John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (January 3, 1892, Bloemfontein, Orange Republic – September 2, 1973 Bournemouth, England) is an English writer, poet, philologist, professor at Oxford University. Most known as the author of classical works of “high fantasy”: “The Hobbit, or There and Back”, “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion”.
For several generations of readers, Tolkien’s work has been admired. This English writer created his own works a whole world. It all started with a half-child fairy tale “The Hobbit”, which was continued by the powerful trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”. And these works became insanely popular, Tolkien’s books are generally called the best in the last century.
Millions of readers were immersed in a fantasy world rich in adventure. Tolkien did not just describe this world, but also invented a culture and language for him. For this he had to re-read numerous books on ancient mythology, to study the basis of languages. This is how the writer’s inspiration was born. It is not necessary to consider that the whole world of Middle-earth appeared only on the basis of ancient myths, the writer himself did a lot for his formation.
Today Tolkien’s work is the basis of many scientific works, his films make spectacular films, they have become the foundation of a whole subculture, but there is not much known about the writer himself. And in his personal life the author remained a secretive and at times even a mysterious person. Now we know that he was much smarter and more versatile than his contemporaries thought. Some interesting facts about the life of Tolkien we will tell.
The correct name.
There are still disputes about how to correctly pronounce the name of the writer – Tolkien or Tolkien? The first option is correct. First of all, because the name of the Englishman comes from the German word “Toll-kühn”, which literally means “desperately brave”. And the writer himself pronounced his name without the letter “e” in the middle. It must be said that no one ever named Tolkien and John, his family and friends called him Ronald, and school friends referred to him as John Ronald.
The impact of the First World War.
It is often said that the epic stories of Middle Earth were inspired by the events of the Second World War. However, this is a common misconception. The story took shape in Tolkien’s mind long before those events and was caused by another military cataclysm. The young Englishman visited the trenches of the First World War, like many of his peers. In the rank of junior lieutenant, the communications officer Tolkien served in the regiment of the Lancashire shooters and on personal experience realized what war is. In those years, the society was engaged in the search for the best ways to kill the maximum number of people in a short period of time. The young Tolkien himself felt all the horrors of the bombing and new types of weapons that were aimed at destroying it. He took part in a crucial battle on the Somme, which cost a million soldiers. For a while, Tolkien chained typhus to the bed, giving him plenty of time to think about the horrors of the war. Then the first images of a fantastic world appeared in his head. Tolkien himself at first denied that his works appeared, thanks to the First World War, but later had to admit it. So there is nothing surprising in that Middle Earth sometimes seems too gloomy, but there was always room for hope in it. This spirit of the epic is due to the fact that Tolkien, who returned from the war, found most of his friends killed in the war.
Tolkien’s legacy in the cinema.
Some fans of Tolkien’s creativity believe that in the near future on large screens there will appear pictures based on other works of the author. But this will happen hardly. The author himself sold the rights to the screen version of just two of his works, now the heritage belongs to his son Christopher. He does not particularly like what cinematographers did with the works of his father.At one time the film companies tried to avoid paying interest on the profits from the hire, arguing the loss of the project due to high costs. In addition, there are even more important moments than money. Christopher himself considers such commercialization of his father’s work inadmissible. Deep and intelligent books with the help of cinema turned into consumer goods. So do not expect in the near future, new movies based on the novels of Tolkien.
Tolkien and racism.
The author’s works were often criticized for their “eurocentricity.” The fact is that practically all the participants of the described events in Middle-earth had a white skin color. The only ones who broke out of the general series – the orcs, the embodiment of absolute evil. As a result, many white racists even relied on Tolkien’s works, claiming the superiority of their skin color. But the author himself was not directly caught in racism. Yes, and the concepts of “black” and “white”, “good” and “evil” have long been present in all fairy-tale works. Another accusation against Tolkien was put forward on the basis of cultural Eurocentrism. It’s no secret that the writer’s works were created on the basis of European myths. An interesting case occurred when preparing a book for publication in fascist Germany. For permission to print, Tolkien needed to prove the purity of his blood, which was quite embarrassing. The Englishman sent the publisher a lot of letters that were required to be passed on to the Germans. Tolkien said that he does not want to give his novel shades of racism and mix politics. In addition, the academic professor had many Jewish friends. Thus it is clear that it is simply impossible to suspect the author of racism in any form.
Adaptation of Tolkien’s works by musicians of the Beatles group.
The popularity of the series of films “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” can be explained by the closest approximation to the original text. This made the movie very high-quality and led to success. However, only in Tolkien’s authorship lies the secret? It is known that this was not the first attempt to shoot the “Hobbit”, but the previous experience (including the Soviet one) was unsuccessful. Shortly before the end of his life, the writer sold the rights to film his most famous works for a ridiculous at the present time, the amount of 250 thousand dollars (according to other sources – 16 thousand). Since then, there was no release from those who wanted to make a film based on Tolkien’s works. And the first attempt, about which few people know, was made by musicians from The Beatles. This group wanted to star in starring director Stanley Kubrick himself. He, like musicians, was an undeniable genius, but their joint creativity could turn out to be a nightmare. Fortunately for the fans, the project never took place. In Hollywood, they decided not to shoot the film on books that everyone already knows. There is a version that the writer himself canceled the shooting, since he did not like the Beatles group. But this version seems unlikely, because the rights to the screen version have long been sold.
We know Tolkien as a successful writer. It was his literary activity that he earned fame. However, Tolkien himself was always more interested in language issues, rather than creating an epic in the genre of fantasy. Philology was the main passion in the life of the scientist and his most important part of life. And the love of languages for Tolkien was born in youth. His native language was English, but the mother tried to teach also Latin, German and French. Gradually Tolkien became interested in Old Norse and Finnish. Being a professional philologist, he understood that language is not just an instrument of communication, but an important part of culture. And Tolkien loved languages so much that he even decided to create his own in a fictitious world. They say that the professor came up with two languages: Mordor and Elvish. In fact, Tolkien created many more languages - for Elves alone, he developed a grammar of 15 dialects, and there were other languages of dwarves, ents and many other peoples of Middle-earth.
Tolkien and Catholicism.
Tolkien had a peculiar attitude towards Catholicism. His mother, suddenly becoming a widow with two children in her arms, suddenly decided to become a Catholic. But around all were Anglicans. As a result, many of her relatives turned away from Mabel Tolkien, but she kept her faith, giving love to her and her boys. And John Ronald could even make a Catholic and his wife, who was originally a Protestant. Unlike his friend Lewis, Tolkien avoided introducing religious themes and symbols into his works. Nevertheless, in life, the writer was a very religious, devout Catholic. All his life he spent as an obvious traditionalist. And when the Roman church gathered the council of the Second Vatican Council and approved several major changes, Tolkin did not like it. And although many churches began to hold masses not in Latin, but in English, the scholar himself resisted this to the last, praying in Latin. Being extremely devout, Tolkien still did what seemed right to him.
Tolkien’s mother died when he was only 12 years old. Together with John, his brother Hilary also remained an orphan. The future writer moved away from his rest of the family, the fault of all became religion. The fact that his relatives were Protestants, and the mother at one time changed religion and became a Catholic. That is why she in her will asked to leave the children in the care of not relatives, but the Catholic priest Francis Morgan. Several years after the death of his mother John Ronald lived with his aunt, and then moved to live in the family Faulkners. And although Tolkin grew up among his relatives and friends, his lawful mentor was still Father Morgan. It was he who led the young man to love philology. And at the age of 16, John Ronald fell in love with 19-year-old Edith Brett, a Protestant also. But his weighty word was said by Father Morgan, who forced Tolkien to promise not to talk with a loved one until he reached the age of 21. And although during this time the girl survived the betrothal with another, John Ronald still not only fulfilled his promise, but also was able to return his beloved. Thanks to the efforts of the mentor the young guy was able to get rid of sloppiness and entered the college at the University of Oxford. Tolkien made every effort to get the same position and his friend Lewis. However, this attempt failed. Together with a friend, Tolkien often discussed literature and theology, they were so close that Lewis recognized his friend’s family well. Lewis even shared with them the food that he received in abundance from his fans. That’s only in the relationship of friends was a serious problem – Tolkien hated allegory. And Lewis did not only love his Christian form, but also used it everywhere. Not only that the allegory in itself distracted the reader from the main action, so even in Tolkien’s opinion his friend simply had no right to mix religion here. John believed that in a hierarchical religious society such messages can only be transmitted by persons in church order. And although friendship between writers has survived, this fundamental disagreement has constantly cooled it.
There is no more mysterious character in the “Lord of the Rings” universe than Tom Bombadil. Many readers note that this character absolutely does not fit into this world, as if he is an alien from some other. Yes, and Peter Jackson felt this, abandoning the foreign character in his movies. But then there were fans who did not appreciate this step. After all, for them Bombadil was albeit a strange, but beloved hero of the trilogy. And the reason for such alienation lies in the fact that initially this character was created not for Middle-earth. Tolkien wrote a lot of children’s fairy tales, whose hero was Tom Bombadil. This character was born long before the writing of “The Lord of the Rings” and was originally not considered at all as a hero of epic fantasy.And Tolkien loved Bombadil so much that he even wanted to create a whole book about him, but eventually wrote “The Hobbit”. Such a love of the writer for this character is due to the fact that he meant something important for Tolkien himself. He himself, in his youth, learned all the horrors of the war and saw how the industrial world forever changes everything around. Tom Bombadil personified Tolkien’s desire to preserve the virgin countryside from urbanization, to live in harmony with the surrounding world. But the writer realized that in the world he created, characters were needed that were more eager for war than Tom. But it is these heroes who can stop Sauron’s return. But Bombadil was left in the book by Tolkien, as he wanted to emphasize that not only the ideals of the struggle between good and evil are important, but others as well.
Tolkien and the machines.
In the years of Tolkien’s life, cars have not yet become an ordinary means of transportation, they were a curiosity for ordinary people. But the writer himself was happy to meet the appearance of a new type of transport. And he even had his own private car, on which he even had an accident with his family. Then his car broke through two front wheels and crashed into the wall. Tolkien was clearly not the best driver, in his own stories he was a threat to other cars on the roads. It’s good that Tolkien realized this in time, got out of this hobby and switched to environmental protection.
The hobbit is not a children’s book.
The book “The Hobbit” is considered as the prehistory of “The Lord of the Rings”. And why, then, everyone is considering this little story, like a nursery. But Tolkien himself in his letter told directly that the children are not interested in, as well as writing for them. His works are not directly or indirectly addressed to small readers. And the “Hobbit” is read so easily, including because the author himself had children and he often invented fairy tales for them. I must say that Tolkien did not believe that you can create for a certain target audience, especially for children. This category of readers, he took seriously, even if they were not his main admirers.
The main character of “The Lord of the Rings”.
For most of us, the main hero of The Lord of the Rings is Frodo’s fearless hobbit. But Tolkien himself considered such a not so bright character, Sam Gamgee. The author wrote that the simple, “village” love of the hero to his Rose is an important element that requires study. In Sam, there are everyday motives (food, sleep, work) and the desire for adventure, sacrifice, the search for beauty and longing for elves. It is no coincidence that Tolkien said directly that in order to understand the essence of the book one must see how Sam loves his wife.
Shire is the native land.
Hobbitshire Country is not accidentally described so lovingly by Tolkien. After all, he wrote off the hobbits partly from himself. He himself admitted that in fact he is the representative of this people, with the exception, of course, of growth. Tolkien loved trees and gardens, the mechanization of farms was alien to him. The writer liked to smoke a pipe and preferred simple unfrozen food. High French cuisine was foreign to him, and in dull autumn days Tolkin loved to wear vests with embroidered ornaments. He liked to collect mushrooms, and his sense of humor was simple and understandable. To some critics, it seemed even tedious. Tolkin later went to bed late and got up late, and traveled extremely rarely.
Interweaving the fantastic world with reality.
In the collection of myths “Silmarillion” there is a story about the love of mortal man Beren to the immortal elf Lutien Tinuvial. In order to be with her beloved, she refused to live forever. Tolkien wrote two months after the death of his wife Edith that he met Lutien Tinuviel in his own life. She had dark hair, a beautiful voice and glowing eyes. But she died before Beren, leaving him as if with one hand. The writer survived his beloved for only two years, they are buried under one tombstone. And on it, under their names, “Beren” and “Lutyien” are also inscribed.And in 1944 the son of Tolkien, Christopher, being in the army camp, was going through hard times. Then the father wrote him an encouraging letter. He advised his son to perceive reality as if he were a hobbit in the Urukhaev camp. Christopher should keep hobbitry in his heart, and everything that happens around him is perceived as part of a great story, the main character of which he turned out to be.