J. R. R. Tolkien Additional Biography

Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

0111201661-Tolkien.jpg J. R. R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin Company) Published by Salem Press, Inc.

During the summer of 1938, in anticipation of the projected publication of a German translation of The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien was asked by the German publisher to provide a declaration that he was of arisch (aryan) heritage. Tolkien was annoyed by the request. He wrote to Allen & Unwin, his English publisher—which was acting as intermediary—that he was “inclined to refuse,” and he noted that he “would regret giving any colour to the notion that I subscribed to the wholly pernicious and unscientific race-doctrine.” In deference to Allen & Unwin, however, he enclosed drafts of two possible replies; the one sent by Allen & Unwin does not survive, but the unused draft was preserved in the firm’s files. In it, Tolkien wrote that “if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.” He went on to remark that “if impertinent and irrelevant inquiries of this sort are to become the rule in matters of literature, then the time is not far distant when a German name will no longer be a source of pride.” Whether because of the tone of Tolkien’s response or the subsequent outbreak of World War II, the possibility of a German edition of The Hobbit did not surface again until 1946.

An entirely different issue was involved in the dispute over publication of the first American paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings. That edition was issued by Ace Books in May, 1965, without Tolkien’s authorization, an act made possible by the failure of Tolkien’s authorized American publishers, Houghton Mifflin, to establish proper copyright protection for the trilogy. Houghton Mifflin then commissioned Ballantine Books to publish a slightly revised and newly copyrighted alternative paperback version, which contained Tolkien’s plea that readers “who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors . . . purchase it and no other.” The Tolkien Society of America and the Science Fiction Writers of America took up the author’s cause, and Ace Books bowed to demands that it print no more copies of The Lord of the Rings.

Further Reading

Carpenter, Humphrey. Tolkien: A Biography. London: Allen and Unwin, 1977. Written with access to Tolkien’s unpublished...

(The entire section is 976 words.)

Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. The piano-manufacturing firm of his father’s family, originally descended from German aristocracy, had gone bankrupt, and the elder Tolkien had taken a South African bank position in the hope of improving his shaky finances. Tolkien’s mother, Mabel Suffield, joined her husband at Bloemfontein, but when the climate strained Ronald’s health, she took their two sons home to England in 1895. Less than a year later, Arthur Tolkien died in South Africa, leaving his widow and children nearly penniless.

In the summer of 1896, Mabel Tolkien rented a rural cottage at Sarehole Mill, close to Birmingham, and for the next four years she taught her boys French, Latin, drawing, and botany, to save school expenses. Much later, Tolkien called these “the longest-seeming and most formative part” of his life. Mabel Tolkien’s attraction to Roman Catholicism led to her conversion in 1900, and she moved to a Birmingham suburb from which Ronald attended one of England’s then leading grammar schools, King Edward’s, on a scholarship. Already, he was demonstrating the fascination with ancient languages that was to determine his career. He was involved in learning such northern European languages as Norse, Gothic, Finnish, and Welsh, as well as the Old and Middle English in which he achieved his academic reputation. He later claimed this philological bent dated from the time he was five or six years old.

In 1904, his mother died at the age of thirty-four, leaving her children in the care of Father Francis Morgan, her friend and pastor. Tolkien’s devotion to his mother was inextricably intertwined with his own Catholic faith, and both played vital roles in the development of his fiction. Thus at sixteen, Ronald Tolkien looked back on a series of grievous losses: his father, whom he considered as “belonging to an almost legendary past”; the Sarehole countryside he loved; his mother, whom he considered a martyr to her faith. Not surprisingly for a lonely boy, Tolkien fell in love early when he met Edith Bratt, another orphan, in his Birmingham boardinghouse. She was three years older than he, and she had just enough inheritance to support herself modestly while she dreamed of becoming a musician. Recognizing the boy’s scholarly talent and fearing for his future, Father Morgan finally stopped all communication between Ronald and Edith until Ronald was twenty-one. Tolkien himself...

(The entire section is 1016 words.)

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (TAHL-keen) was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, to Arthur and Mabel Suffield Tolkien. His brother, Hilary, was born in 1894. Arthur Tolkien had immigrated to South Africa from England to head a bank and remained behind in 1895 when his family returned to England because of Ronald’s health. Arthur’s sudden death left the family near poverty. At first, Mabel Tolkien lived outside Birmingham in the country, which delighted both boys, and she educated the children at home. In 1900, against family tradition, she converted to Catholicism with her children. Most of Tolkien’s school education was at his father’s old preparatory school in Birmingham, where he excelled in languages....

(The entire section is 936 words.)

Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The popularity of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasies testifies to the frustrations felt by many of his readers. Modern technological life isolates humans from nature and from one another, and diminishes the “otherness,” the sense of the world as marvelous. Tolkien’s response was to present a world so compellingly envisioned that both perils and marvels, joys and sorrows seem understandable and real. In the stories, as in real life, ordinary characters must make significant moral choices. In the happy endings of his stories, Tolkien responds to another felt need, the sense that no ultimate purpose exists to make human suffering meaningful.

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (TAHL-keen) was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, one of two sons of Arthur Reuel and Mabel Suffield Tolkien. When he was four years old, his father died, and his mother returned to England, to a town near Birmingham. The verdant English countryside to which he was moved made an immediate impression on the boy; it was to become the locale for his now-famous fantasy world. Tolkien’s first teacher was his mother, and from her he acquired a love of languages and fantasy. Following her death in 1904 he and his brother were raised by Father Francis Xavier Morgan, a Roman Catholic priest. Tolkien received his secondary education at King Edward VI School in Birmingham and then attended Exeter College, Oxford,...

(The entire section is 782 words.)

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where his father was a bank manager. After his father's...

(The entire section is 695 words.)

Biography

(Epics for Students)

J. R. R. Tolkien Published by Gale Cengage

J. R. R. Tolkien was born January 3, 1892 in South Africa, where his father was a banker. His father died in 1896 while Tolkien, his mother,...

(The entire section is 602 words.)

Biography

(Novels for Students)

J. R. R. Tolkien Published by Gale Cengage

Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. His father, Arthur, was an Englishman who had left the Birmingham branch...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where his father had moved his family in order to take a...

(The entire section is 575 words.)