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Tolkien | Success story of the father of modern literature



J R R Tolkien

Tolkien was a British author, academic, philologist, and poet. His success story is about using imagination to create something different. Tolkien was an academician; he went to one of the finest schools and universities. Apart from his contributions to literature, he has also served in the British army. We can say he was a man with several talents.

Early Life

On 3 January 1892, J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, British Umpire. Now his birthplace is a free state of South Africa. His father was an English bank manager; his mom was a homemaker. He had a sibling too. He visited their extended family in England with his mom and brother at 3. But before they could reunite with their father, he died. Tolkien’s father died of rheumatic fever while on duty in SA.

After this incident, the family was left with no source of income. Mabel, his mom, took them to their maternal grandparent’s house to live for a while. They constantly traveled from one relative to another. And this change of place later inspired the works of Tolkien. His mom homeschooled them due to lack of income. He had a very sharp and keen mind. He learned a lot about botany during his childhood, making him fall in love with nature. Also, he was interested in drawing landscapes and trees, but languages intrigued him the most.

Tolkien lost his mother when he was 12; he later mentions that “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 labor and trouble to ensure us keeping the faith.”

Before dying, his mom transferred the guardianship of the boys to Father Francis Xavier Morgan. He mentioned in his letters that he learned about charity and forgiveness from Father Francis. He completed his schooling at King Edward’s School, Birmingham. Most of his education depended on the scholarship and merit he earned.

J. R. R. Tolkien


In his school days, Tolkien was into constructed languages. Also, he made up numerous languages with his cousins and other friends like Nevbosh, Naffarin, and Animalic.

In 1913 he got into Exeter College, Oxford. Later, he changed his major subject from classics to English Language and literature. He graduated in 1915 with first class. When he was 16, he met Edith love of his life. Tolkien wasn’t allowed to marry her because she was protestant and he was catholic. Father Francis issued even a restraint order. But things turned around, and eventually, they ended up together. At the time of marriage, Tolkien had no source of income, and still, Edith agreed to marry him. He admired his wife a lot.

Tolkien wasn’t interested in being part of the British army during the world war. But later, he joined the army on 15 July 1915. He and his wife lodged beside his training camp for 11 months. Tolkien went to war sites and bid his wife bye. Later in his letters, he described this situation as a death experience.

Tolkien was injured during the war, and the commanders declared him medically unfit. He started writing his book The Book of Lost Tales during his time in hospital, though he never completed this book. But his medical conditions didn’t improve. He was departed from the army duties with the rank of lieutenant. He received a temporary disability pension.

Tolkien worked at the Oxford English Dictionary, became the youngest professor at Leeds University. He worked as a codebreaker in world war two because he was multilingual. Tolkien was appointed as the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature in 1945. He finished his book The Lord of the Rings in 1948. His letters suggest it took him more than a decade to complete the book.


1930 – 1940The Hobbit
1940 – 1950Leaf by Niggle,  The Lay of Aotrou and ItrounFarmer Giles of Ham 
1950 – 1960The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, Beorhtnoth’s Death, and Ofermod, All the three books of The Lord of the Rings collection.
1960 – 1970 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Tree and Leaf, The Tolkien Reader, The Road Goes Ever OnSmith of Wootton Major

And there is a long list of books his son Christopher Tolkien has revived from his father’s drafts. Apart from books and short stories, Tolkien was also a poet. His major works are now examined and researched by historians and literature researchers. Today his works inspire artists, writers, historians, and many more.

Life lessons

Once Tolkien said, “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” Explore the world, change your perspective lenses over and over. The people around might not seem what they look and what they behave, try to understand people’s inner self. Lastly, you need to decide what works for you, but to find the best of the best, you need to let your imaginations run wild. Tolkien always took inspiration from his surroundings and turned it into something extraordinary.

Also Read: Dr. Seuss | The success story of a legendary children’s author and cartoonist

What was Tolkien's first book?

The Simarillion

How many languages did Tolkien create?

More than 15 languages

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