Merely mentioning the name J.R.R. Tolkien conjures up fantasies. Though his trilogy The Lord of the Rings is well known, not much else is known about the man who was a scholar before anything else. It is, in fact, the cult scale popularity of the trilogy that obscures the many accomplishments that marked his life. He won an exhibition, or a middle class merit scholarship, to Oxford University in 1911. By the time he attained his bachelor’s degree, he was conversant in seven languages and had created another. His definitive translations of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are still used in colleges today. In the end, though, it will be the popularity of the trilogy for which Professor Tolkien will be remembered.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa to a rather well to do banker. His early life was comfortable if middle class, but it lasted only a few years. His father died before he was five, and Tolkien spent the majority of his remaining life in what he called "genteel poverty." His linguistic genius emerged around the age of eight while his mother was tutoring him in Greek and Latin. It was around this time that Tolkien began devising a language of his own which would later develop into Elvish--a language complete with poetry and history, but not yet a people. In 1904, his mother died, leaving him and his brother orphaned and in the charge of a Catholic priest in Birmingham. Through this priest, the direction of his life would emerge. He met his future wife in the boarding house where the priest had him and his younger brother lodged. Also while in the boarding house he merited a scholarship to King Edward VI High School with the recommendation of the same priest. In high school, h...
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...e form of the Lord of the Rings. The bulk of the trilogy was written during the war, though it wasn’t finished until 1949.
For the greater portion of his days Tolkien was a respected philologist, a dedicated professor and tutor, and a scholar above all else. In his field, he will continue to be remembered for his influence on a generation of philologists and for his contributions such as his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Outside that rather small circle most people will remember him as the author of a wonderful story; a few more for the language and mythologies he created.
Grotta-Kurska, Daniel. J.R.R. Tolkien: Architect of Middle Earth. Philidelphia: Running Press, 1976.
Yeats, William Butler. "The Second Coming." Modern poems: A Norton Introduction. Eds.Richard Ellman, Robert O’Clair. New York: WW Norton & Company,1989. 83.
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