Tribute to JRR Tolkien

Best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. the English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE  was Born on 3 January 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province was South Africa. As a child Tolkien was bitten by a large baboon spider in the garden, an event which some think would have later echoes in his stories, although Tolkien admitted no actual memory of the event and no special hatred of spiders as an adult. When he was three, Tolkien went to England with his mother and brother to live with her parents in Kings Heath, Birmingham. Soon after, in 1896, they moved to Sarehole. He enjoyed exploring Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog and the Clent, Lickey and Malvern Hills, which would later inspire scenes in his books, along with places such as his aunt Jane’s farm of Bag End, the name of which would be used in his fiction.

Taught at home, Tolkien was a keen pupil and learnt a great deal about plants he also liked to draw landscapes and trees, and also enjoyed languages, so his mother taught him the rudiments of Latin very early and encouraged him to read many books. He liked stories about “Red Indians” and the fantasy works by George MacDonald. In addition, the “Fairy Books” of Andrew Lang were particularly important to him and their influence is apparent in some of his later writings. Tolkien moved to the Edgbaston area of Birmingham where he lived in the shadow of Perrott’s Folly and the Victorian tower of Edgbaston Waterworks, which may have influenced the images of the dark towers within his works. He attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and later St. Philip’s School, before winning a Foundation Scholarship and returning to King Edward’s School.

In 1911, Tolkien went on a summer holiday in Switzerland, a trip that he recollects vividly in a 1968 letter, noting that Bilbo’s journey across the Misty Mountains (“including the glissade down the slithering stones into the pine woods”) is directly based on his adventures as their party of 12 hiked from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen and on to camp in the moraines beyond Mürren. Fifty-seven years later, Tolkien remembered his regret at leaving the view of the eternal snows of Jungfrau and Silberhorn (“the Silvertine (Celebdil) of my dreams”). They went across the Kleine Scheidegg to Grindelwald and on across the Grosse Scheidegg to Meiringen. They continued across the Grimsel Pass, through the upper Valais to Brig and on to the Aletsch glacier and Zermatt.ln October of the same year, Tolkien began studying at Exeter College, Oxford. He initially studied Classics but changed his course in 1913 to English Language and Literature, graduating in 1915 with first-class honours in his final examinations. In 1914, the United Kingdom entered World War I. Tolkien’s relatives were shocked when he elected not to immediately volunteer for the British Army. Instead, Tolkien entered a programme wherein he delayed enlisting until completing his degree in July 1915. He was then commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He trained with the 13th (Reserve) Battalion on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire, for eleven months.Tolkien served as a signals officer at the Somme, participating in the Battle of Thiepval Ridge and the subsequent assault on the Schwaben Redoubt.Tolkien was invalided to England on 8 November 1916. Many of his dearest school friends, including Gilson and Smith of the T.C.B.S., were killed in the war. He might well have been killed himself, but he suffered on more than one occasion from trench foot and was removed from front line combat multiple times.A weak and emaciated Tolkien spent the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties, being deemed medically unfit for general service. During his recovery he began to work on what he called The Book of Lost Tales, beginning with The Fall of Gondolin. Throughout 1917 and 1918 his illness kept recurring, but he had recovered enough to do home service at various camps and was promoted to Lieutenant.

hobbitTolkien’s first civilian job after World War I was at the Oxford English Dictionary, In 1920, he took up a post as Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds, and became the youngest professor there.While at Leeds, he produced A Middle English Vocabulary and a definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with E. V. Gordon. He also translated Sir Gawain, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. In 1925, he returned to Oxford with a fellowship at Pembroke College.During his time at Pembroke College Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

Published on 21 September 1937 to wide critical acclaim and Set in a time “Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men”,The Hobbit follows the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting quest of home-loving hobbit Bilbo Baggins who joins the Wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Okenshield on a dangerous journey to the Lonely Mountain, to reclaim the kingdom of Erabor and the many treasures which have been stolen by the fearsome dragon Smaug. Along the way they encounter many hazards including Cave Trolls, Giant Spiders, Hordes of Orcs and Imprisonment by the Elves of Mirkwood Forest, as if that wasn’t enough something decidedly dodgy is also stirring in the Fortress of Dol Gulder, to the South-East of Mirkwood and there is plenty of related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales, about the rise of the Necromancer and the subsequent Battle of Dol Guldur. The story culminates in a big battle between the men of Dale, The Elves of Mirkwood, The Dwarves of Erabor, the Hordes of Orcs and the Eagles as they all try to reclaim the treasure stolen by Smaug.

The Lord of the Rings Was published as three volumes over the course of a year from 21 July 1954 to October 1955,as The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. The title of the novel refers to the story’s main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who Long before the events of the novel created One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth and corrupt everyone. He is defeated in battle, and Isildur cuts the One Ring from Sauron’s finger, claiming it as an heirloom for his line.Sadly though Isildur is later ambushed and killed by Orcs in the Gladden Fields, and the Ring is lost in the River Anduin. Over two thousand years later, the Ring is found by a river-dwelling stoor called Déagol. His friend Sméagol immediately falls under the Ring’s spell and strangles Deagol to acquire it. Sméagol is banished and hides under the Misty Mountains, where the Ring extends his lifespan and transforms him over the course of hundreds of years into a twisted, corrupted creature called Gollum. He loses the Ring and, as recounted in The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds it. Meanwhile, Sauron takes a new physical form and reoccupies his old realm of Mordor. Gollum sets out in search of the Ring, but is captured by Sauron, who learns from him that Bilbo Baggins now has it. Gollum is set loose, and Sauron, who needs the Ring to regain his full power, sends forth his powerful servants, the Nazgûl, to seize it.

EyeofSauron

Meanwhile back in the Shire, the hobbit Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo, his cousin and guardian. Neither is aware of its origin, however Gandalf the Grey, a wizard and old friend of Bilbo, suspects the Ring’s identity. When he becomes certain, he advises Frodo to take it away from the Shire. So Frodo leaves, accompanied by his gardener and friend, Samwise (“Sam”) Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc (“Merry”) Brandybuck and Peregrin (“Pippin”) Took. They nearly encounter the Nazgûl while still in the Shire, but shake off pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest, where they are aided by the enigmatic Tom Bombadil, who alone is unaffected by the Ring’s corrupting influence. After leaving the forest, they stop in the town of Bree where they meet Aragorn, Isildur’s heir. He persuades them to take him on as guide and protector. They flee from Bree after narrowly escaping another assault, but the Nazgûl follow and attack them on the hill of Weathertop, wounding Frodo with a Morgul blade. Aragorn leads the hobbits toward the Elven refuge of Rivendell, while Frodo gradually succumbs to the wound. The Ringwraiths nearly overtake Frodo at the Ford of Bruinen, but flood waters summoned by Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm them.Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond reveals much significant history about Sauron and the Ring, as well as the news that Sauron has corrupted Gandalf’s fellow wizard, Saruman. The Council decides that the best course of action is to destroy the Ring, which can only be done by returning it to the flames of Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forgedSo the hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took, aided by the hobbits’ chief allies and travelling companions: Aragorn, a Human Ranger; Boromir, son of the Ruling Steward Denethor of the realm of Gondor; Gimli, a Dwarf warrior; Legolas, an Elven prince; and Gandalf, a Wizard set off on a perilous quest across Middle Earth to destroy the Ring in the Fires of Mount Doom. Encountering many dangers along the way including The Machinations of corrupted wizard Saruman, The Nazgul, Hordes elessarof vicious orcs, and The Ancient Demonic and fiery Balrog.

They are helped along by Galadriel and Celeborn after they take refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlórien and Merry & Pippin are befriended by Treebeard, the oldest of the tree-like Ents. who roused from their customarily peaceful ways by Merry and Pippin, attack Isengard, Saruman’s stronghold, and trap the wizard in the tower of Orthanc. Meanwhile The rest of the company ride to Edoras, the capital of Rohan, where they meet Théoden, King of Rohan, whom Gandalf convinces to ride to the ancient fortress of Helm’s Deep to engage Saruman’s forces, and are joined by company of the Rohirrim. Gandalf then convinces Treebeard to send an army of Huorns to the aid of Théoden at Helm’s Deep, and the Huorns destroy Saruman’s army.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, who had been following them from Moria, and force him to guide them to Mordor. Finding Mordor’s Black Gate too dangerous to attempt, they travel instead to a secret passage Gollum knows. Torn between his loyalty to Frodo and his desire for the Ring, Gollum eventually betrays Frodo by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo is felled by Shelob’s bite, but Sam fights her off. Sam takes the Ring and leaves Frodo, believing him to be dead. When orcs find Frodo, Sam overhears them say that Frodo is only unconscious, and Sam decides to rescue him.

Having been defeated at Helm’s Deep Sauron unleashes a heavy assault upon Gondor. Gandalf arrives with Pippin at Minas Tirith to alert Denethor of the impending attack. The city is besieged, and Denethor, under the influence of Sauron through another palantír, despairs and commits suicide, nearly taking his remaining son Faramir with him. With time running out, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli take the Paths of the Dead, where Aragorn raises an undead army of oath-breakers bound by an ancient curse. The ghostly army help them to defeat the Corsairs of Umbar invading southern Gondor. The forces of Gondor and Rohan break the siege of Minas Tirith. Sam rescues Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol, and they cross Mordor. Meanwhile, in order to distract Sauron from his true danger, Aragorn leads the the armies of Gondor and Rohan in a march on the Black Gate of Mordor. His vastly outnumbered troops fight desperately against Sauron’s armies. At the edge of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo is unable to resist the Ring any longer, and claims it for himself. Gollum suddenly reappears, struggles with Frodo and bites off his finger, Ring and all. Celebrating wildly, Gollum falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him.

Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford, from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature there from 1945 to 1959. He was a close friend of C. S. Lewis—they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. Tolkien’s 1936 lecture, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” had a lasting influence on Beowulf research, Tolkien argued firmly against reading in fantastic elements. In 2003, Tolkien’s handwritten translation of and commentary on Beowulf, running to roughly 2000 pages, was discovered in the archives of the Bodleian Library. l

n the run-up to World War II, Tolkien was earmarked as a codebreaker.In January 1939, he agreed to served in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office in the event of national emergency. However, although he was “keen” to become a codebreaker, he was informed in October that his services would not be required at that time.

rom 1959 up to his death in 2nd September 1973, Tolkien received steadily increasing public attention and literary fame due to the ongoing popularity of his novels. The sales of his books were so profitable that he regretted that he had not chosen early retirement. Tolkien’s status as a best-selling author gave them easy entry into polite society, and he was also appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972 and also received the insignia of the Order at Buckingham Palace. In the same year Oxford University also conferred upon him an honorary Doctorate of Letters.

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