(1892 - 1973)
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (pron.: Tol-keen; equal stress on both syllables) was born on 3rd January 1892 in the South African town of Bloemfontein, in an area known as the Orange Free State. His father, Arthur Tolkien, had left England in order to take up a senior position with a bank in the colony. When J.R.R. Tolkien was almost three years old, he returned to England with his mother and his younger brother. After Arthur's death from rheumatic fever, the family made their home at Sarehole, near Birmingham. This beautiful rural area made a great impression on the young Ronald, and its effect can be seen in his later writings and his pictures. Tolkien's family lived in genteel poverty, eventually moving to Moseley a suburb of Birmingham, just north west of Sarehole. When he was 12, Tolkien's mother died, and he and his brother were made wards of a Catholic priest. They lived with aunts and in boarding homes thereafter. The dichotomy between Tolkien's happier days in the rural landscape of Sarehole and his adolescent years in the industrial centre of Birmingham would be felt strongly in his later works. Mabel died in 1904, leaving the boys to the care of Father Francis Morgan, a priest at the Birmingham Oratory. At King Edward's School, Ronald was taught Classics, Anglo-Saxon and Middle-English. He had great linguistic talent, and after studying old Welsh and Finnish, he started to invent his own "Elvish" languages. 1914 saw the outbreak of the First World War. Ronald was in his final year at Exeter College, Oxford: he graduated the following year with a First in English Language and Literature and at once took up his commission as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Before embarking for France in June 1916, he married his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt.Tolkien survived the Battle of the Somme, where two of his three closest friends were killed, but later that year he was struck down by trench fever and sent back to England. The years after the Great War were devoted to his work as an academic: as Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, where he was soon to prove himself one of the finest philologists in the world. He had already started to write a great cycle of the myths and legends of Middle-Earth which was to become The Silmarillion. He and Edith had four children and it was for them that Tolkien first told the tale of The Hobbit, published in 1937 by Sir Stanley Unwin. The Hobbit proved to be so successful that Sir Stanley was soon asking for a sequel: but it was not until 1954, when Tolkien was approaching retirement, that the first volume of his great masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, was published, and its terrific success took him by surprise. After retirement from Oxford, in 1956, Ronald and Edith moved to Bournemouth but when Edith died in 1971, Ronald returned to Oxford. He died after a brief illness on 2nd September 1973, leaving his great mythological work, The Silmarillion, to be edited for publication by his son, Christopher.
The Lord of The Ring / The Return Of The King : (Le Seigneur Des Anneaux) 1954–1955
The events of The Return of the King fall between the years 3019 and 3021, with most of the novel's action falling between March 9 and March 25 of the year 3019. Though the story is not presented in chronological order, the events can be arranged in sequence and Tolkien offers a calendar that even assigns scenes to specific dates. This third novel of the trilogy begins with Gandalf and Pippin heading towards Minas Tirith (March 5, 3019). The next day finds Aragorn in battle against the Dunedain, while Theoden leaves the Hornburg fortress and sets out for Harrowdale. Aragorn eventually wins his battle and heads towards Dunharrow, arriving on the night of the 7th. The next day is crucial to the story, as Aragorn takes the "Paths of the Dead." Gandalf arrives at Minas Tirith with Pippin and Lord Denethor does not receive Gandalf so warmly, as he is resigned to the fate of his inevitable defeat. March 10 is the "Dawnless Day;" during the Muster of Rohan, the Rohirrim ride from Harrowdale and when Faramir is trapped in battle outside the gates of Minas Tirith, it is Gandalf who rescues him in dramatic fashion. Aragorn has still not arrived at his destination, crossing Ringlo and reaching points in Linhir and then Lebennin. Meanwhile, Lorien is being attacked‹yet another battle in a war that is being fought on at least three fronts at any given time. The Ents defeat the invaders of Rohan, while Aragorn drives the enemy towards Pelargir and Theoden camps under Minrimmon while Faramir has no option but to retreat to the Causeway Forts. Midway through March is when we find heated action on the battle front as well as in the story of Frodo and Sam. The Return of the King continues the story of Frodo and Sam after Frodo is captured by the Orcs of Cirith Ungol (March 13). This is the same day in which the Pelennor is overrun, Faramir is wounded and Aragorn reaches Pelargir. The next day, Sam finds Frodo in the tower.Minas Tirith suffers under siege and on March 15 (which we might identify as the "Ides of March") the side of good suffers several blows: The Witch-King finally breaks down the walls of the city (Minas Tirith); Denethor is unsuccessful in murdering his wounded son, though he is successful in burning himself to death on his funeral pyre; Lorien is assaulted for a second time; and Theoden is slain in battle. If there is any hope remaining, as Gandalf notes, it is with Frodo, Sam and the Ring. On this day of battle, Sam and Frodo escape from the tower, disguised as orcs. This disguise has a negative consequence when the hobbits are apprehended by orcs later on and presumed to be mutinous orc-soldiers‹but at least their true identity is hidden, and the two hobbits eventually escape from the ranks of the orc army (March 18, 19). By the time of this second escape, the commanders have debated ("The Last Debate") and the Battle of Dale has been fought. King Brand and King Dain Ironfoot are both killed. Meanwhile, Shagrat (an orc) presents Frodo's cloak, mail-shirt, and sword to Barad-dur. If March 10 was "the Dawnless Day," March 22 is "the dreadful nightfall." This is when Lorien is assaulted for a third time and deep in the realm of Mordor, Frodo and Sam are forced to leave the road and head due south‹towards Mount Doom. On the 18th, Aragorn and the Host of the West marched from Minas Tirith and on the 23rd, they pass through Ithilien.Out of sympathy, Aragorn releases some of his soldiers from their duty, as they are without hope and faint-hearted. Only the bravest remain with him. Victory comes with Frodo and Sam's success: they reach Mount Doom on March 24, and the following day, marks the scene in which Frodo is about to complete his mission, only the evil power of the Ring overcomes his good intentions. Frodo suddenly feels compelled to keep the Ring for himself. As Sauron realizes that his Eye has been diverted from the true threat, his evil power rushes towards Mount Doom to make an end of Frodo and Sam. Gollum reappears after a long absence and successful rips the Ring away from (invisible) Frodo, tearing Frodo's finger off in the process. Gollum's wrestling sets him off-balance, however, and he falls into the Cracks of Doom, destroying the Ring in the process.An eagle rescues Frodo and Sam, returning them to the company of Gandalf, Pippin and the others. The power of Sauron has been destroyed and only comparatively minor and administrative tasks remain. Aragorn officially comes into the royal seat that was prophesied. When the Hobbits finally make their way back to the Shire, they find that the Shire has been altered for the worse‹it is "all very gloomy and un-shirelike." They find that a sizeable portion of the population has been jailed as they were unwilling to obey Mr. Lotho (a hobbit who serves as a self-appointed mayor) and his henchman, Sharkey. The hobbit successfully chases out the henchmen and Sharkey reveals himself to be Saruman. Saruman laughs with revenge because he has destroyed so many of the homes and gardens of Hobbiton. He stabs Frodo, but the hobbit is wearing a coat of mail beneath his garment and the knife does no damage. Frodo remains patient and forgiving and he refuses to strike at Saruman, but this only angers Saruman. Asking about Mr. Lotho, the hobbits learn from Saruman that Wormtongue (Grima) has killed him‹but Wormtongue is enraged because Saruman forced him to do this. Wormtongue then draws his own knife and cuts Saruman's throat. Wormtongue is shot dead with arrows. Saruman's body emits a grey mist and then it dissolves into nothing. The cleansing of the Shire does not take as long as Sam fears. One of the initial tasks at hand is the release of the prisoners who have been locked up by Sharkey and Mr. Lotho. Sam remembers the gift of Galadriel: a box that was filled with a grey dust and a small seed. Sam spreads this dust and in a year's time, it does the work of twenty years. The trees and flowers return, the children grow beautiful and strong, and pretty much everybody is happy. Sam gets married to Rose Cotton and they move in with Frodo, who still suffers his ailment. Frodo finishes nearly all of the writing before he passes the project on to Sam to finish the final pages. Sam becomes the mayor in Frodo's place and Frodo prepares for his departure with Gandalf to the shores of the Sea. Sam, Merry and Pippin ride along with them, and there are also the Elves, Bilbo, Elrond and Galadriel. All of the ring bearers must depart from Middle Earth and so they board the great ship and sail away. The three hobbits return to their lives in Hobbiton and enjoy the rest of their lives.