T is for Tolkien


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa but at the age of 3, when his father died, the family returned to England, settling in Birmingham.

Initially home schooled by his mother he could read by the age of 4 and write fluently shortly after. He loved to read and enjoyed the fantasy and fairy books of Andrew Lang and George MacDonald.

In 1911 Tolkien went on a holiday to Switzerland where he hiked in a party of 12 through the mountains. This adventure was to inspire him as he penned Bilbo Baggins journey across the Misty Mountains.

He graduated from Oxford University in 1915 with a first class honours degree in English Language and Literature but it wasn’t until the end of WWI that he took his first job, working for the Oxford English Dictionary.

But it was whilst working as a professor back at Oxford (a position he took in 1925) that he wrote The Hobbit (a story he had written for his children – published in 1937) and started work on The Lord Of The Rings. During WWII he was offered work for the British Government as a code breaker, but never served as one.

The Lord of The Rings was published in 1954 and took him 10 years to write. He originally intended it to be a children’s story (like The Hobbit) and although a sequel, it soon developed a darker and more adult theme as he wrote.

In 1959 Tolkien retired. The income from his books by this stage so profitable that he regretted not retiring earlier. Tolkien never liked to sign his books and subsequently, the rare signed copies that exist set high prices.

British adventure stories, European Mythology and his Catholic beliefs heavily influenced Tolkien. He said himself that “The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like ‘religion’, to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”

After his wife’s death he returned to Oxford, where the University gave him rooms and died there in 1973 at the age of 81, a year after receiving an OBE from The Queen.

Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers

Six Writing Tips From Tolkien

My Favourite Tolkien quotes:

“If you’re going to have a complicated story you must work to a map; otherwise you’ll never make a map of it afterwards.”

“I am dreading the publication, for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.”

“Being a cult figure in one’s own lifetime I am afraid is not at all pleasant. However I do not find that it tends to puff one up: in my case at any rate it makes me feel extremely small and inadequate. But even the nose of a very modest idol cannot remain entirely untickled by the sweet smell of incense.”

“It is the job that is never started that takes longest to finish.”

1968 interview with Tolkien.

We often forget that Tolkien wrote anything other than The Hobbit (100 million copies sold) and Lord of the Rings (150 million copies sold), but he has a large body of work including poetry. all of his work has a similar theme and was influenced by his interests. I’m finding with my own writing there is a “theme” developing, stuff that I’m interested in comes up time and time again, but there are certain subjects that interest me that I haven’t used….yet. Do you find that all your work has a similar theme, inspired by something you’re interested in?

36 thoughts on “T is for Tolkien

  1. I have a small collection of children’s book primarily selected for their illustrations. One of my favorite is Tolkien’s, The Hobbit illustrated by Michael Hague. If you haven’t seen it I hope you will find time to pursue it. Thank you for this posting. Glad I found you through the #atozchallenge.


  2. So he was a plotter. It’s always interesting to know how writers work. I’ve never read the Hobbit. It’s just never appealed to me, but I am aware of it being a fabulously written, rich book.

    The first book I’ve written is a straightforward crime. I have recently been thinking of writing crime that would incorporate something I love. It would be difficult but not impossible. Maybe a few years.


    • He was indeed Rebecca, and lets face it, all those characters, i think he needed to be lol

      Have you seen any of the films?

      Oooooo, crime featuring something you love, now thats interesting 😉



  3. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors, so thanks for posting this! LOTR is a monumental work, so it doesn’t surprise me a bit that it took a decade to write it.
    I definitely have themes in what I write: Science is a biggie, along with love, music, time (getting older and how the world changes over time), trust and redemption are a few that come to mind.


  4. Great post! I didn’t know most of this about him. I think I’m going to print out his ten tips. Thanks for sharing.


  5. So happy to arrive on your page at ‘T’! LOTR and Watership down are the two books that stole my heart at the ages of 9-10 when I couldn’t imagine life without books… then life happened… I never knew much about Tolkien though really. Thank you!


  6. Pretty sure I’ve read him, not that I remember. And actually most of my work does carry a similar theme. Maps are useful if many characters or lots of action. I have lists that I must consult for my writings or I’ll forget to incorporate the details.


  7. I was reading most of this post to my daughter and she said, “all good things come with time”, when I told her it took him about 12 years(from my math) to write The Hobbit and 10 years to write The Lord of the Rings. This was a great post. Enjoyed learning more about Tolkien.


  8. To say my writing has a theme would be stretching it, but I certainly write about things I am interested in…which includes a huge body of possibilities! Thanks for visiting Zoe Cottage today!


  9. How wonderful to find this information about Tolkien. Those Alps were a wonderful inspiration. I’m trying to meet more bloggers during this AtoZ Challenge, but I’m scrambling to keep up! Great to find your blog.


  10. I saw the animated 1977 version of ‘The Hobbit’ as a child. I have never read the books, but my husband has, and is a devoted movie-goer for anything Tolkien. My children are interested in the stories as well. I remember how frightening the battle scenes were in the animated version of the film. He really could tell a dark story. 🙂

    Thanks for visiting my blog, and nice to meet you through the A to Z!


  11. Thanks so much for Tolkien, Vikki. One of the greats of all time, his work ethic and amazing talents will delight readers for generations 🙂 I think in part we all tend to have an underlying “theme” or voice in our work. It follows us from genre to genre. I’ve seen this in other writers I read who are cross-genre writers. Their true voice and the major theme of their work from romance to mystery remains. It is what makes us who we are !!


  12. Ok, at the risk of being lynched… I have never actually read LOTR or the complete Hobbit. [cringes and waits for the flying vegetables!]
    I attempted to read the Hobbit and just could not get into it. I watched the first LOTR movie and was seriously not happy about having spent three hours or so on it. 😦 Maybe I need to make another attempt at the books…
    I really WANT to like them – I love fantasy and he is the master according to millions of readers and writers.
    I will add him to my summer list and try again.


    • Ha ha ha….you won’t see me throwing any vege 😉

      LOTR was voted by the Brits as their favourite book (in a BBC poll a few years back) and I haven’t read it, so you’re not alone 😉



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