Mini-Lecture 7 Brief Biography of Tolkien

Mini-Lecture 7 Brief Biography of Tolkien - Mini-Lecture 7:...

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Mini-Lecture 7: A Brief Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien Here is a very brief synopsis of major events and themes in Tolkien’s life derived from the excellent text J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter (Houghton Mifflin: New York, 2000; first published George Allen & Unwin: London, 1997). For those of you interested to know more about our “Author of the Century” (as scholar Tom Shippey has called him), I strongly encourage you to read Carpenter’s very well-written and informative biography. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (who, for most of his life was called Ronald, though a few very close college friends called him John Ronald) was born on 3 Jan. 1892 in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the first of two sons born to British expatriate banker Arthur Tolkien and his young wife Mabel Suffield. Though Ronald’s father flourished in the hot, dry climate of South Africa, Mabel was very unhappy there, always hoping and longing to return to their native England. Just over two years after Ronald’s birth, his younger brother Hilary was born. Ronald and Hilary enjoyed a very close relationship throughout their lives. Mabel’s wish to have a long visit back to England was finally granted in the spring of 1895. The trip was occasioned in part by the ill effects the South African weather seemed to be having on Ronald’s health. Indeed, the British climate improved his health tremendously. All through that spring and summer, Mabel and the boys stayed with her parents in Birmingham, waiting for Arthur to be able to join them. Late in the year, Arthur became very ill and had to wait until the spring to join the family in England. However, his health did not improve, and in mid-February, Mabel received a telegram that he was near death. Ronald’s father died on 15 Feb. 1896. Ronald never returned to South Africa and retained only the vaguest memories of his father and of his first home. From this point forward, Ronald’s childhood became one of frequent moves and very limited financial means. Mabel, however, was herself skilled in languages, music, and art. She instructed the boys at home in those early years. Ronald, as soon became obvious, was remarkably proficient in languages – he was reading by age 4, writing soon after, and, not much later, beginning to learn Latin, a language that fascinated him. In these early lessons with his mother, we can see the seeds of the master philologist he later became. The family’s first English home was in the countryside outside Birmingham in the small hamlet of Sarehole. The family lived there for a little over four years, but the experience was deeply formative for Ronald – from these years derived his great and abiding appreciation for nature and particularly for the English countryside. Throughout his life, he deplored the encroachment of civilization on the countryside, with its ugly roadways, railways, and factories marring the native beauty of the land. It was also in Ronald’s Sarehole years that two formative experiences occurred. The first was his
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Mini-Lecture 7 Brief Biography of Tolkien - Mini-Lecture 7:...

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