The Beginning and the End
A report on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien
Author: Zorra Reed
©copyright 1998-2012 Moonrise Inn Publications
This is a story of good against evil. An epic, which has its beginnings and endings. And ends at a beginning. This tale involves the fall of a lord of darkness and the return of a king of light. It tells of armies and wizards, phantoms and emperors, cloud kept towers and bloody fields of enormous carnage. Let us consider no less, the transformation of that ancient world of wonder and magic, to the world we know now of man…(Gandalf: LotR: RotK)
"We are raised to honor all the wrong explorers and discoverers- thieves planting flags, murderers carrying crosses. Let us at last praise the colonizers of dreams." (Beagle, S. Petter).
In the beginning…
Mable and her husband Arthur Tolkien were married April 16, 1891. Arthur was managing a branch of the Bank of Africa in Bloemfontein. On January 3, 1892 they had a baby and they called him John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. He was often called Ronald rather than John. Unforunatly, the enormous heat of Africa was too much for him and he was often sick. Two years latter, on February 17, 1894, Ronald's little brother Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien was born. Hilary proved to be a stronger child then his brother.
In April of 1895, Mabel with her sons and their nurse, set sails for England; Mabel and Arthur's homeland. This was the first trip the boys had ever been on. Within a month, they arrived in Birmingham. Arthur Tolkien remained in Bloemforntein on business. During the Christmas season, Mabel received news that Arthur was ill. "Arthur Tolkien was stricken with the Umatic Fever. A disease usually suffered by children and accompanied by a high fever, swelling of the joints, and inflammation of the heart." (Crabbe). He died on February 15, 1896 from a severe hemorrhage. Mabel was in a state of grief and confusion.
Shortly after, Mabel and her son's moved into a small brick cottage in the hamlet of Sarehold, a mile outside of Birmingham. There Mabel taughted Ronald how to read and write when he was four. He also begins to learn Latin and French in addition to English. Ronald was fascinated by words. By the time he was seven, Ronald wrote his first story "Great Green Dragon". In fall of 1900, Ronald took the entrance exams for King Edward's School and passed! The family moved to the city near the school.
Ronald was in sixth grade when he begins studying Greek. He immediately liked the language. George Brewerton was Ronald's teacher. "He demanded careful listening and quick thinking on the part of his students." (Collins, R. David pg 23). Ronald delivered both. One morning, Brewerton begin reading Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. "Chaucer provided much frank and candid detail in his writings. Brewerton wanted his students to write with a similar freedom and openness and to avoid stiff, stilted wage." (Collins, R. David pg 24)
The Canterbury Tales are a requirement for most children to read in High School even in today's society. It provides a unique way of looking at life in the dark ages. I think it's the dark ages The book also inspires and forces the imagination to work at creating an image. True people have been known to sleep through the story and all but to any true reader and creator, this book is a must read. If only to stimulate and give an idea on how to write and in different forms.
The new year of 1904 opened with measles and whooping cough. Whooping cough begins with a runny nose, tiredness and sometimes a mild fever but develops into bursts of coughing followed by deep gasps. (NSW) It is a deadly disease. Nursing her boys back to health weakened Mabel. By April she was in the hospital. Father Francies Morgan found the Tolkiens rooms in Woodside Cottage. On November 14, 1904 Mabel died. Father Morgan was appointed as Ronald and Hilary's guardian because Mabel wanted her boys to be raised in the Catholic faith. "In latter years people would quote Ronald. 'In the Beginning was the World, and the World was with God, and the World was God.'" (Crabbe, F. Katharyn) The boys were sent to live with their Aunt Bea. Pronounced "B"
Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Ronald entered the senior class at King Edward's High School. He became a detective, searching and investigation words. Immersed in Latin and Greek, Ronald met a new challenge through his former teacher George Brewerton. Brewerton offered the philologist an Anglo-Saxon primer. Soon Ronald discovered the poem "Beowulf" and "Sir Gawin and the Green Knight". Both are literary classics that take place around the same time as the Canterbury Tales. Ronald found books written in Greek, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse, and German at Cornish local Bookstore. "With each new book, a new mystery unfolded." (Collins, R. David; pg 26) This was a way for Tolkien to escape the real world for a short time whilst improving his studies and widening his vocabulary. Father Morgan greatly encouraged Ronald's interest in languages.
In the Spring of 1908, the two boys moved to 37 Duchess Road, a boarding house. There Ronald fell in love with a 19 year old girl from upstairs. Her name was Edith Bratt, who was also an orphan. In 1909 Father Morgan heard of this blossoming romance and tried to put an end to the relationship. Ronald respected Father Morgan's wishes and concentrated on his studies. But he never forgot about Edith. Soon after, the Tolkien brothers moved to a new boarding house.
Ronald took an entry exam in December of 1910 and won a full scholarship. Christopher Wiseman, R.Q. Gilson, and Ronald helped run the school library. They would get together with some other students after classes and review different works of literature while having tea. They called their group The Tea Club.
"In Joe Write, a teacher at Oxford University, Ronald discovered a role model." (Collins, R. David pg 33) A grammar book presented to Ronald by Joe opened a whole new world of language. Ronald became fascinated by mythology. This opened the door to his imagination even wider.
On January 3, 1913 my how the years fly Ronald celebrated his twenty-first birthday. He was now a legal adult and planned to see Edith again. Upon speaking with her he discovered that she was presently engaged. But she still had strong feelings for Ronald. Upset, Ronald deviously broke up Edith's engagement and proposed to her himself. She said yes! But Ronald could not marry out side of his religion. So on January 8, 1914 Edith became a catholic. Happy, Ronald through himself back into his studies. He then wrote a poem called, "The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star".
By late Summer of 1914, England declared war on Germany. Ronald had a good chance to get a First-Class degree that would guarantee an academic position after the war. "He was torn between a desire for a secure future and a desire for the fellowship of those who had enlisted before him his friends…he joined a training program that would allow him to prepare for the war immediately but postpone his enlistment until he had completed his degree." (Crabbe, F. Katharyn pg. 13) Both Tolkien boys enlisted but Hilary went right away.
Ronald knew he'd be heading for France. So on March 22, 1916, he married Edith. In July, Ronald Tolkien learned that his friend, Rob Gilson, had been killed. Ronald was devastated. In October, Ronald caught Trench fever, requiring hospitalization. Trench fever is an infectious disease affliction troops of all sides in World War 1; first observed in troops on the Western Front December 1914. Conveyed by lice, it was characterized by a sudden fever lasting five or six days, after which the victim recovers with no apparent after-effects. The principal symptoms are headaches, pains in the legs, skin rash, and mild inflammation of the eyes. A second strain emerged 1917 in which the average duration of the fever became longer, and in 1918 there was a rise in the number of victims suffering relapses regularly." (Author)
Ronald survived the fever and by mid-December he left the hospital only to learn G.B Smith, another of his friends from the Tea Club, was dead." (John Tolkien; Katharyn, F. Crabbe) Tolkien felt the need to create. To create a literary masterpiece, like the one's he grew up reading, to honor his friends.
Within days, the recovering soldier began The Book of Lost Tales that latter became known as The Silmarillion. He chose Middle-Earth as the setting. The characters would be elves, dwarves, orcs, and humans. He created his own spelling for there names witch caused a few problems but he didn't care this was his work and others opinions didn't matter much. "I said once that the world he [Tolkien] charts was there long before him. He never invented them [the characters], he found them a place to live." (Beagle, S. Peter pg 2) Edith copied his writings in a large book. Ronald was in and out of the hospital during 1917. Edith returned to Cheltenham to stay with a cousin. On November 17, 1917 Edith and Ronald's first-born son was born. After the child's christening Ronald returned to his military duties.
In 1918 the war was ending and Ronald got a job writing for a dictionary. He would dig into the history and origin of each word that he was assigned. In 1924 at the age of thirty-two, Ronald was named a full professor at the University of Leeds. He gave up his work on the dictionary and his family bought a house in the city where they remained for twenty-one years.
Ronald became good friends with another professor and fellow writer, you know the name! C.S. Lewis yes he is a boy He was most commonly known for his Canonicals of Narnia series. By now Ronald had three sons. Insert names latter In 1929, Edith gave birth to a girl. They called her Priscilla Mary Reuel Tolkien. Reuel was the name of Arthur Tolkiens grandmother so the middle name has been handed down through the generations.
That same year Ronald created the Hobbit. It was his first full-length book. He said that a student had left a blank sheet of paper attached to his homework for the teacher to leave notes. And Tolkien started to write. 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' And that was the beginning of a masterpiece. George Allen and Unwin Ltd. Published the first copy of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. It appeared on September 21, 1937 in England. The fallowing year, 1938, the book was published in the United States. Ronald wanted to publish The Simarillion but a sequel to The Hobbit was in demand.
"Christopher Tolkien, Ronald's youngest son, developed a heart problem and needed constant attention until he regained his strength." (Collins, R. David) England soon entered World War 2. Ronald volunteered as an air raid warden in order to contribute his part to the country. Fortunately, Oxford University was spared any direct attack. Despite the distractions, he plugged away at a sequel for The Hobbit. Which he really didn't want to write because they would not publish the "Similloron" He called the sequel The Lord of the Rings.
By the end of 1942 the book was almost finished. In February 1950, twelve years after "The Hobbit" and ten years of work, Ronald announced to his publisher that the book was done. By 1956 Ronald had earned about $14,000 dollars for his book. They still would not print "The Silmarillion" much to his disappointment. Ronald was eager to see it published, the book stood as a memorial to the former schoolmates who were killed in World War 1.
In the Summer of 1959, the professor gave his last lecture. He was getting to old to work. That same year, C.S. Lewis wrote to an American scholar who had proposed to study Lewis's influence on Tolkien, saying, "No one ever influenced Tolkien- you might as well try to influence a bandersnatch." (Katharyn, F. Crabbe) Ronald was no more influenced by any one or any thing then the rest of the world. His passion for words and his desire for literature, books with their adventures and myths along with his life experiences were all the inspiration he needed.
"Not until the latter part of the 1950's and the early 1960's did Tolkiens reputation as a creative writer become established." (Gerald Monsman pg 264-78)
Ronald and Edith moved to Bowrnemouth in 1968. On Monday, November 29, 1971, at the age of 82, Edith died in her sleep. Ronald moved back to Oxford. During 1972, he received many awards for his contribution to the literary arts. "The Lord of the Rings is a twentieth century Beowulf. It too "glimpses" the cosmic and moves with the thought of all men concerning the fate of human life and efforts.
"Tolkien himself has written the chronicles of Middle Earth, and his book is an elaborate exposition of certain events in the chronicles relating to the end of the third age." (George, H. Thomson)
"The book is plotted with an astonishing prodigality of invention that never fails in the approximate 600,000 words of the whole. Tolkien can evoke hideousness, terror, horror, and dreadful suspense, as well as beauty, laughter, nobility and joy. The style is always graceful, often highly eloquent, occasionally lyrical with descriptive passages of much loveliness and color." Tolkien is a descriptive painter and poet too (Edmund Fuller)
Tolkien's works are not only classics; they're an industry. The Hobbit has sold over 35-million copies. The Lord of the Rings, published as a "trilogy" in 1954 and 1955 (Tolkien himself considered it one book when in reality it was five or more put into three once finished and then into one giant hardback) has sold more than 15-million copies and has been translated into 26 languages. "J.R.R. Tolkien didn't just write a book. He wrote a world." (Margo Hammond)
August 1973, Ronald was diagnosed with an acute bleeding gastric ulcer. He died Sunday morning September 3, 1973 at the age of 81. He was buried next to his beloved Edith in a cemetery on the outskirts of Oxford, Wolvercote. "Like his life, Tolkien's reputation sheds light on two important realms of human endeavor: The scholarly and the creative." (Crabbe, F. Katharyn pg 27)
But not everyone liked Tolkien. Some might begin by asking a simple question. Why does Tolkien consistently us light and color white to symbolize good and Dark and the color black to symbolize evil? Don't every one? "He is following Northern and Western Europe literary traditions." (Catharine) For example: "Frodo the good little Englishmen; Samwise his dog-like servant, who talks lower-class and respectful, and never deserts his master. (Edmund Wilson) Instead of finding fault it is better to recall with gratefulness what Ronald Tolkien gave to us through his books. "He has taken us, first, into the enchanted world of Middle-Earth and its inhabitants. That world lingers, as sights and sounds, in the memory." (Gunnar Urang)
In a survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club, in the Fall of 1991. The Lord of the Rings ranked fifth in the list of books that most influenced people's lives. I'm proud to be one of thoughs people. I'm also pleased to remind you that Tolkien Week (started in 1978) is observed as Hobbit Day, Bilbo and Frodo's join Birthday, takes place on September 22 through the 28. For more information please read the attachment.
Through observing Ronald Tolkiens life we see that he valued education. He found what he wanted to do and went for it. Placing his studies and future security above every thing else. But still taking time out to enjoy life. If more people, especially Americans, took their future seriously and got the proper education. This would be a better world. Then we could stop blaming the generation before us.
…And so starts the Third age of Man…
…Weep not empty tears but grieve as the road comes to an end…