them together until the end of their lives, and it was perhaps the strongest force in the marriage. They delighted to discuss and mull over every detail of the lives of their children, and later their grandchildren.” He had the name Luthien engraved on her tombstone. {On his would be Beren.}

J. R. R. Tolkien

Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972 and later that year he received the insignia of the Order at Buckingham Palace. This year also saw Oxford University bestowing the honorary Doctorate of Letters on him.

He wrote to one correspondent who wished to know the purpose of life, “that “[i]t may be said that the chief purpose of life, for any one of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks.”
J. R. R. Tolkien died on September 2, 1973 at the age of 81.

Tolkien’s family posthumously published other works including The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and the History of Middle-Earth, and a variety of other works.

In addition to is writing, he was also an accomplished artist. Many of his paintings, drawings and sketches were published in 1995 in J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator.

His works The Lords of the Rings and The Hobbit, received a revival with the film releases in the early 2000s and 2010s. Each franchise are comprised of three films.

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