This post is dedicated to my friend Sharyla and her father. He is the one who instilled a love of books in her and was a huge Tolkien fan. May he RIP.
Happy JRR Tolkien Day. Did you know it is Tolkien day? Well, it is. Back in 2002 a New York Times journalist asked the chairman of the Tolkien Society if the society had an official “day” something like the James Joyce Society has. They did not, but after much debate the society picked March 25, the day Sauron fell, as the official Tolkien day. I am not necessarily a fan of Tolkien but I do appreciate his work. I read The Hobbit several times as a child and own the three Peter Jackson movies based on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I love the story line, but am really taken by the cinematography of all three films. I am swept away by the beauty and setting of Middle Earth; Jackson brought to life a mythical time and place in a way that would have made Tolkien proud; but since this is Tolkien Day, not Jackson Day I thought I would post a few tidbits about the author that some say is one of the best modern story tellers we have seen.
John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (currently part of South Africa). At the age of three his mother took him and his brother back to her native England. His father died in South Africa shortly after they left.
Tolkien’s mother taught him Latin when he was 8! Around this time he also started to make up his own languages. This hobby would serve him well when writing The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien makes up a real language for the elves (Elvish) in his books.
Tolkien served during World War 1 but was shipped home after being coming sick. It was during his recovery that he started writing short stories that would become to be called The Silmarillion
. Many of these tales take place long before the Hobbit.
In 1921, Tolkien was offered a post at the University of Leeds. During his tenure, he collaborated with E.V. Gordon on an acclaimed translation of the Middle-English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, published by Oxford University Press in 1925.
In the 1930s Tolkien, C S Lewis and other scholars, authors and philosophers met as a group that they dubbed The Inklings. In the meetings the scholars shared their work and talked philosophy. It was during this time he started to write a story for his children that would become The Hobbit. A friend read the book and urged Tolkien to publish it. So in 1937 the world was introduced to what would be become a best seller for decades.
Tolkien’s publisher wanted an immediate sequel but it would take Tolkien 15 years to come up with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Tolkien used many of the stories he had written years ago to fashion a storyline that spans generations. It was the publisher’s idea to break the book up into a trilogy and to take out the stories that involve the pre-Hobbit days. The books came out between 1954-1955. They did not become best sellers until 10 years later, when affordable paperbacks came into fashion.
Unfortunately the success of the books took Tolkien by surprise. The popularity of the books overwhelmed him and he withdrew from the public eye. Though Tolkien was invited to speak about the books, he was reluctant to do so. He felt the work should speak for themselves; what we think we know about the meaning behind the books is actually based on what scholars have come up with. Tolkien never said these were anti-war books; this is a popular myth that will not die, started by a scholar who was obsessed with all things Middle Earth.
Tolkien died on September 2, 1973 of phenomena. His youngest son finished The Silmarillion and it too was met with success.
There are many reasons why the trilogy became so popular. Some scholars feel the trilogy is the modern Odyssey, while others see the books as just what the world needed after experiencing two World Wars. The books clearly define heroes and villains at a time when real life in the early 20th century had blurred the lines between the two. Readers love a good myth and Tolkien has certainly given us a great modern myth. These are books that transcend culture, race and religion; which may be why they have been translated into so many languages. Readers worldwide have their own reasons for loving these book, many read the books without knowing anything scholars think we should. Though there are college and high school classes devoted to Tolkien most readers fall in love with his books without having to understand why.
Happy Tolkien Day! If you have read any of this books I would love to hear which is your favorite and why.