|Tolkien was born the child of English parents who had recently immigrated to South Africa. He, his brother and his mother returned to England when he was 4 and, after receiving news of their father's death, they remained there. They lived in the countryside outside of Birmingham and were raised as devout Roman Catholics. His mother died when he was 11 and he and his brother were looked after by her family and by their guardian Father Francis Morgan, a Catholic Priest.|
The young Tolkien had a gift for languages which was encouraged and developed at an academic grammar school in Birmingham. He gained entry into Oxford University and earned First Class Honours in English. He then married his childhood sweetheart Edith; they eventually had four children.
After serving in the Army in World War One, where he fought in the trenches of the terrible Battle of the Somme, he became a lecturer at Leeds University. In 1925 he was honoured to become a Professor of English Language at Oxford University where he remained the rest of his life.
Tolkien started to develop the languages Qenya and Sindarin from his student days at Oxford: these and their associated poems and myths were further developed during his service as an officer in WWI. He worked on these again and again throughout his life. These eventually became the stories of the First Age of the world of Middle-earth; you can read about these in 'The Silmarillion'.
At Oxford he became very good friends with his fellow academic and Christian writer C. S. Lewis author of the Narnia series of books. Both Lewis and Tolkien were the pivotal members of the Inklings a gathering of theologically-minded creative writers who banded together in each other's studies and in pubs to read and discuss each other's writing.
In the 1937 a story he had created and read to his children about a Hobbit and his adventure with a wizard named Gandalf and a dozen Dwarves became an instant children's favourite when published. A sequel was asked for which grew out of hand and closer to the as yet unpublished Silmarillion in character and vision. It took many years to write (and much encouragement from C.S Lewis and the other Inklings) and was eventually published, in 1954-55 as 'The Lord of the Rings'.
Tolkien wrote volumes of material on Middle-earth, Valinor, Beleriand and Numenor. However these were always being re-written as more of this world was revealed to his imagination. This material has been edited by his son Christopher and published as 'The History of Middle-earth' series.
J.R.R. Tolkien died in 1973 at the age of eighty-one. He was delighted to have received the honour of a CBE from the Queen a few years before.
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