J R R Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel or JRR Tolkien (1892-1973) was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and later of English language and literature at Oxford University, best known for writing two fantasy novels: The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-5). He was of the generation of Englishmen who fought in World War I. As he wrote in the foreword to the 2nd edition of The Lord of the Rings, “by 1918 all but one of my close friends was dead.” However, he insisted that his books were not intended as an allegory for anything.
As a writer, he felt that England lacked its own myths and heroic legends. The fantasy world he created in Middle-earth and beyond is extremely detailed, with lots of history and even its own languages and grammar. It was combining this backdrop with the tales of hobbits that he told to his children that made for the intoxicating saga that is The Lord of the Rings (the books are introduced here by our editor, Sophie Roell, in the order you should read them).
Books by J R R Tolkien
Q: Before we get lost in the mists of myth and fairy tale, tell us about Beren and Lúthien, a book distilled by Christopher Tolkien from his father’s manuscripts and published in June this year, with illustrations by you. It is set 6,500 years before The Lord of the Rings and the love story is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings.
A: Yes, and the love story of Aragorn and Arwen is an extension of it. Beren and Lúthien is based on Tolkien’s own experience. It was inspired by seeing his own wife, Edith, dancing in a wood, under the moonlight, amongst hemlock flowers. And this created an image in his mind that he kept on reworking throughout his life. But that it the central image. When she died he had the name Lúthien inscribed on her gravestone. When Tolkien died, his children inscribed the name Beren on his.
Interviews where books by J R R Tolkien were recommended
Rory McTurk, Emeritus Professor of Icelandic Studies at the University of Leeds, introduces us to the landscape of old Icelandic culture, addressing the Icelandic sagas, medieval Nordic history, and links to Anglo-Saxon England.
Elves are often misunderstood or misrepresented over the Christmas period – Christmas cracker jokes have never been kind to these tiny heroes of the festive season. Here Igreth the Elf, great-great-great-grandson of Ilbereth the Elf, sets the record straight and introduces five children’s books that celebrate the extraordinary contribution these diminutive creatures make to Christmas itself.
Award-winning author Philip Reeve talks us through the science fiction and fantasy books that shaped him and his work in profound ways; among indubitable classics are vibrant lesser-known works awaiting discovery.
Alan Lee, illustrator of such classics as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, talks to Five Books about his favourite stories drawn from myth and fairy tale, what they mean to him, and how important it is for young readers today to experience these ancient stories.
We’re living through a golden age for fantasy fiction, says the author of The Magicians. Here, he tells us what makes for a good fantasy novel, and who’s staking out the future not just of fantasy but of fiction as a whole.
Melvin Burgess, author of Junk and Doing It, tells us about the books that first inspired him, and picks the best thriller writing for young adults. Along the way he explains why young people make the most demanding readers.
From wizards to alchemy and fairies to folklore, Cressida Cowell reveals the magical stories that were most important to her as a child (and which she now delights in sharing with her own children), and her own inspirations for writing about magic and magical worlds today.