J.R.R. Tolkien - The Father of Fantasy

Many of us have grown up reading fantasy literature. Everyone who read Harry Potter wanted to be a student at Hogwarts and emulate The Boy Who Lived. Those of us who read Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy wanted to have a shape-shifting daemon and travel across different universes. Everyone wanted to be a demigod after reading Percy Jackson. However, there is one universe that is so vast and so vivid that people of all ages wish they had lived in – Middle Earth, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien’s masterpiece. Since today is his 122nd birthday, we will celebrate his life and the influence of his works across generations. J.R.R. Tolkien is without a doubt a writer par-excellence. His magnum opus, the Lord of The Rings has been rated as the greatest fantasy work in the world and inspired an entire generation of fantasy authors.

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on this date in 1892 at Bloemfontein in South Africa. His family moved to England when he was a child after his father’s death. He lived in Sarehole in Birmingham which was full of hills and bogs. This inspired the landscape of Middle Earth, especially the setting of the Lord of the Rings. He was educated by his mother who raised him to be a very astute reader. After her early death, he moved to Edgbaston to live with a guardian. In his teenage years, Tolkien was fascinated by the fictional languages he and his cousins created, such as ‘Animalic’, ‘Nevbosh’ and ‘Naffarin’. In fact, when Tolkien served in World War I, he communicated with his wife Edith using codes that he created to bypass the censors. After 1917, Tolkien began his first work on Middle Earth ‘The Book of Lost Tales’. His romantic tryst with his wife inspired the poem ‘Beren and Luthien’ which later led him to work on the Silmarillion, a collection of tales encompassing the whole of Middle Earth.


Perrot’s Folly in Edgbaston, one of the inspirations for the Two Towers

After the war, Tolkien took up teaching posts in various English colleges where he worked on various aspects of linguistics and writing. He began his work on ‘The Hobbit’ and the first two volumes of the Lord of the Rings in 1925. He worked for the British government during World War II as a cryptographer due to his expertise in linguistics and code writing. After the war, Tolkien published his final work in the Lord of the Rings trilogy ‘The Return of the King’ which acted as the closure for the series. He had joined a club called The Inklings where he was close friends with noted author C.S. Lewis until his retirement.In the years of his life after retirement, Tolkien’s works became increasingly popular and had made him rich and famous. He settled down in Bournemouth with Edith until her death in 1971 and moved to Oxford where he lived until his death in 1973.

Beren and Luthien in life and in death

The collected works of Tolkien span volumes upon volumes of notes and books. In fact, the size of his unpublished notes is many times over the size of his books. Tolkien often said that his love for languages inspired the creation of Middle Earth. He himself said that the languages used in his works precluded the creation of Middle Earth itself and the characters were merely the vehicles for languages. His books were not mere stories, but rather a canvas to paint the picture of Middle Earth to the reader’s mental eye. It is said that Tolkien was the father of high fantasy, the fantasy of legendary characters fulfilling prophecies in magical worlds. Every fantasy story written today takes inspiration from the Lord of the Rings, such as ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin, ‘The Elder Scrolls’ game series and ‘The Wheel of Time’ by Robert Jordan. This reflects the legacy bequeathed by this great author who leaves his readers spellbound and invigorates their curiosity.

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Rishi Rajasekaran

Intern at The Fishbowl Network
Hi, I'm Rishi, a Computer Science and Engineering student of NIT Trichy. When I'm not mugging in the last minute for my exams, I take part in quizzes and other literary events. Everything about the universe fascinates me, except for Justin Bieber songs. Feel free to praise or demean my work in the comments section and on Facebook.
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