On a fine summer’s day in 1930, a professor of English scrawled on a piece of paper ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit’, thus becoming the creator of an entire race of feisty, lovable and formidable beings. It won’t be until seven years later, that The Hobbit would be published, at which point he would also be urged to write a sequel to The Hobbit.
This professor was none other than our beloved J.R.R. Tolkien, who would go on to spend more than a decade conceptualising and writing The Lord of the Rings creating some of the most memorable and beloved characters in English literature.
The books itself – The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and, The Return of the King, would go on to sell over a 150 million copies, making Tolkien one of the most widely read authors.
After delaying reading the books for over 5 years, solely because the sheer scale of it was (and still is) intimidating, I finally visited Middle Earth and fell in love with The Shire, high fived imaginary friends when The Fellowship was formed, cried out in despair at Helm’s Deep, marvelled at the grandeur of Minas Tirth and sobbed buckets at Theoden’s final speech.
It hardly comes as a surprise that Tolkien used his experiences from fighting in the First World War, particularly The Battle of the Somme to develop some of the key characters in LoTR like Samwise Gamgee, and knowing this, it is easy to find recurring themes of friendship, comradery and loyalty throughout his books.
The time he spent in the trenches at the war is said to be what initially sowed the idea of ‘Middle Earth’ and how a small person can still make a huge difference.
With over a thousand pages between these 4 books, Tolkien’s work comprises of some of the best and epic English literature of all time, and by far also remains one of the best book – to – screen adaptations ever made; with The Return of the King also probably the only fantasy movie to walk away with 11 Academy Awards.
So, as we celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien’s birthday today on 3rd January, let’s raise a glass to our beloved professor, and be grateful that he bestowed such gifts as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on us mere mortals. And if you can find a spare 12 hours in your day, a Hobbit and LOTR movie marathon is highly recommended (I’d personally advise going for the director’s cut)
- It took me about 3 months of dedication to trawl through Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The above-mentioned scenes of emotional outbursts are true, however they (fortunately) bear no witnesses.
- I referred to the timelines and material on The Tolkien Society to piece together this blog post. The Tolkien Society is devoted to promoting the life and works of JRR Tolkien, and his daughter Priscilla Tolkien remains the vice-president of the society to this day.
- The body of works published by Tolkien, apart from Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is so expansive that you could possibly spend a year reading and studying his literature.
- The Tolkien Society however has an impressive list of resources found here, if you’re looking get started with Tolkien or further your reading post LOTR.