John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa on the 3rd of January 1892.
An avid reader, Tolkien was influenced by some of the great writers of the time like G.K. Chesterton and H.G. Wells.
He contracted trench fever in World War 1 and in 1917 was sent back to England to recuperate. That was the end of Tolkien's war service and the beginning of his writing career. He'd begun to create his own language based on Finnish and Welsh and a mythology to support it. This is the work that eventually resulted in his famous books.
He'd married Edith Bratt in 1916 and about this time the first of his four children was born. He continued his mythology while a professor at the University of Leeds.
"The Hobbit" came out in 1936.
Tolkien was now a professor at Oxford. The story goes that he was grading exam papers one evening, opened an exam booklet and found the first-page blank. It seemed like an invitation to write and he famously scribbled "in a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit".
The finished manuscript arrived at the desk of the publishers Allen and Unwin. Unwin paid his ten-year-old son a shilling to read it. Luckily the boy loved the story and "The Hobbit" soon became a best seller.
In the late 1930's Tolkien began writing "Lord of the Rings"
It was published in three parts and the trilogy also became a massive publishing success.
Five interesting facts about Tolkien's work:
1. He used just two fingers to type the whole of the 1,200 pages of text for the books.
2. Christopher Tolkien, his son, didn't like the "Lord of the Rings" books.
3. Although Tolkien said that the books could be seen as a reference to historical events - they weren't intended to be allegorical.
4. Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in the films, had read the "Lord of the Rings" every year for over forty years.
5. The Beatles tried to make a film of "Lord of the Rings" starring themselves but Tolkien wasn't keen. That would have been a very different film.