John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892–1973) was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon Literature at the University of Leeds and the University of Oxford specializing in Language and Literature of Old and Middle English. He wrote many stories, but his most famous were The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954–1955), which are set in an alternative version of Earth’s past he called by the Middle English name of Middle-earth.
Tolkien lost both of his parents when he was young and his care was supervised by his family priest, who arranged for his board and education. He met his future wife, Edith, at age 16 at one of his boarding houses. At his guardian’s insistence, Tolkien waited until his 21st birthday to ask her to marry him. That relationship provided Tolkien with inspiration for the relationship between Beren and Luthien, his love story of a human man and an elf in the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien enlisted as a second lieutenant with the British Army in 1915, enduring harsh conditions and falling ill with trench fever repeatedly. These experiences provided inspiration for his later books. Tolkien attended Exeter College, Oxford, earning his master’s degree in 1919. In 1920, following his discharge from the Army, he became a professor at The University of Leeds. Five years later he returned to Oxford as a Professor of Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature. Tolkien created his own languages, writing stories to provide a setting in which he could use his languages. He also told stories to amuse his four children. The Hobbit and elements of The Lord of the Rings developed from these stories. He published The Hobbit in 1937, illustrating it himself. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was published on July 29, 1954. The next two books were published separately in the next year and a half. Tolkien’s books began to grow in popularity in 1965 and remain popular to this day. J.R.R. Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.
Questions for The Fellowship of the Ring
Here are some questions to consider as you are reading:
Gandalf tells Frodo, "There is such a thing as malice and revenge." As you read, ask yourself how malice and revenge enter the story, who their agents are (whether heroes or villains), and what their effects are?
Why is it important that Sauron not be allowed to gain possession of the One Ring? How can he be prevented from acquiring it?
How would you describe the hobbits' way of life and the main characteristics of their appearance and behavior? How are they different from us, and how are they similar?
What is the significance of Gollum's having been a hobbit before acquiring the Ring? How can greed, envy, and other vices—especially when associated with an object of great beauty or value—so transform someone?
If you enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring you may like the next part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers.
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