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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, better known as J.R.R. was born on January 3, 1982, in South Africa to English parents. As a boy, he attended King Edward’s School located in Birmingham where he transcended modern and classical languages. In 1911, he studied Old English, Germanic, Classics, Finnish, and Welsh languages at Exeter College, Oxford. John’s natural yet shocking ability of understanding philology later resulted in his creating languages of his own!
Tolkien’s academic career took off when he became a lexicographer for the New English Dictionary. Contributing to help draft the English Oxford Dictionary wasn’t something that most writers had the opportunity to do. With everything in mind, we can slowly start to see just how unique Tolkien was as an author. While at Oxford, John became committed to creating languages that he visualized would be spoken by elves and enjoyed creating dark fantasy and grimdark tales. Tolkien was heavily influenced by the Welsh and Finnish languages which resulted in the birth of a new language that would later be used in a high fantasy setting for mythological, folklore creatures.
Once this new language was established, J.R.R. decided that he wanted to factor the “Elvish” dialect into his stories of lost tales. Tolkien was a member of the Exeter College Essay club where he first introduced The Fall of Gordon to an encouraging audience. The remainder of his career was spent at Oxford where he then retired during the year 1959. Many universities and colleges believe it’s important for professors to publish books and other writings of the research they’ve conducted or else they will be seen as failures – luckily, that was not the case for Mr. Tolkien. John had produced the highest quality of educational writings including one of his most prominent lectures about the epic fantasy, Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.
There was a particular moment in the summertime when Tolkien was grading a mile-high pile of exam papers from his students at Oxford University. He began to craft a story in his head. Of course, grading papers wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world—it was exhausting. I can see why Tolkien began to trail off into his imagination. As he was paving his way through this never-ending stack of work, he found a blank sheet of paper and proceeded to scribble, “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit”. Did John even know what this so-called hobbit was? An even better question would be, “Why does it live in a hole?” The Hobbit blossomed into a story that he began to tell his children about a small, human-like creature who lived in a world he liked to call Middle-Earth.
Almost a decade later, The Hobbit or There and Back Again was published by George Allen and Unwin, which is not a part of HarperCollins publishing firm. Tolkien’s story was an instant success because the style in which the book was written was so charming and truly like no other. The small, innocent characters in the story desired to live their life without any issues, which is why it’s believed this book influences younger audiences to identify with them. J.R.R. took the reader on a magical journey that flowed effortlessly, making the story easy to follow. The famous book is not only known for its little people but its high fantasy, morally-compelling, imaginary world. The Hobbit is still very popular to this day and is a prominent, lovable classic.
Stanley Unwin, one of the publishers of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, was astonished by the amount of success and praise the book received that he urged Tolkien to create a sequel. John knew he wanted to expand on the history of Middle-Earth, and he was determined to do just that. Tolkien would spend months writing his new book and then decide to take a few months off just so everything would be in perfect order—he didn’t want to rush this. After almost a decade, 12 years to be exact, John Tolkien had finally completed what would be one of the best-selling books of all time; The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s new collection was published almost five years later. This novel sequence consisted of three parts, including The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.
Readers were on the edge of their seats until Tolkien’s new literature was released. Unlike The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy did not reach its peak popularity until the books became available in paperback. Once paperback copies became available, book sales increased significantly due to the books being more affordable. The Lord of the Rings displayed a modern presentation of most races in its fantasy fiction world. Over 60 years later, this epic series has been translated into over 25 different languages and has sold over 100 million copies.
Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings writings were transformed into a series of films in the early 2000s. There were three movies for The Hobbit and three movies for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The essential characteristic that makes both the books and movies so powerful is their black-and-white morality or the battle of good versus evil. The Hobbit was depicted as a lighter, softer, and more of a grey-and-gray morality story compared to the trilogy. The Lord of the Rings is a story where the heroes must earn a happy ending, Middle-Earth begins to fade, and the ending is bittersweet. This type of high fantasy had birthed many genres and games such as World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons.
Tolkien preferred to be called a creator rather than an author—and it’s clear as to why. The languages, geography, maps, people, and calendars in his story made the readers feel as if they were a part of this mythological environment. In September of 1973, Tolkien passed away from a chest infection at the age of 81. In 2010, he was ranked by Forbes as the 3rd top-earning dead celebrity. The amount of creativity, imagination, and depth that was channeled into Tolkien’s work resulted in him being known as “The Father of Modern Fantasy”.
If you enjoy high epic fantasy such as LOTR, then make sure to check out Raven Queen, Arise. It’s my first dark high fantasy book in the Temple of Vengeance series, a quadrilogy of epic releases featuring the assertive anti-heroine Illyria and containing more swords, sorcery, and sex than the law allows.
Rising from a mass grave with scars from her brutal murder, crossing back into the living world with her trusted raven guide, oh and a partnership with Death himself… you don’t want to miss this exciting, ultra-dark fantasy coming October 2021. Pre-order the book on Amazon today! —Dave Reed