Mention the name J. R. R. Tolkien and just about everyone will think of the book “The Hobbit” or the “The Lord of the Rings” movies. Despite him being a well-known and beloved author, there are many things about J. R. R. Tolkien even his fans don’t know. Here’s 10 things you didn’t know about author J.R.R. Tolkien.
J. R. R. Tolkien was born on Jan. 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. His father, an English banker, and mother moved to South Africa when his dad was sent to manage the bank’s Bloemfontein branch. He spent his early childhood in South Africa, moving back to the West Midlands of England with his mother after his father died in February 1896.
Tolkien started inventing languages as a child. His first, developed with friends, was Animalic. At around age 9, he invented Naffarin. This philologist loved the challenge of inventing languages, and he displayed his skill at it in the “The Lord of the Rings” with the Elvish language of the elves. He enjoyed learning and writing extinct languages such as medieval Welsh.
He enlisted in the British Army 1915 and served as a signals officer in Somme, France. After four months, he became ill with what was called trench fever. His condition resulted in Tolkien being sent back to England. Almost all his friends died during the war. According to some accounts, only one survived.
A keen linguist, Tolkien is much more than an author of novels. He was also a poet, scholar and linguist. In addition to his most popular works, he authored “Tree and Leaf,” “Farmer Giles of Ham,” “Smith of Wootton Major” and scholarly publications such as “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.”
He is also one of the authors of the Oxford English Dictionary, hired in 1918 to be a part of the team working on this standard of English spelling and linguistics. At the time of his employment, the team had already reached the Ws.
J.R.R. Tolkien started his scholarly career at the University of Leeds in 1920 as a professor in English Language and left in 1925. After leaving Leeds, he applied for the vacant post of Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon. This allowed him to teach Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, where he taught until his retirement in 1959.
A compilation of the top 50 greatest British writers since 1945 saw Tolkien taking the No. 6 spot behind other greats such as Philip Larkin, George Orwell and Doris Lessing.
Tolkien made the Forbes list for richest dead celebrities in 2009 with earnings of $50 million. With the success of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, his earnings continue to increase. The epic movies made of his books have led to a new generation of readers — and fans — of his books, which only adds to the wealth of the Tolkien estate.
Tolkien met his wife, Edith Bratt, when they both lived in the same boarding house. Edith was three years older than the then 16-year-old Tolkien. His guardian thought she was a distraction and was hindering his studies and forbade him to have a relationship with her until he was 21. Tolkien obeyed, but on midnight of his 21st birthday, he wrote to Edith expressing his love. She told him that she was already engaged to someone else. Tolkien took the train to her new home and convinced her to break off the engagement and marry him instead. Their union produced four children. After 55 years of marriage, Edith died in 1971. Tolkien died two years later in 1973.
Tolkien intended Sam aka Samwise Gamgee as the hero of the book, not Frodo Baggins. In addition, “The Lord of the Rings” was meant to be one only book, but instead turned out to be three!
J.R.R. Tolkien lost his father, Arthur, in February 1896 and his mother, Mabel died eight years later from complications of diabete. He was just 12 years old when she died leaving him and his brothers in the care of Rev. Francis Xavier Morgan, a friend of his mother. He was instructed to ensure that the boys be brought up as “good Catholics.”