Tolkien: The Man Behind Middle Earth

Middle Earth, Elves, Balrogs, Orcs, Goblins, Dwarves, Wizards, giant speaking spiders, dragons, shape shifters, Rohan, The Two Towers, Hobbits, the Grey Havens and the One Ring! These are all parts of the Professor Tolkien’s legendarium. The high fantasy books The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings remain his most popular works. Surely you have seen Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations of Prof. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s beloved books. There were only a handful of people who truly appreciated his fantasy works, but when the first Jackson film was released, many became fans of the story. These people may not be Tolkien scholars, but it just goes to show that the legend Prof. Tolkien is adored across generations.

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The first 3 Peter Jackson films were not well received by many critics and purist Tolkien fans and scholars because many scenes in the book were not included in the film. However, the extended versions did some justice. This goes the same with the recent Hobbit films; many critics said they felt rushed and the film should have not been made in three parts. But again, many have enjoyed the film and many have been introduced to Middle Earth thanks to these adaptations.

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Now we’re not talking about the films, but Professor Tolkien’s influence on literature and popular culture. His enduring popularity is a cause for hope in this age of trashy magazines and reality TV shows. His type of fantasy may seem to be parallel of how the western world evolved. Some also think the Lord Of The Rings is based on Tolkien’s experience as a soldier, his service as an officer during WWI and as a code breaker during WWII.

Tolkien’s Impact on Literature and Life

A recent British survey gathered data from polls to find the best book of all time. Thousands of readers chose The Lord Of The Rings. Many literary elites and snobs were surprised because they didn’t think that a fantasy writer would win. They did another poll across Britain and again Tolkien blew away the competition. Still, these literary elitists could not accept the results and they made a third poll and Tolkien was still the clear favourite.

Tolkien’s work has impacted many people. There have been many books published about fantasy worlds full of elves, goblins and wizards, but no other fantasy author has truly defined the genre. His works made up the blueprint for many fantasy works and fantasy video games.

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According to author Rev. Patrick W. Curles, Tolkien has made an impact on him in three ways: how myth is accepted, the value of friendship, and values in life and work. According to Curles, Tolkien’s view on myth was inspiring and, to a point, true. Tolkien once stated that myth is a combination of truth and error. Truth because it was made by and for God and error because it was made by those alienated by God. The second impact many readers can understand is about the value of friendship. It is evidently seen in his works; Frodo and Sam, Pippin and Merry, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. In own life, Tolkien had a good friend in fellow author C.S Lewis. Tolkien valued friends because they stand with you and accept you.

Tolkien considers himself a true Hobbit! He’s fond of eating, he loves long walks and admiring trees and gardens. He loves smoking pipes, telling stories and being with his friends. He preferred to be at home with his family at most times instead of going for an adventure. He was a kind hearted, generous and jovial person and a true genius as stated by Rev. Curles.

10 Interesting Facts About J.R.R Tolkien

Below are some interesting factoids about the mighty Prof. Tolkien and his famous works.

1. The Hobbit Was Not Planned For Publication

As we know, it has become a multi million dollar movie franchise and a best selling book, but The Hobbit was not planned to be published at all. Originally, it was written for his children but was brought to the attention of Susan Dagnall who worked for George Allen and Unwin, a London publishing firm at that time. She persuaded Tolkien to submit the tale of Bilbo and Smaug for publication. He agreed and the rest is history.

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2. The World Wars Experiences

Some say that “The Lord Of The Rings” is directly influenced by the events of WWII. Tolkien was a lieutenant and a signalling officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the trenches of WWI. There he witnessed young men killed by machine gun fire. While he denied directly writing about the World Wars, he has admitted that his experiences influenced his works. From his novels, you can see that Middle Earth can be bleak at times, with evil often gaining the upper hand. But with sadness comes hope.

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3. He Trained To Be A Codebreaker In WWII

Prof. Tolkien has invented languages and letters all throughout his works. But did you know that he trained as a codebreaker in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office?

4. Prof. Tolkien Considered Himself to be like a Hobbit

Tolkien is definitely more like Bilbo than an elf. He loved comfort, tea, food and writing in his study. He was also often found with his wife teasing passers-by throwing sugar lumps into their hats from the balconies of Birmingham teashops. In 1914 when the UK entered the First World War, his family was shocked the he didn’t go into fighting just like other young British lads. He said it was a nasty cleft to be in for a young man with too much imagination and little physical courage”. Although he served as an officer in the war, he often wished that he was home with his wife having tea.

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5. Inventor Of Languages

If you have read his books, you will see in the appendices of the languages and letters he has invented for Middle Earth. He started inventing languages in his teens. The Elvish languages he invented were an important part of the Middle Earth legend. He also created the Black speech spoken by the goblins and the orcs, a separate language for the Ents and the language of the Dwarves. In a letter published in The Observer in 1981, he stated that the stories were made to provide a world for the languages than the reverse.

6. He Felt The Many Lords Of The Rings Fans Were Lunatics

Tolkien considers himself a scholar first and a writer second. The success of his books caught him by surprise. In fact, he spent many years rejecting, criticising and destroying adaptations of his work, believing that it didn’t capture the epic scope of his books and their noble purpose. He was also very sceptical about LOTR fans and he though they were not capable of fully understanding and appreciating his work. If he was alive today, he would have been horrified at fans dressing as Hobbits, Elves, Orcs and Wizards at comic con.

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7. The Beatles Almost Made The Lord Of The Rings

Towards the end of Tolkien’s life, he sold the rights of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit to United Artists for $250,000. Since it was been sold, many saw an interest in making the story into a movie. One such party was The Beatles if you can believe it; they wanted to do a movie adaptation of The Lord of The Rings starring themselves. They approached Stanley Kubrick to direct the film but he declined. It was also rumoured that Prof. Tolkien did not like The Beatles and that’s why the project was ultimately cancelled. It’s a good thing that it didn’t push through because knowing the Fab Four’s brand of humour, it would have surely destroyed what LOTR stands for.

8. The Silmarillion

Tolkien’s literary works go beyond mere portrayals. If you have read LOTR, appendices have explained histories of the land, languages and people of Middle Earth. The Silmarillion was made as an in depth backstory of LOTR and he wished it to be published alongside LOTR. The publishers thought the book was too “Celtic” thus publishing was held off for a while. Publishing pushed through 4 years after his death and has been completed by his Son Christopher Tolkien. The Silmarillion tells about the creation of the Tolkien universe called Ea where the lands of Valinor, Beleriand, Numenor and Middle Earth were situated. It talks about the first age where Elves were the first born of Morgoth, the first enemy and the destroyer of The Song, The Balrogs, The 5 Wizards and the rise of Sauron. It’s a must-read for any Tolkien fan!

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9. He’s Not Fond of The Nazis

His academic writings about Germanic and Old Norse history, culture and language were very popular among the Nazi elite. A German publisher sought to have The Hobbit published in German in 1937 by a Berlin publisher, Rutten and Loening. They were interested in having a German publication of the book, but they asked Tolkien for proof of his “Aryan” roots. This was during time that Adolf Hitler was trying to promote his racist ideology all throughout Germany and other European countries. Tolkien responded with a letter, as stated below:

25 July 1938
20 Northmoor Road, Oxford

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your letter. I regret that I am not clear as to what you intend by arisch. I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware, none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But 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. My great-great-grandfather came to England in the eighteenth century from Germany: the main part of my descent is therefore purely English, and I am an English subject — which should be sufficient. I have been accustomed, nonetheless, to regard my German name with pride, and continued to do so throughout the period of the late regrettable war, in which I served in the English army. I cannot, however, forbear to comment 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.

Your enquiry is doubtless made in order to comply with the laws of your own country, but that this should be held to apply to the subjects of another state would be improper, even if it had (as it has not) any bearing whatsoever on the merits of my work or its sustainability for publication, of which you appear to have satisfied yourselves without reference to my Abstammung.

I trust you will find this reply satisfactory, and

Remain yours faithfully

J. R. R. Tolkien


This was certainly a big “up yours” to Nazi Germany.

10. Samwise Gamgee

The character of Samwise Gamgee was based on the young soldiers Tolkien had commanded in WWI and who faced so much pain and hardship without rancour.

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Go out and buy yourself copies of Tolkien’s works. Be immersed and enjoy Middle Earth!



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