Happy 121st birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien! In honor of Tolkien Day, we're toasting one of the most gifted, geekiest authors in history with five facts about the man, the myth, and the legend behind Middle-earth.
- Mysterious initials — Between J.R.R. and George R.R. Martin, there are plenty of initials circulating geekdom. J.R.R. stands for John Ronald Reuel, though he was known to his family as Ronald. John came from his grandfather and great-grandfather, and Reuel was his father's middle name.
- Lord of linguistics — As a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College in Oxford, Tolkien was proficient in over a dozen languages. Linguistics played a large role in his literature. He created 11 different tongues for his works, including Elvish, Khuzdul of the Dwarves, and Sauron's Black Speech.
- Tomantic — J.R.R. courted Edith Mary Bratt, three years his senior, at the age of 16. It was a forbidden love, as he was a Catholic and she a Protestant. Tolkien's father forbid the relationship, but J.R.R. held steadfast and five years later declared his love to Edith, who left the man to whom she was currently engaged to marry Tolkien.
- Esteemed Beowulf academic — It's obvious that Tolkien was a bookworm. But he was an esteemed scholastic word nerd, with an influential lecture on the epic poem Beowulf credited to his name. J.R.R. believed Beowulf was addressing human destiny in general, and that the monsters, not just the tribal politics, were essential to the poem.
- Anti-industrialization — In the Lord of the Rings behind-the-scenes featurette, it was revealed that Tolkien, who was born in South Africa, preferred bicycles over cars and hated the industrialization of Europe. It seems that the idyllic Shire is modeled after his simple life of the English countryside.
Find out why Tolkien was a romantic and a lord of linguistics after the break.