Tolkien: The man behind the myths

I was trying to post the other day but kept having trouble for some reason.

I want to know more about the man behind the myths, Tolkien himself. I understand he was a professor of medieval literature at Oxford (right?) When he wrote the Hobbitt, did he envision the other three? There’s a twelve year gap between them. Why? (You’d never see JK Rowlings wait that long!)
How much subplot in LOR is based on WWII and Tolkien’s experiences during that time?

I love the stories and have read the four Hobbitt + LOR, but I really know very little about what spawned what are regarded by many as the greatest works of fiction of the 20th century.

Alien has brought up a marvelous first topic for our group to test its teeth.

There have been many biographies written about the Professor and more seem to be published every day. ‘JRR Tolkien - a Biography’ written by Humphrey Carpenter and published in 1977 is still the one most widely read, I believe.

Sad to say, I have not read any of the biographies. Carpenter’s bio is on my list as is ‘The Letters of JRR Tolkien’ - edited by Carpenter. However, they wait in line behind ‘The History of the Lord of The Rings’.

I would like to recommend an on-line coursee offered by Barnes & Noble University entitled ‘Lord of the Rings’. The course examines the life of JRRT as a preamble to its discussion of LOTR and the Hobbit. The course started on Sept 10 although I think enrollment is still possible. If not, given the popularity of the course, it will be given again in the near future. Best of all, it’s free. Here’s a link to BNU:

I would also recommend that a first step in learning about the life of JRRT might be taken at the Tolkien Society’s bio page:

Tolkien, himself, spoke many times and very strongly about the relevance of an author’s personal history to the appreciation of an author’s work. It was his considered opinion that the story of the author should be thought of as inconsequential to the author’s story. I believe that this view arose from his scholarhip of ancient texts. Though most, if not all, are of unknown authorship, the Professor had nevertheless experienced the power of the tales told. I’m sure that his hope was that his own tales of Middle-earth would take their place in the literary tradition of mankind along side Beowulf and the Kalevala. Thus, his stories would become mankind’s stories, surviving far longer than the accounts of his own life.

As for your question, Alien, about whether or not JRRT had envisioned his saga ‘LOTR’ when he wrote ‘The Hobbit’, putting it simply, he did not.

To toot my own horn, my most recent article at discusses in part the beginning stages of Tolkien’s writing what was to be simply a sequel to ‘The Hobbit’.


About the experience of WW2.

I remember him saying in one of the introductions that there was no allegorical significance to the story, but on the other hand the experiences of ones life are bound to have an effect on ones work.


Yes, most writers would say that, Bri. :?

Was Tolkien a homosexual? I mean, you know the love story of, Sam and Frodo, and Gimley and Legolas…At Oxford in those days there was major male bonding…so?

When did friendship and companionship between two men equate homosexuality? (‘Not there is anything wrong with that.’ as Seinfeld would say.)

Personally, I think that calling the relationships of Sam/Frodo and Gimli/Legolas ‘Love Stories’ is way off the mark and should require more than this passing inference before any further discussion of the matter.

‘At Oxford in those days there was major male bonding…so?’
This is tarring nothing short of tarring tens of thousands with a broad and scurrilous brush.

Please do not presume that this group will tolerate ‘hit and run’ messaging. If you have a point which you would like to discuss concerning Tolkien and his works, please make an effort to state the point clearly and then follow up with substance.

As to Tolkien’s experiences during WWI - he was not a combatant during WW2 - he stated categorically, time and again, both in the introductions and in personal letters, interviews and public speeches, that LOTR was not an allegory. He furthermore expressed his distaste of allegory as a genre, deplorinng it as patronizing and simple-minded.

Of course his personal experiences were part and parcel of his cumulative character and his personality. A writer - nor, indeed, can any human being disengage themselves from their personal experiences. He experienced the horror of mechanized war. He undoubtedly drew upon those bloody experiences when writing about the Battle at Helm’s Deep, the Battle at the Pellenor Fields and the Battle before the Gates of Mordor. However, to assert that the Battle of the Pelennor Fields was an allegory for the Battle of the Somme, for example and Aragorn was really JRRT, exhibits a leap of illogic, unsubstantiated by examination of the text of LOTR, the history of the ‘Great War’ and the authors emphatically stated intensions.