Monday, 8 February 2016

J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 - 1973) – British writer and poet

Best known for his books ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’, both of which were influenced by his WW1 experiences, John Ronald Ruel Tolkien was born on 3rd January in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa.  His father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien, was the manager of a branch of a British bank.   His mother was Mabel Tolkien, nee Suffield.  He had a brother – Hilary Arthur, born in 1894.

Tolkien’s father died when he was three years old while he and his brother and mother were visiting England.  Mabel took the boys to live in a Worcestershire village near Birmingham and undertook the boys’ education herself. She converted to Catholicism and was disinherited by her family.  Their mother died when Tolkien was twelve and the boys’ care passed to Jesuit Priest, Father Francis Xavier Morgan.   Tolkien went to King Edward’s School and St. Philip’s School, Birmingham before going on to Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied Classics.  He joined the University’s Officer Training Corps and obtained a first class degree in 1915. 
Tolkien then enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers.   He married his sweetheart Edith Brett on 22nd March 1916 before being sent to the Western Front.   Tolkien was based at Etaples and saw service during The Somme Offensive that began in July 1916 in Orvilles. He also took part in the raid on the Schwaben Redoubt.  

A debilitating attack of Trench Fever contracted in October 1916 meant that Tolkien was repatriated to Britain and after several bouts of the illness, he served in various camps until the end of the war.

When Edith died in 1971, Tolkien went to live in rooms at Merton College, Oxford, where he died on 2nd September 1973.