J.R.R. Tolkien – January 3, 1892
- John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa
- The family moved back to England shortly after he was born
- His father died when he was very young, and his mother died when he was just 12
- He was raised by a priest, Father Francis Morgen
- He excelled as a student, particularly in languages
- In school, he fell in love with a girl, Edith, but Father Morgen said he was not allowed to see her until he was 21 (three years later)
- On his 21st birthday, he contacted Edith and persuaded her to marry him – they eventually had four children
- J.R.R. attended Oxford shortly after marrying Edith, and he focused his studies on literature and language
- After graduating from Oxford, J.R.R. enlisted and went off to WWI
- He later ended became very ill in the trenches and was brought back to England, but is quoted as saying “By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead”
- Upon return from WWI, J.R.R. began writing – starting with a very long and complex work called The Silmarillion
- J.R.R.’s writings revolved around the creation of entire universes, where he even made up functional languages, used by his characters
- He taught and lectured, but always managed to find time to write
- When he was in his early 30’s, grading a student’s examination, he wrote on the edge of the page: “In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit.”
- The Hobbit, a fairytale children’s adventure, became very successful
- After this success, he took the next several years to write the Lord of the Rings trilogy
- The setting of his childhood – Warwickshire – inspired the Shire in Lord of the Rings
- Lord of the Rings is very lengthy, and he typed the entire handwritten story using just two fingers, because he never learned to type with ten
- Though publishers initially gave J.R.R. no payment – because they weren’t certain it would be successful – the Lord of the Rings trilogy is widely regarded as one of the most popular writings of all time
- Both The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings were recently made into very successful movies
- Extreme fans of his stories of Middle Earth are considered Tolkeinists, and many have actually studied and learned the Elvish languages he created as a part of writings
Decorations: Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit!
We fully expected to have an easy time locating actual party supplies for these two popular stories. We didn’t, though, and had to create our own. Much more fun this way, anyhow! We also made these fun cupcakes!
Activity: Our Own Universe!
Tolkien’s mastery of language and extraordinary imagination allowed him to develop an entire universe, complete with fully functional languages. We will get a taste of the difficulty in this task by sketching out some basics of our own made-up civilization. We look forward to sharing some of the details, but I’ll use this general framework to get us started:
Tolkien’s characters lived in an imaginary place called Middle Earth.
Who are your characters, and where do they live?
How are your characters different from humans like you & me?
How did your imaginary world begin?
What scares your characters?
What makes your characters happy?
What makes your characters sad?
What do your characters eat?
What makes your characters angry?
Draw a picture of one character.
Take the following sentence, and re-write it in your characters’ language: I wish the small flower in my garden would grow larger.
-We’ll use this one as an example to talk through a few things J.R.R. would have to deal with in writing an entire language: making grammatical rules, establishing prefixes/suffixes, etc.
THE BOYS’ STORY/PICS
Excerpt from their [future] book, THE KINGDOM OF MOLEN
It’s night time in the bedroom, but deep inside the little boy’s mattress, the Gits of Molen are gathered around a table. The three tiny, immortal humans, dressed in traditional Molen goat-skins, are playing one of their favorite games…poker. The girl, June, sees something in the distance and screams. It’s a bed bug – the Gits’ arch enemy, and unfortunately rampant in Molen. Phillip, the Git king, commands June to run as fast as she can to the Alorent tree. When she arrives, she presses her lips to it and kisses the smooth bark, summoning the only creature who can help them defeat the bug. Almost immediately, they see him running towards them, tail wagging. In these situations, only a Wizard Dog can use Fire Magic, producing the potatoes needed to distract a bed bug. The Wizard pulls the magic bone out of his tuxedo pocket, barks his Fire Magic commands, and with a puff of smoke, five round potatoes appear in King Phillip’s hand. Phillip curls his scrawny, goat-skinned arm, and throws the potatoes as far as he can. Bed bugs cannot resist the lure of potatoes and this one immediately chases after them. Quickly, June moves her ear to the tree, and the five digit keyboard appears. She rapidly types in the code every Git knows by heart, and the hose unravels towards her from the highest branches. The three Gits move to lift the hose’s heavy nozzle. When the third Git locks his hands around it, water shoots towards the bug. Like a sponge, its body absorbs water until he can no longer contain the liquid and explodes.
Peace and poker return to Molen.