Introduction

by Steven Needham

This chapter is a free excerpt from Biography On J. R. R. Tolkien.

J. R. R. Tolkien is generally considered the most important fantasy writer of the twentieth century. Tolkien's famous Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered a work of great literary import and has enjoyed wild popularity in recent years, since the tales were made into a series of blockbuster movies. Tolkien is also well known for writing The Hobbit, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings tales.


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J. R. R. Tolkien is generally considered the most important fantasy writer of the twentieth century. Tolkien's famous Lord of the Rings trilogy is considered a work of great literary import and has enjoyed wild popularity in recent years, since the tales were made into a series of blockbuster movies. Tolkien is also well known for writing The Hobbit, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings tales.

Tolkien's works are known for their emphasis on mythical races and fantasy languages. He created a rich world called Middle Earth for his readers, complete with dragons, Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves and men. His works also involved sociological themes, covering war, religion, and the epic struggle between good and evil.

Tolkien worked as a university professor for many years while writing his most famous works. His voracious appetite for literature and linguistics gave him fodder for his stories. Tolkien cited such ancient tales as Beowulf and the Nibelungenlied as inspirations for his stories about Middle Earth. Nibelungenlied is an ancient Norse tale made into a famous opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen, by Richard Wagner. Some scholars believe that this story of a powerful ring may have had a profound influence on Tolkien’s work.

Tolkien was also a brilliant linguist and philologist who wrote his own mythical languages. Throughout his life, Tolkien studied Latin, Greek, Old English, Gothic, Italian, Old Norse, Spanish and Welsh as well as some Finnish. He also constructed his own languages, including "Quenya" and "Sindarin.” Tolkien's Elvish languages were based on Latin but utilized elements of English, Finnish, Welsh and Greek.

Tolkien's best works are portals into a fantasy world of excitement, danger and love. When Tolkien died in 1973, his obituary in The New York Times read, "Tolkien admirers compared him favorably with Milton, Spenser and Tolstoy. His English publisher, Sir Stanley Unwin, speculated that The Lord of the Rings would be more likely to live beyond his and his son's time than any other work he had printed."

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