On this day, 124 years ago the English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor J.R.R. Tolkien was born. Tolkien is, of course, most famous for his high-fantasy novels The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Many people today will associate his name with the blockbuster movie adaptions of his works that were directed by Peter Jackson. Tolkien however never lived to see these films, having died in 1973.
I myself first learned of Tolkien when I started playing the popular, tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. My stepdad explained to me that none of it would have existed if not for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, who he and many others have credited as the father of modern fantasy literature. The genre did exist before his works, but it was Tolkien’s books that are responsible for the popularity of fantasy literature. His influence on the matter cannot be overstated. The books he wrote have inspired countless other works, from music to movies, to video games.
He was born in Bloemfontein, in what is now modern South Africa, to parents Arthur and Mabel. He discovered his love of language at a young age, and this passion followed him throughout his life. Eventually, this leads him to graduate from Exeter College, Oxford with a major in English and Literature. This would only be the beginning of his academic career as he would go on to become a professor at multiple institutions.
Tolkien was also famously part of the Inklings, which as an informal literary discussion group connected with the University of Oxford, England. The group was active for nearly two decades between the early 1930s and late 1949. The group was composed of literary enthusiasts who praised the value of narrative in fiction and encouraged the writing of fantasy. C. S. Lewis was part of the same group and this lead to the two becoming friends.
After his death, his son Christopher continued his legacy and published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, this included The Silmarillion. To further irradiate his importance In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”, and Forbes ranked him the 5th top-earning “dead celebrity” in 2009.
It would be difficult to write anything that would do justice to the incredible life of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. We just wanted to take a few moments to look back at one of our heroes and celebrate the day of his birth. Without this man many of our favorite pastimes wouldn’t be the same, or simply would exist at all. All of us here at The Nerd Stash, are wishing a Happy Birthday to the late, great J.R.R. Tolkien.
Brian Cowan loves playing video games, football, Magic, and pretty much anything else that he can use as an excuse to waste time. When he is not doing the above or working, he is usually writing or reading.