This Monday, the second of September marks the 46th anniversary of Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien’s death, just two years after that of his dear wife and beloved, so to honor this great man, writer, devoted husband, linguistic god, and overall inspiration to all fantasy nerds everywhere (and I mean that as a compliment, by the way), here are the five major things about John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, the true lord of Lord of the Rings, that may not be as well-known…
1. Lord of the Rings started out as a story for his Kids
Yes, while the prequel to the LOTR series was mainly written for children, and even caught the curious eyes of fantasy-oriented adults, the origin behind the middle earth world he crafted goes back to when Tolkien found that the story that he told one of his young kids at bedtime was actually pretty good.
In fact, it was so good that not too long after, he decided to go full-sail with the grand idea, as well as everything that came along with it, which will be further mentioned later in this article, and after some prodding from friends to publish it, The Hobbit was born, and the rest was LOTR history!
2. The love story between Tolkien and his wife Edith is so precious
As it stands, there seems to be no other nonfictional love story quite like the one of Tolkien and his wife and literary muse Edith Bratt…
Both coming from tragic backgrounds in losing their parents at a young age, the two teenaged orphans, Tolkien 16 and Bratt 19, met at a boarding house in Birmingham, England, where within a year they fell in love. Unfortunately, the priest left in charge of Tolkien forbade him from communicating with her via letters until he was 21.
Once he did, however, and sought her out again, he found that she eventually gave up on him and had gotten engaged to another man, to whom shortly after reuniting with Tolkien she returned his ring to be with her one true love!
Now, here is the best part, and you will really appreciate this if you are a fan of his works, especially his posthumously published The Silmarillion: on the day Edith accepted his proposal, she did a little magical dance for him, and the image of her dancing stuck with him so much that he crafted a whole mythology revolving around a star-crossed love (much like theirs) between Beren, a human soldier, and Luthien, the daughter of an elf king.
Then later, when Edith died in 1971 and he two years later, they were placed together within the same grave with a conjoined stone that was engraved with the names of their mythological counterparts, Beren and Luthien.
A better love story than The Notebook? That is up to you to decide…
3. He knew 20 languages and created 14 of his own for his books
If you have come to know Tolkien’s Middle Earth and all its inhabitants, then you probably picked up one or two or a few of the languages spoken in that realm. If not, then at least you’re aware that there are several languages, fourteen to be exact, spoken throughout the land, whether down in the shire or beyond!
What you may not have known was that Tolkien was a linguistic-fanatic in mastering up to twenty languages: Latin, French, and German were the ones he learned from his mother; Greek, both Middle and Old English, Old Norse, Gothic, both Modern and medieval Welsch, Finnish, Spanish, and Italian were what he learned either in school or on his own; and Serbian, Russian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, and Lombardic were all learning works in progress!
Now, about those fourteen entirely new sets of languages and alphabets utilized within this fantastical world, which came first: the languages or the books? Well, he did confirm that the former came before the latter, as the languages would set the foundation for the world in which they are spoken, so if you could use this same kind of justification for settling the “chicken or egg” debate, then I guess Tolkien finally gave you the answer to this timeless mystery!
4. He and C.S. Lewis had a strong friendship-turned-complicated
The friendship between Tolkien and Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis was so strong that even Edith was jealous of just how close they were! So close that these two, alongside fellow writers Charles Williams and Owen Barfield, were once part of a writing group called the “Inklings.” In fact, Tolkien even convinced Lewis to convert to Christianity.
However, despite the conversion, Lewis started exhibiting anti-Christian values that did not sit right with Tolkien, one of which was Lewis’s decision to date a divorced American. (Interpret that if you will now, but back then, it was far beyond shady to go out with someone who used to be wed in commitment to someone else before willingly cutting things off, breaking off said commitment, as by extension it would seem to break your own commitment to God by associating with the non-committer. But that’s just a guess.)
So, although the seemingly unbreakable bond between the two was severed because of these differing values, it was only after Lewis’s death that Tolkien felt deep remorse for his former friend, comparing the bond of their friendship to a tree and their unresolved disagreement to an ax taken to near their roots.
5. He called Hitler a “ruddy little ignoramus”
And finally, I saved the best one for last: his distaste for Hitler and the Nazi Party.
Despite the fact that the Nazis thoroughly enjoyed his Old Norse and Germanic academic writings, Tolkien wanted no part in anything Hitler or Nazi-related, one example of which was when he went to publish his translation of The Hobbit in German and he was asked to provide certification of being “Aryan.” In a scathing letter, he told off the Nazi Party as a whole, expressing his regret of not having any Jewish ancestors to set him apart from the Nazis’ desired lineage.
A later letter to his son Christopher reveals the accurate depiction of exactly what he thought of Hitler: a “ruddy little ignoramus.”
He and his family left in the 1800s to distance themselves away from the Germany of which he wanted no part, even though the spirit of the Germany he once knew still lives on, as the name Tolkien actually originated from the German word “tollkuhn,” meaning “foolhardy,” or recklessly bold, which would perfectly sum up his response…
Featured Image via Variety