ByIan M. Simpson, writer at
I love superheroes and villains alike! I'm also a big fan of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Gaming! Follow me on Twitter! @The_Simpsonian
Ian M. Simpson

It's one thing for actors to play fictional characters that they can play around with, but it's something completely different for actors to play real people. Look at Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything or Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network. Both were incredible performances about real-life people who had an impact on our current lives. If you want a portrayal of a man who has made a monumental impact on literature and cinema in general, take a look at J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien, as most of you doubtlessly know, wrote both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Those books amazed the world with the amount of love and detail that was put into the world of Middle-Earth, and now after a series of animated and live-action films, the franchise is bigger than ever. Little do people know, the story of Tolkien's life has interesting twists and turns of its own that beat out Bilbo and Frodo any day of the week.

Just recently, the producers behind the Lord of the Rings movies are making a Tolkien biopic, titled Middle-Earth. They couldn't have chosen a better project, since Tolkien's life is full of adventure.

African Arachnids

Shelob preparing to attack Frodo.
Shelob preparing to attack Frodo.

On January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa to Arthur and Mabel Tolkien. Ronald, as he was known by family and friends, only lived in South Africa until 1896, when his father died and his mother took Ronald and his brother Hilary to live in England. Seeing as he was only four when he left South Africa, he didn't have too many memories of his time there. What he did remember was an incident with a big baboon spider, which may have influenced his choice of villainous spiders in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The Lord Of Languages

One ring to rule them all...
One ring to rule them all...

After he and his family moved to England, Ronald showed all the signs of a young scholar. He spent much of his time reading, and he picked up on Latin very quickly through his mother's teachings. When he started in school, he focused strongly on languages, and before long started making up his own words and meanings. He and a few friends banded together and created the T.C.B.S. (Tea Club Barrovian Society), where Tolkien began to write poetry.

Even after he made his way to Oxford, he continued to read many legends and myths, which developed his love of fantasy. He moved from Latin to Germanic studies in Oxford, before he moved to the Exeter college. There, he studied Anglo-Saxon languages. As he was reading the Anglo-Saxon poems of Cynewulf, he stumbled upon the words "Middle-Earth."

Through his love of languages and mythology, Tolkien later went on to invent his own languages. We know one of them now as the Elvish language from Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

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A Real-Life Love Story

Sadly, Ronald was orphaned quite young when his mother fell to a sickness. He ended up in a few different lodgings, and in one of these lodgings he met a girl named Edith Bratt. She was an orphan as well, and the two of them quickly bonded. Though he was only sixteen, he fell in love with her. His guardian, Father Francis, learned of their relationship, and banned Tolkien from seeing or talking to Edith until he was 21 years old.

When he finally did turn 21, he found out that Edith was already engaged. That didn't stop him, as he tracked her down and proposed to her in person, to which she said yes. The two were married years later. That alone is a real-life love story that I can't wait to see on the big screen.

The Origin Of Gandalf

You shall not pass!
You shall not pass!

While he was still in school, Tolkien took a trip to the Swiss Alps with some of his friends. During his trip, he picked up a pack of postcards that had a picture of an old man with a beard. The man had robes and a pointed hat. Sound like anyone familiar? If it helps, Tolkien wrote "Origin of Gandalf" on the back of a card years after the thrilling expedition.

The Perils Of War

The battle of Helm's Deep.
The battle of Helm's Deep.

Just after Ronald and Edith were married, Ronald went off to World War I. He survived numerous trials, including the infamous Battle of the Somme, but he was sent back to England after acquiring trench fever. Unfortunately, two of Tolkien's old friends from the T.C.B.S. were killed during the war.

In a Hole in the Ground...

The home of the Bagginses.
The home of the Bagginses.

After the war, Tolkien began working on his own world in a project called The Silmarillion. As he worked on this project, he also began teaching at Oxford, where he made a close friend named C.S. Lewis (as you might know as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia), and the two joined a group called the Inklings, where they shared their writing work.

During the summers, Tolkien worked on marking exam papers to make some money. When he was working through the papers, he happened upon a blank page, and immediately wrote upon it, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." He had no idea what a hobbit was, but he progressed that idea into his first finished story: The Hobbit.

A Grand Adventure

There and back again.
There and back again.

After The Hobbit was published in 1937, the publishers were hungry for more. Tolkien offered The Silmarillion, which was the novelized mythology of Middle Earth. The publishers didn't like it, and suggested something with more Hobbits. Tolkien then started on a story about Bilbo Baggins' nephew, Bingo Baggins. He later changed it to Frodo, which is now one of the most iconic names in the fantasy genre.

He gave the publishers a copy of The Lord of the Rings, which was originally one large volume. They suggested that they cut down the size into three smaller books, and Tolkien agreed. Thus, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King were published throughout 1954 and 1955.

As you can see, the life of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien sounds like an adventure story. He lived a very eventful life, and gifted the world with one of the greatest fantasy accomplishments in history.


What is your favorite movie from Middle Earth?

Source: 3-Minute J.R.R. Tolkien by: Gary Raymond


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