Tuesday, 3 January 2017

JANUARY'S AUTHOR by Sharon Tregenza


John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa on the 3rd of January 1892.

He spent most of his earliest years in Africa and an incident when he was bitten by a tarantula is reported to have influenced his later work. His father, Arthur Tolkien, was an English banker who died of rheumatic fever after his family had left to return to England. This meant the grieving family had to struggle on a limited income.

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. 

Email: sharontregenza@gmail.com
Twitter: @sharontregenza


Penny Dolan said...

Rather liked the terrifying spider link! Thanks, Sharon

Sharon Tregenza said...

Hi Penny, maybe we would have had a very different set of books if he'd been bitten by a mouse. Haha.

Sue Bursztynski said...

For someone who didn't like the books, Christopher Tolkien has spent an impressive amount of his life working with them, editing them, even helping to finish off one(Guy Gavriel Kay worked with him on The Silmarillion). And made a huge fuss about the films - even cut off his son for being an extra in one of them.

Something you may not know about Christopher Lee is that he was in a recording of songs from LOTR by a wonderful group called the Tolkien Ensemble, singing(yes, he had an operatic quality basso profundo voice) the role of Treebrard. And a delightfully amiable Treebrard he was!

And when Allen and Unwin got the MS of LOTR, they fully expected it to sell only about 1000 copies but published it anyway, because that young boy, now a young man, who had read The Hobbit, said it would become a classic. They did a deal with Tolkien that when they had made back their money, he would get 50% of the takings, instead of receiving an advance... The rest is history. But you do have to commend that publisher for taking a chance on a book they didn't think would sell, just because it was so good.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Whoops, that's Treebeard!

Sharon Tregenza said...

Hi, thanks for that interesting information, Sue. Weirdly I did know about Christopher Lee's singing - found out very recently. The subject came up at Christmas for some reason and my son played some recordings. :)