So it was that during the 1920s and 1930s tolkiens

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of the righteous person who was always in pursuit of Stickers, “Major Road Ahead.” So it was that during the 1920s and 1930s Tolkien’s imagination was running along two distinct courses that did not meet. On one side were the stories composed for the amusement of his children. On the other were the grander themes, sometimes Arthurian or Celtic, but usually associated with his own legends. Meanwhile, nothing was reaching print, beyond a few poems in an Oxford magazine, which indicated to his colleagues that Tolkien was amused by dragons’ hoards and funny little men with names like Tom Bombadil. A harmless pastime, they felt, if a little childish. Something was lacking, something that would bring the two sides of the imagination together and produce a story that was at once heroic and mythical and at the same time tuned to the popular imagination. Tolkien was not aware of this lack, of course; nor did it seem particularly significant to him when the missing piece fell into place. It was on a summer’s day in the 1930s, and he was sitting by the window in his study, laboriously marking School Certificate exam papers. Years later he recalled: “One of the candidates had mercifully left one of the pages with no writing on it (which is the best thing that can possibly happen to an examiner), and I wrote on it: 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.' Names always generate a story in my mind. Eventually I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like. But that’s only the beginning.”

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