JRR Tolkien – Father of Modern Fantasy

John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien. An unforgettable name that’s made its mark in the history of literature. A name that is associated with wonderful classics like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Books that are being taught in school even today. His tales of legend and lore have become one of the most popular works of literature ever written to this date, to the extent of them being adapted into blockbuster films. 

He’s provided us with amazing creatures with complex backgrounds that have awed and inspired us, a world so vast and beautiful that makes us wish one like that existed. He’s also made up his own language, Elvish, the language spoken by elves, just for fun, and it’s become so popular today.  

Being A Professor

Being an extremely intelligent man, he was a distinguished university professor, poet, historian, and an expert linguist. He received his professorship at oxford in 1925 and he felt right at home in the academic life. He took great pleasure in research and lectures and exchanging ideas with his students and colleagues.

There is one particular lecture worth mentioning which altered the modern study of the old english epic tale, Beowulf. Tolkien believed that the critics spent too much time looking at the historical elements instead of the characters. He believed that it should be considered a work of art. This lecture changed the direction of research on that epic. 

Being A Storyteller

In 1928, as Tolkien began grading exam papers, he stumbled upon a blank page and without thought wrote down, “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” And thus began the journey of a lifetime. Those words were the beginning to what will become one of the most popular works of art in modern fantasy. 

Now, having written those words on a blank sheet of paper, Tolkien had to find out the answers to certain questions, like what was a Hobbit? And why does it live in a hole? He later said, “Names always generate a story in my mind. I thought I’d better find out what hobbits were like.” 

After Tolkien’s publication of The Hobbit, he presented portions of The Silmarillion, which was a collection of mythopoetic works which included incomplete stories of Lúthien and Beren (characters based on him and his love), to Stanley Unwin hoping for a fantastic review but his reader felt the stories were not commercially publishable. They held too much poetry. Tolkien, disappointed at the news soon began working on writing the sequel to The Hobbit – The Lord of the Rings trilogy which took him a decade to finish.

Influences

Having fought in the great war, Tolkien witnessed horrors and experienced hardships of the trenches. He lived in deplorable and unsanitary conditions which was hell on earth. Injured, sick and unable to fight, he left the battlefront to recover in Birmingham. 

This tragedy and loss inspired him as a writer and proved him with a keen sense of awareness. In The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the battle of the five armies, the dead marshes and the black gate of Mordor is said to have been inspired by the great war.

Tolkien’s vivid and beautiful descriptions of Middle-Earth and the complexity of his characters have also influenced other fantasy writers. One in particular is Christopher Paolini, the author of the Inheritance Cycle. He is admittedly a big fan of JRR Tolkien and all his works. 

Legacy

JRR Tolkien’s legacy will always live on with the likes of Shakespeare for his contribution to Literature. His creation of a world to realistic and whimsical at the same time has made him one my favourite authors to ever exist. The complexities he brought to his work, the vivid description of creatures and places reflects all the horrors and the wonders our own world possesses.  

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