Subtitled, 'How An Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The
Hobbit And Became The Most Beloved Author Of The Century',
the biography is sure to grip the many fans of TOLKIEN
worldwide. After all, Tolkien studied obscure, ancient
languages and legends. The Hobbit didn't have sex appeal,
celebrity endorsements or social media marketing. How did
the quiet professor put his finger on what the world
Devin Brown reminds us that The Lord Of The Rings, sequel
to The Hobbit, was voted the book of the millennium in
polls all around the world, with the Hobbit respectably
placed also. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, now in
Africa, in 1892. His parents were from Birmingham and his
mother returned there with her sons when Tolkien was aged
four; his father died in South Africa while they were
travelling so the planned visit became permanent.
Fatherless characters, including Frodo, occur in the later
books. Moving from the smoke-filled brick buildings to the
rural comforts of Sarehole village, the little family
settled down to enjoy English life. Sarehole watermill
bears a plaque stating that the surrounds were an
inspiration for Tolkien.
When Tolkien was twelve, his mother died of diabetes.
Motherless characters abound in his works. Similarly CS
Lewis, author of the Narnia books, was nine when his
died; his fantasy stories follow young people adventuring
without parental control. I was familiar with this much of
Tolkien's story, but not with the school days which
during which the boy learned Classical languages and
started reading other old languages such as Middle
This love for non-prescribed subjects led to him failing
gain an Oxford scholarship, as he didn't spend enough time
on his set course. He'd also fallen in love and aged
eighteen, was forbidden to see his young lady Edith until
he turned twenty-one. This is reminiscent of Aragorn and
Arwen's separation. However he gained a lesser scholarship
and settled down to study. We learn of his hiking
adventures in Switzerland, which immediately call to mind
mountain scenes in the books.
Absorbed by teaching himself Finnish instead of his Oxford
subjects, Tolkien was nearly sent down, but a wise tutor
helped him switch course and follow his aptitude for
philology, the study of languages. After turning twenty-
one, the student was betrothed to Edith, though he had no
source of support with which to marry. Then war broke out.
The Battle of the Somme certainly informed the Second
Lieutenant's later writing. The Lord Of the Rings would
have been written, or not as we know it, without the great
tragedy of the First World War. Devin Brown quotes the
writer himself and some of his biographers in piecing
together the story of this great and humble man. The
was not to be published until 1937; The Lord Of The Rings
in 1954 and The Silmarillion after his death. Tolkien's
close friendship with another professor, CS Lewis, and
critical writers in the Inklings club, encouraged him to
write for the public instead of as a private hobby.
we glad he did.
Devin Brown's concise tale of the writing and rewriting,
the studying, stopping and starting, is at times amusing
and constantly inspiring. As much as TOLKIEN, we learn
about the figures surrounding him; my favourite is the now
famous cable from publisher Stanley Unwin to his keen son
Reyner who hoped to publish The Lord Of The Rings but
estimated that it might well lose a thousand pounds even
it sold moderately well. Paper was expensive.
"If you believe it is a work of genius, then you may lose
thousand pounds," his father told him.
J.R.R. Tolkien transformed his love for arcane linguistic
studies into a fantastic world of Middle Earth, a world of
filled with characters that readers the world over have
loved and learned from for generations.
Devin Brown focuses on the story behind how Tolkien became
one of the best-known writers in the history of
literature, a tale as fascinating and as inspiring as any
of the fictional ones he would go on to write. Weaving in
the major aspects of the author’s life, career, and faith,
Brown shares how Tolkien’s beloved works came to be
With a third follow-up film and the book’s release the
same month, there’s a large interest in the faith values
for these works. This book addresses that deep hunger to
know what fuels the world and worldview of The Hobbit’s
celebrated author, Tolkien.