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Author Information: J. R. R. Tolkien

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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (January 3, 1892 - September 2, 1973) was born in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa, to English parents Mabel and Arthur. In 1895 Mabel decided she needed an extended break back in England and in April she returned with John and his younger brother Hilary to visit family. Arthur remained in South Africa but died in February 1896 of rheumatic fever.

The family moved to village of Sarehole, in Worcestershire, (and now a suburb of Birmingham) and much of his childhood was spent exploring the surrounding woods and fields.

In the summer of 1915 Tolkien graduated from Exeter College, Oxford with a First in English Language and Literature and the following spring he married his childhood sweetheart Edith (née Bratt). On June 4th he embarked for France with the British Army and spent much of the summer and autumn fighting in the Battle of the Somme. He was shipped home in November with trench fever and throughout 1917 and 1918 suffered recurring bouts of illness. While in France, Tolkien had received news that two of his closest school friends had been killed in fighting. During these years the first early drafts of The Silmarillion, a deeply sorrowful story, were written and the impact of the Great War and the loss of many of his friends and colleagues had a profound effect on much of his later writing.

After the war Tolkien accepted a position of Reader of, and then Professor of, English Language at Leeds University, the city in which his youngest son Christopher was born. However in 1924 he moved back to Oxford with his family to take up the position of Professor of Anglo-Saxon, which he held from 1925-45, and then Professor of English Language and Literature (1945-59).

While at Oxford he became close friends with C.S. Lewis. Both were members of the literary discussion group the Inklings which also included Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Nevill Coghill, Gervase Mathew, John Wain, and Lewis’ brother, W.H. Lewis. The group met regularly to conduct readings and discussions in the university and socially at various pubs in the city.

After retirement in 1959 Tolkien stayed in Oxford until 1968 when he and Edith moved to the town of Poole on the south coast. Following Edith's death in 1971 he moved back to Oxford and in 1972 was awarded the C.B.E. and made Honorary Doctor of Letters at Oxford University. He died on the 2nd of September 1973, in Bournemouth, while visiting friends.






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