John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State.
In early 1895 his mother, Mabel, returned to England with Ronald and his younger brother, Hilary, exhausted by the climate. After his father's death from rheumatic fever, the family made their home at Sarehole, near Birmingham. This beautiful rural area made a great impression on the young Ronald, and its effect can clearly be seen in his later writing and in his pictures.
Mabel died in 1904, leaving the boys to the care of Father Francis Morgan, a priest at the Birmingham Oratory. At King Edward's School, Ronald developed his linguistic talent and later began to invent languages of his own.
1914 saw the outbreak of the First World War. Ronald was in his final year at Oxford. He graduated the following year with a First in English language and literature and at once took up his commission as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Before embarking for France in 1916, he married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Bratt. Tolkien survived the Battle of the Somme but later that year he was struck down by trench fever and was invalided home.
The years after the war were devoted to his work as Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, where he was soon to prove himself one of the finest philologists in the world. He had already started to write the great cycle of myths and legends which was to become The Silmarillion. He and Edith had four children and it was for them that he first told the tale of The Hobbit, which was published in 1937 by Sir Stanley Unwin. It was so successful that the publisher immediately wanted a sequel, but it was not until 1954 that the first volume of his great masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, was published to instant acclaim. Its enormous popularity took Tolkien by surprise.
After retirement Ronald and Edith Tolkien moved to Bournemouth, but when Edith died in 1971, Tolkien returned to Oxford. He died after a brief illness on 2nd September 1973.
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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was a major scholar of the English language, specializing in Old and Middle English. Twice Professor of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) at the University of Oxford, he also wrote a number of stories, including most famously The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which are set in a pre-historic era in an invented version of the world which he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth.
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