Tolkien, J. R. R. (1892–1973)

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J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973)

Born in South Africa, J. R. R. Tolkien lived in Britain from the age of three. He is famous as the author of The Hobbit (1937) and the bestselling epic trilogy The Lord of the Rings (1954–55). Tolkien's tales of "Middle-earth" draw on ancient Anglo-Saxon legends, culture, and languages. They also have very modern themes of lost tradition, family loyalty, and sense of place. His achievement is to have invented a consistent ancient mythology and to have made it live for millions of readers. A big-budget movie treatment of part one of the trilogy—The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001; in 2002, it received thirteen Academy Award nominations, winning four of them.

Tolkien's career as an academic lasted thirty-nine years, beginning in 1920. He was the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon. Later he became Merton Professor of English at Oxford University. In his waistcoat and tweed jacket, the aging professor made an unlikely cult author in the 1960s. Although his books have many imitators, Tolkien remains in the twenty-first century the most popular of all fantasy writers.

—Chris Routledge

For More Information

Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

Collins, David R. J. R. R. Tolkien: Master of Fantasy. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1992.

The Lord of the Rings Homepage. (accessed February 13, 2002).

Neimark, Anne E. Myth Maker: J. R. R. Tolkien. New York: Beech Tree, 1998.