“A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities.” Today marks the birth anniversary of one of the greatest high fantasy writers in history: J.R.R. Tolkien.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English author and academic, most known for his hugely successful fantasy novels, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, Free State, South Africa to Arthur Reuel and Mabel Tolkien. He had one sibling, a younger brother named Hilary Aurthus Reuel.
Tragedy stuck early on his childhood when Tolkien’s father died of rheumatic fever in South Africa while Tolkien, along with his mother and younger brother, was in England for a family visit. Having no other source of income, they stayed in with his mother’s parents in Birmingham.
In 1915, a year after the United Kingdom entered World War I, Tolkien enlisted for the British Army and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Eventually, he was indeed sent to active duty on the Western Front.
By the late 1916, Tolkien found himself going back to England after battling trench fever in and out. By that time, many of his dearest friends have been killed, while he spent the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties.
In 1920, a few years after the war, Tolkien took a post as a Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds. There, he became the youngest professor, and produced A Middle English Vocabulary and a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with E. V. Gordon, to the public’s great reception.
In 1925, he returned to Oxford as a professor, with a fellowship at Pembroke College, and it was also around this time that he wrote The Hobbit, and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.
He had never expected his stories to become as popular as well-loved as they are, but they have nonetheless catapulted him into greater heights. Despite the years that have gone by since their first publication, Tolkien’s body of work still remains one of the most widely read today.
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”