While in Syracuse, NY this month, I had the privilege of being with Pastor Jon Speed and the saints at Christ is King Baptist Church, along with the students who are at the Log College program for theological and ministry preparation.
During the week, I was able to read the majority of the authorized biography of J. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), author of The Lord of the Rings series.
Though The Lord of the Rings has been very popular in recent years, very little is known of Tolkien himself by those who have read his books or seen the recent movies.
Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892, the same month of C.H. Spurgeon’s death. While on a visit with his mother back to England, the homeland of his parents, his father died suddenly while still in South Africa, so Mabel Tolkien and their two sons, Ronald and Hilary, remained permanently in England, never to return to South Africa again.
Tolkien’s mother then joined the Catholic church, and thus he embraced a deep and devoted loyalty to Catholicism the rest of his life.
Ronald, as he came to be called, married his teenager sweetheart, Edith, who was three years older than him, when he was twenty-four and she twenty-seven years old.
During the beginning of World War I, he completes his degree at Oxford in English literature and philogy, taking first place honors on his final exam.
After a brief period serving in WWI, he was discharged due to severe sickness while serving in France. With his military work over, he would have an academic career the rest of his life. He began work as a free-lance tutor, and also worked as an editor of the Oxford New English Dictionary in 1918.
He is finally appointed a staff reader and lecturer at Leeds University in the English department, as he and Edith live in Leeds from 1919 until 1925, when he is chosen to be the Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon language at Oxford University. The Tolkiens returned to Oxford in 1925, where Tolkien soon becomes friends with another teacher and writer at Oxford—C. S. Lewis, a friendship that would last the rest of Lewis’s life, as Lewis died ten years before Tolkien himself.
For the next thirty-four years, Tolkien and Edith lived in Oxford, her as a home-maker and mother, while Ronald quietly passed his days and years as professor of English language at Oxford, lecturing, writing, and doing advanced language studies, specializing in philogy, which is the study of language in written historical sources, being a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics. Tolkien’s language studies and the and writing dealt with many languages, including Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Gothic, Greek, Icelandic, Middle English, Norse, Old English, Russian, Swedish, Welsh, and other lesser-known and lost languages. He became one of the greatest linguists and philologists of all time.
His published books, in order of their publication, include:
1925 – Sir Gawain published
1937 – The Hobbit published
1937 – At the suggestion of his publisher, Tolkien begins to write a sequel to The Hobbit, which later was given the title The Lord of the Rings.
1949 – The Lord of the Rings completed
1949 – Farmer Giles of Ham published
1954 – The Lord of the Rings, books 1 & 2 published
1955 – The Lord of the Rings, book 3, published
1962 – Adventures of Tom Bombadil
1964 – Tree and Leaf published
1967 – Smith of Wooiion Major published
– to be continued
– Mack Tomlinson