John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor who’s best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fun facts about J.R.R. Tolkien.
1. He served as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, from 1945 to 1959.
2. He was a close friend of C.S. Lewis, as they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings.
3. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on March 28, 1972.
4. After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion.
5. The Silmarillion, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda and Middle-earth.
6. Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.
7. While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre.
8. Due to the popularity of his work, Tolkien is sometimes identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature, or, more precisely, high fantasy.
9. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of The 50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945.
10. Forbes Magazine ranked him the 5th top-earning “dead celebrity” in 2009.
11. The Tolkien name comes from German. Tolkien, who was fascinated with languages, said that the surname came from the German word “tollkuhn,” meaning “foolhardy.”
12. Tolkien was born in Orange Free State, South Africa, but moved to England at the age of three.
13. When he was a baby, Tolkien was kidnapped for a day, by a house boy, who was captivated by the baby.
14. He became a Catholic in 1900, which caused a family right with his Baptist relatives.
15. He remained a Catholic throughout his life. C.S. Lewis credits Tolkien with his decision to become a Christian in the 1930s.
16. From his early teens, Tolkien invented several languages. Quenya became an important aspect of his Middle Earth Legendarium. In a letter published in Observer, 1981, Tolkien wrote: ” The stories were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me name comes first and the story follows.”
17. At 16 years old, he met his future wife Edith. However, his guardian Father Francis Morgan prohibited Tolkien seeing her until Tolkien turned 21 years old.
18. As a young student at Exeter College, Oxford University, he spent his first few years often getting into debt trying to keep up with richer students, who had more disposable income. Tolkien admits that he had a great love of beer and talking into the early hours of the morning.
19. Tolkien said his character of Sam Gamgee was based on the ordinary soldiers who he commanded and who faced so much hardship without rancor.
20. In 1918, he got a job working on the Oxford English Dictionary, which had begun in 1879.
21. Tolkien was a great lecturer. When giving lectures on Beowulf, he would often startle students by exclaiming in Anglo-Saxon and speaking in the manner of an old bar.
22. The first famous lines to the hobbit were written down on a blank, empty exam paper he was once marking.
23. When agents from Nazi Germany wished to translate The Hobbit to German, they sent a letter asking to prove he was “Aryan.” Tolkien gave a scathing reply, saying among other things that he wishes he had Jewish ancestors.
24. Tolkien had a dislike for cars and spent most of his adult life relying on bicycles and trains. He had a particular love of the Oxfordshire countryside and was dismayed when it was covered with new roads.
25. When Tolkien’s son joined the army, he listed his father’s occupation as “Wizard.”
26. Tolkien credited the works of William Morris as being a great inspiration.
27. Tolkien originally wrote The Hobbit for his own children.
28. His parents were Arthur Reuel Tolkien, an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel nee Suffield.
29. Tolkien’s paternal ancestors were middle-class craftsmen who made and sold clocks, watches and pianos in London and Birmingham. The Tolkien family had emigrated from Germany in the 18th century but had become “quickly intensely English.”
30. Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel, who was born February 17, 1894.