Happy Hundred-and-Twentieth Birthday

From The Writer’s Almanac

Today is the birthday of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien (1892) (books by this author), born to English parents in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where his father was working in a bank. Tolkien was always fascinated with languages, he went to school at Oxford, first studying Classics, and later, English Language and Literature. He came across an Old English poem by Cynewulf, which contained a couplet that fascinated him: “Hail Earendel brightest of angels / Over Middle Earth sent to men.” The couplet found new life in the universe of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1955), which takes place in Middle Earth and includes a half-Elven character named Earendil the Mariner, who eventually becomes a star.

In 1925, Tolkien returned to Oxford University as a professor of Anglo-Saxon and, later, English Language and Literature. One day, while grading exams, he discovered that a student had left one whole page in his examination booklet blank. Tolkien, for reasons unknown even to him, wrote on the page, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” This single line turned into a bedtime story that he told his children, and from there, a book: The Hobbit (1937).

Image by Robert Brown

See also: Lewis and Tolkien Debate Myths and Lies (h/t Cubeland Mystic)


  1. Cubeland Mystic says

    Mr P

    Thank you for posting this. I love that dramatization too on youtube. I live most of the time in Middle Earth.

  2. It sounds like Tolkien stole the idea.

    Reuel’s an exotic middle name.

  3. I see about the three names.

  4. Cubeland Mystic says

    Tolkien on Anglicanism

    “a pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs.”

  5. Jonathan Webb says

    Great quote, Churchill.

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