The mind behind middle earth


Town of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland- inspiration for the fantastical Rivendell, photo courtesy of TripZilla

Madison Pulley, Reporter

   Perhaps the most profound author of the modern age, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien has changed the trajectory of fiction for centuries to come. Most famously known as the mind behind the Lord of the Rings novels, Tolkien expanded his universe to include all fantastical creatures and beings. Tolkien was constantly enticing his readers with content about his new world.

   Born in 1892, Tolkien always had quite a vivid imagination. His mother and father lived in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and Tolkien, along with his younger brother, Hilary, was born there. The four of them lived a pleasant life until Tolkien’s father, Arthur, caught a sickness and passed away leaving the newfound family of three without any income. While in England at the time, Mabel, the mother, moved the family to Birmingham and then relocated again to a suburb in Worcestershire. The surroundings in which Tolkien indulged himself heavily influenced his later fiction. 

   Tolkien and his brother attended King Edwards School alongside being homeschooled by their mother until her death in 1904. For the next few years, the two young boys were handed over to the guardianship of Father Francis Xavier Morgan of the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout his school experience, Tolkien created secret societies with his friends and traveled around Europe, influencing the creations he’s most known for.

   Entering the first World War was detrimental for everyone, including the Tolkien family. Tolkien reluctantly enlisted in the British army and after merely a year he was commissioned a temporary Lieutenant. In 1916, Tolkien was sent to France as a signals officer to the 11th Battalion. Tempting his boredom whilst kept within the confines of the camp, Tolkien began writing poetry. 

   Returning to England, Tolkien caught trench fever and spent the remainder of the war in cottages and infirmaries recovering. During that time, Tolkien also started his first-ever piece covering Middle Earth called the Fall of Gondolin. Over the course of the next few years, Tolkien focused on his work and more academic validation- pursuing a career translating famous Old English and Germanic poems. 

  Just before WWII began, Tolkien wrote a short story that got noticed by an employee at the local publishing company, George Allen & Unwin. They convinced Tolkien to send the story in and it was immediately admired. The Hobbit was then published a year later, in 1937. The book attracted adults and children alike, soon enough everyone was demanding a sequel. 

   Tolkien then spent the next 10 years drafting his world, the creatures of fiction that readers now can identify anywhere. The Lord of the Rings was first published in 1954, consisting of three volumes titled the Fellowship of the Ring, the Two Towers, and the Return of the King (the main reason being that British publishing costs were too high for all 1,200 pages to be printed at the same time.) The high fantasy novels became an international phenomenon and were held in high praise. Even people who didn’t consider themselves fantasy readers were entranced. 

   “The beginning of the first one is kinda slow and the end of the last one is pretty slow but everything in between is fantastic,” says Max Fetvedt. Tolkien’s creations are undeniably pieces of remarkable fabrication.

   After Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher took the mantle of completing his father’s work. Seven novels have been published since Tolkien’s death and all have been more successful than the last, gathering all contents of rough drafts and sketches. Four of those seven novels have been tales of Middle Earth, explaining the lore of the world and the characters to which readers have become attached. The manuscripts of Tolkien’s non-published work can be found in the archives of Marquette University’s John P. Raynor Library and Tolkien’s mythology of the Silmarillion can be found in Bodleian Library at Oxford University. 

   Merely a century in the making, Tolkien has been dubbed the father of high fantasy and ranked among the fifty greatest British authors since 1945. His influence has spanned from other novels to films and to a broad range of music. There have been memorials in his honor, renaming roads such as There and Back Again Lane, and many geographical features such as Mount Gandalf and Mount Aragorn in Canada. Tolkien has created a fanbase of millions over the years and his content never fails to satisfy readers.