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°Oxford University and the InklingsOxford University is the oldest English-speaking university in the world. Since1096 teaching has existed at Oxford in some form. The university is comprised of thirty-nine independent, self-governing colleges, including Exeter College, which Tolkien entered in 1911.
°At Oxford, Tolkien studied the classics, including Greek and Roman languages, literature, art, history, and philosophy, as well as modern languages, literature, and philosophy. He was awarded a degree with first-class honors in English Language and Literature just before he left for France to fight in World War I.°After the war Tolkien returned to Oxford to work as a teacher and tutor for the English School. Over the next several years, he established a reputation as a brilliant philologist and linguist. From the mid-1930s until 1962, Tolkien was part of an informal literary club at Oxford known as the Inklings. The group included several famous English writers, poets, essayists,and critics of the time, including Tolkien's close friend C. S. Lewis as well as Owen Barfield, Hugo Dyson, and Charles Williams.°The Inklings would read and discuss their writings with each other. Many of the members encouraged Tolkien to publish The Hobbit. Tolkien also read most of The Lord of the Rings to the group years before it was published. The Inklings dissolved when Lewis became ill in 1962 and died thefollowing year.°The Hobbit Setting°printPrint°°documentPDF°listCite°°linkLink°The story begins and ends in The Shire, in the Village of Hobbiton, a completely imaginary place which resembles a medieval English country village unspoiled by modern inventions. In one major way Hobbiton differs from a real world village, even one in the Middle Ages: it is inhabited by hobbits, creatures about three feet tall who prefer to live in hobbit-holes rather than in houses above ground. Although Tolkien does not use the nameMiddle-earth in The Hobbit,in The Lord of the Ringshe places the world of Bilbo's quest in this realm. Physically, Middle-earth resembles modern earth, with its terrain, seasons, and natural beauty. It is the inhabitants of Middle-earth who add a touch of unreality. In making a world in which Bilbo and his dwarf companions can conduct their quest, Tolkien assumes the creative rights which his essay "On Fairy-stories" grants to a story-maker: the right to be free with Nature and use the real world as a basis from which to fashion something new, with its own inner consistency.°The Hobbit Literary Style°printPrint°°documentPDF°listCite°°linkLink
°Fantasy and MythologyThe Hobbitis considered a masterpiece of fantasy. There is often a tendency among scholars of literature to deride genres such as fantasy and science fiction; however, Tolkien's books are so imaginative and brilliantly conceived that he has earned a great deal of critical respect.