"The Lord of the Rings franchise seems to have changed the lives of everyone involved in it forever but people seem to forget the guy who started it all." ―J.R.R. Tolkien.
The movie 'The Lord of the Rings' made overnight stars of its director Peter Jackson, the cast, and the country of New Zealand where it was shot. Newline Cinema, the company that produced the movie has finally joined the league of mega Hollywood movie studios. All box office records in the United States and Europe were broken and the Oscar awards were swept in almost every category. But one name that seems to have been forgotten in the mass hysteria is that of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the creator of The Lord of The Rings, without whom, all this would not have been possible.
J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on 3 January 1892, to Arthur Reuel Tolkien and his wife Mabel Suffield. Arthur was a bank clerk, who, in the 1890s, went to South Africa for better prospects of promotion. J.R.R. Tolkien had a younger brother named Hilary. After the death of his father in 1896, he along with his mother and younger brother returned to West Midlands in England. It is during this period that the seeds of the outwardly imagination were sown in the mind of J.R.R. The West Midlands were a complex mixture of the dark industrial Birmingham landscape and the rural heartland of England that was Worcestershire and surrounding areas. The family was living in King's Heath, where the house was situated on a railway line. It was in the year 1900 that the family converted to Roman Catholicism and developed a close acquaintance with the half-Spanish half-Welsh Father Francis Morgan. In 1904, Mabel Tolkien died due to a bout of diabetes, which was incurable at the time. Father Morgan took on the responsibility of the two boys.
In the next decade to follow, J.R.R. began to show glimpses of his amazing linguistic abilities, he had mastered Latin and Greek, getting increasingly competent in a number of other languages, both modern and ancient, notably Gothic and Finnish. Along with his friends from his school―King Edwards, he would make up new languages and evaluate each other's literary work. He also managed to fall in love with Edith Bratt, who was three years elder to him. He joined Exeter College, Oxford in 1911, where he picked up some more languages such as Old English, the Germanic languages, and Welsh. During his study of the Classics, he discovered a poem―Crist of Cynewulf, that aroused his interest in the Middle Earth.
As a result of the breakout of war in 1914, J.R.R. enlisted as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and was sent to the trenches in France. He married Edith in Warwick on 22 March 1916. During the war, almost all of J.R.R.'s close friends were killed, and the ensuing agony resulted in some furious writing. This gave birth to 'The Book of Lost Tales', which in turn contained most of the major stories of the Silmarillion. After the armistice was signed in 1918, J.R.R. took up employment as Assistant Lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary. It was during this period that he gave his first public reading of The 'Fall of Gondolin', which was well received. After collaborating with various professors for different writing assignments, he successfully applied for the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. By 1929, Edith had given birth to three boys and one girl.
In the mid-1930s, J.R.R. took his first steps towards greatness, when he wrote 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' - on a blank sheet while marking examination papers. Till date, there is no logical explanation as to why he did this.
This gave rise to 'The Hobbit', which was published in 1937. It won the New York Herald Tribune prize for children's literature. He followed this up with the ultimate fantasy book in 1954-55, 'The Lord of the Rings', in which he created a world called Middle Earth, that was populated by men, women, elves, dwarves, trolls, orcs, and of course Hobbits. The Lord of the Rings opened to mixed reviews, but once it was out in the public, it became a bible for an alternative world. J.R.R. received cult status overnight, but at the same time, he was concerned about the fact that fans began to consume LSD and read The Lord of the Rings simultaneously. Fans began collecting outside his house, and he began receiving telephone calls from all over the world at odd hours. This resulted in him changing homes and telephone numbers.
After the death of Edith in 1971, J.R.R. went to Oxford. J.R.R. died on 2 September 1973. He and Edith are buried together in a single grave in the Catholic section of Wolvercote cemetery in the northern suburbs of Oxford.
The long-awaited Silmarillion, edited by his youngest son, Christopher Tolkien, appeared in 1977, 4 years after J.R.R.'s passing away. The success of Silmarillion convinced publishers that there will always be readers for J.R.R. Tolkien's work, however abstruse they may be.