'Bilbo baggins was a hobbit who lived in his hobbit-hole and never went for adventures until Gandalf the wizard and his dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exciting time fighting goblins and wargs...and returned home – rich!'
When 10-year-old Rayner Unwin produced this report for his father, publisher Stanley Unwin in 1936, he had no idea that the manuscript he had recommended would go on to be a remarkable success. Neither did its author, J.R.R.Tolkien, Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, when, inexplicably, he jotted the famous opening sentence – 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' – on a blank sheet while marking examination papers! Yet within a year of publication, The Hobbit had won the New York Herald Tribune prize for children's literature and was set to become a classic. The Lord of the Rings, which was written as a sequel the The Hobbit has also gone on to be one of the world's most widely-read works of literature. Having some forty books to his name J.R.R.Tolkien is one of our best-loved authors of all time.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on the 3rd January, 1892 at Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, but at the age of four he and his brother were taken back to England by their mother. After his father's death the family moved to Sarehole, on the south-eastern edge of Birmingham. Tolkien spent a happy childhood in the countryside and his sensibility to the rural landscape can clearly be seen in his writing and his pictures.
His mother died when he was only twelve and both he and his brother were made wards of the local priest and sent to King Edward's School, Birmingham, where Tolkien shine in his classical work.After completing a First in English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien married Edith Bratt. He was also commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers and fought in the battle of the Somme. After the war, he obtained a post on the New English Dictionary and began to write the mythological and legendary cycle which he originally called 'The Book of Lost Tales' but which eventually became known as The Silmarillion.
In 1920 Tolkien was appointed Reader in English Language at the University of Leeds which was the beginning of a distinguished academic career culminating with his election as Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. Meanwhile Tolkien wrote for his children and told them the story of The Hobbit. It was his publisher, Stanley Unwin, who asked for a sequel to The Hobbit and gradually Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, a huge story that took twelve years to complete and which was not published until Tolkien was approaching retirement. After retirement Tolkien and his wife lived near Oxford, but then moved to Bournemouth. Tolkien returned to Oxford after his wife's death in 1971. He died on 2 September 1973 leaving The Silmarillion to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.