Happy 122nd birthday, J.R.R. Tolkien! In honor of Tolkien Day, we're toasting one of the most gifted, geekiest authors in history with six facts about the man, the myth, and the legend behind Middle-earth.
Source: Facebook user J.R.R. Tolkien
- 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.
- Romantic — Tolkien 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 also 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.
- Man of many artistic talents — A new book titled The Art of the Hobbit reveals that Tolkien was also a gifted illustrator. The first edition of The Hobbit featured a painting by Tolkien on its cover, but he was a talented pen and ink artist as well. The drawing of The Lonely Mountain below shows off Tolkien's style, which favored dense blacks and intricate lines, similar to traditional Japanese woodblock prints.
Source: JRR Tolkien, the Tolkien estate