30 Facts about J.R.R. Tolkien

Merton College. Tolkien was professor of English Language and Lit at Merton from 1945-59


  1. The Tolkien name was derived from German. Tolkien (who was fascinated with languages said the  surname came from the German word tollkühn, meaning "foolhardy"
  2. Tolkien was born in Orange Free State, South Africa, but moved to England aged three.
  3. When he was a baby, the young Tolkien was kidnapped for a day, by a house boy, who was captivated by the baby.
  4. Tolkien  became a Catholic in 1900, this caused a family rift with his Baptist relatives.
  5. Tokien remained a Catholic throughout his life. C.S.Lewis credits Tolkien with his decision to become a Christian in the 1930s.
  6. From his early teens, Tolkien invented several languages. Quenya became an important aspect of his middle earth Legendarium. In a letter published in Observer, 1981, Tolkien wrote: The stories were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me name comes first and the story follows.'
  7. Aged 16, he met his future wife Edith. But, his guardian Father Francis Morgan prohibited Tolkien seeing her until Tolkien came of age, aged 21. 
  8. As a young student at Exeter college, Oxford University, he spent his first few years often getting into debt trying to keep up with richer students, who had more disposable income. Tolkien admits he had a great love of beer and talking into the early hours of the morning.
  9. Initially, Tolkien studied the classics, but switched to English Literature when he found he could study Middle English.
  10. Tolkien served as an officer in the Battle of the Somme.

  11. Tolkien said his character of Sam Gamgee was based on the ordinary solidiers who he commanded and who faced so much hardship without rancour. 
  12. The first work that Tolkien wrote was The Silmarillion; this wasn't published until after his death, and was revised at different periods throughout his life.
  13. In 1918, he got a job working on the Oxford English Dictionary, which had begun in 1879. 
  14. Tolkien was saved from further fighting through developing trench fever. Though he later recalled that most of his friends died in the First World War.
  15. Tolkien was a great lecturer. When giving lectures on Beowulf, he would often startle students by exclaiming in Anglo-Saxon, and speaking in the manner of an old bar.
  16. W.H.Auden later said, he thought the voice of Tolkien giving lectures, was the voice of Gandalf!
  17. The Hobbit was written initially for his own children.
  18. The first famous lines to the hobbit were written down on a blank, empty exam paper he was once marking. 'In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit"
  19. When agents from Nazi Germany wished to translate the Hobbit into German, they sent a letter asking to prove he was 'Aryan'. Tolkien gave a scathing reply, saying amongst other thing that he wished he had Jewish ancestors.   
  20. Tolkien had a dislike for cars, and spent most of his adult life relying on bicycles and trains. He had a particular love of the Oxfordshire countryside and was dismayed when it was covered with new roads.
  21. When an American company published an authorised copy of 'Lord of the Rings' It became a best-seller. But, because Tolkien maintained a long correspondence with many fans, he helped to encourage people to boycott the pirated copy. This boycott proved successful and eventually the company made donation to Tolkien and dropped the edition. 
  22. Tolkien left a significant body of work unpublished, which is son Christopher Tolkien later published. This included, The Silmarillion, The History of Middle Earth and Unfinished Tales.
  23. Initially, Tolkien only wanted The Lord of the Rings to be published alongside the Simlarillion, almost going to another publisher.
  24. When Tolkien's son joined the army, he listed his father's occupation as 'Wizard!'
  25. In one sense Tolkien was a typical conservative. He was highly critical of the Stalinist and Hitler regime's. But, he also had a strong libertarian streak and once said: 'My political opinions lean more and more to anarchy.'
  26. Tolkien credited the works of William Morris as being a great inspiration. 
  27. In 1999 Amazon.com customers voted Lord of the Rings as the most popular book of the Millenium
  28. Tolkien was voted 94th on the list of Greatest Britons
  29. One of his favourite sayings was: Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!
  30. He was buried at Wolvercote cemetery with his wife Edith. The description reads:
 Edith Mary Tolkien, Lúthien, 1889-1971 
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973

Read More: J.R.R.Tolkien Biography
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1 Comments:

Anonymous Exhibition stands cape town said...

Tolkien born in SA. The only really important fact. Hehe, I may be from South Africa. Great list thanks

March 1, 2013 at 8:25 AM  

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