Known for his great literary works, which would create modern fantasy, Tolkien’s own life could have starred in some of them. In fact, one of his most notable poems is inspired by his relationship with what would be his wife. His life was marked by an orphan childhood, war, love, his deep religious beliefs and his enormous linguistic genius.
We know from your letters that Tolkien was not inspired, as it was meant, in the historical and political events that he lived up close or directly affected him. However, the work is the author’s daughter and his life, not exempt from misfortunes, marked the melancholy of the world he created. Their sense of love, of faith or their love of nature would mark the attitudes of their main characters.
The torturous childhood of Tolkien
Tolkien was born in 1892, in the Orange Free State, now South Africa. Son of a British banker, a few years later he would return to Britain with his mother in search of a better climate. But his father would die in Africa. From this moment, and until the age of 12, he would live with his mother Mabel and his brother, without financial support from the rest of his family, because Mabel had converted to Catholicism. At this time the Church of Rome was badly regarded in England and it was an embarrassment for families to have members in it.
This explains that in 1904, upon his death, Mabel left the Tolkien brothers in charge of a Catholic priest. His name was Francis Xavier Morgan, of Spanish-British origin, and would mark the youth of the boys. The priest financed his studies and sought accommodation in different apartments for rent. The care and love he gave them generated a deep respect in John Ronald.
Edith, his great love
Precisely, in one of these houses, at 16, he met John Ronald Edith Bratt. Also an orphan, 3 years older than him, they would soon take an oath of eternal love. But Father Francis did not think it convenient, because the young woman could distract him from his studies and the achievement of a scholarship and also was not Catholic.
By his letters we can know the pain that produced this situation to Tolkien, but nevertheless obeyed his tutor. After some last escapades together, they separated for the three years that still separated the 21-year-old boy.
The birth of a genius
After a failed attempt, he would get a scholarship to access Oxford at 18, while Edith went to work in Birmingham. There he meets three great friends, with whom he will form the club TCBS, who would share his love for literature and languages.
Surely inspired by his mother, from an early age he had played to manufacture languages, the Germanic languages being some of his inspiring. The friends enlightened the idea of creating a mythology for England, in the manner of the Greek and Roman, and Tolkien languages would be part of this universe.
Two facts will mark its future. On the one hand, on the day she turned 21 she wrote to Edith to retake her love, but she had committed herself at that time. Far from giving up, Tolkien decided to travel to Birmingham to convince her and he succeeded, because both ended up committed.
In 1916, after convincing her to become a Catholic, they both get married. Two years before, a conflict had broken out that would shake his world. That same year leaves to France, to fight in the Great War. There he will lose two of his great friends and he will fall ill. He returned transformed.
“Not even the wisest knows the end of all roads.”
Tolkien and his work
His efforts as a student will bear fruit and Tolkien will occupy an English professorship. Influenced by the horrors experienced and lost friends will continue his work. Little by little, his writings formed a magical universe that he shared with some of his colleagues, such as C.S. Lewis, with whom he will form the Inklings. Many of his ideas came from the stories he told his children or family games.
Because of his enormous perfectionism, which he applied to both work and literature, he would rewrite more than he would publish. The first work on Middle Earth that reached the public was The Hobbit and in the rest of his life he would only publish The Lord of the Rings. All the other texts of this universe that have arrived to our days we owe to his son Christopher.
All these avatars would be decisive in many of his creations. The idyllic vision of traditional life comes from his experiences as an orphan in a cityindustrial. The tragedy of the Ring comes from its Catholic interpretation of the world. The impossible loves he relates are reflections of his own romance. The camaraderie of his characters is no different from the one Tolkien experienced. When we read about Middle Earth, we read a little about it.