Wednesday, April 6, 2016

J. R. R. Tolkien's Inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer and University professor best known for writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa that was at the time an English controlled state. A few years after being born, however, his father died and he and his family moved to England. In his younger years Tolkien was exposed to many novels and did not have much interest in classics like Treasure Island and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but was more interested in fantasy stories such as Red Indian that shaped his interests for the rest of his life.
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Looking back at his childhood there are parallels between his real life experiences and the contents of his books. One of these first instances is as a child he would spend time with his cousins that showed him a language that they created. He would then go on to co-create another language and then eventually create a language all his own. Later in his life when working on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings he created another language to be spoken by some of the characters in his book. Another instance of his stories alluding to his real life adventures happens in The Hobbit. During one of his childhood summers he went on a trip to Switzerland where he and others hiked a long distance. Over fifty years later he recalled those memories and based Bilbo's journey through the Misty Mountains off of his own adventure.Another inspiration for his book came from his wife. His wife inspired the character Luthien and he even had that name engraved on her tombstone when she passed away.
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Besides his personal experiences, Tolkien had drawn a lot of his inspiration from other classic texts. When he became of age, Tolkien enlisted in the army and went off to fight in World War I. After several years of fighting in the war, he came back to England and got a job working for the Oxford Dictionary. While working on the dictionary Tolkien became decided that he would put together his own translated version of Beowulf. Tolkien was always fascinated with Beowulf stating that it "is among my most valued sources" when it comes to inspiration for his books. Tolkien also based some of the events and characters of his books off of Nordic mythology with Gandalf being based on the wanderer Odin. Although he was not the first person to write fantasy novels he is thought of as a great modern fantasy writer and is credited with the resurgence of popularity within the genre.


  1. I really loved these books! So glad that you did a blog post about Tolkien. I had no idea that he had actually created a whole new language; I thought most authors who used an other-worldly language just made it up as needed without completing it fully. This seems to suggest a great deal of linguistic genius in Tolkien. Not only did he possess great mastery of language in order to be able to write The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings--possibly the best fantasy novels ever written--but he was able to create a whole new language. That is just amazing to me. I wonder if Tolkien was always drawn to writing, if he began writing as a young boy, as many other skilled creatives did? Perhaps simply delving into other written works such as Beowulf and Red Indian were the starting points for his linguistic skill?

  2. J.R.R. Tolkien has such a fantastic following, it is impossible to argue that his is not one of the creatives most influencing our generation. I loved how you drew the parallels of his life from his texts, I had no idea Luthien was based off his wife, that was a heartwarming creative analogy. I have also always appreciated Tolkien's ability to balance reality and fantasy, by making his pieces simultaneously detached from reality, yet the characters real enough to be believed. Also his full creation of another language is just remarkable! I also wonder about his beginnings in writing, and if he had any record of the language-making process, as I think that would be very interesting. I feel he has done so many unique things, and is fully deserving of his fame, thank you for writing about such a great Creative.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I loved reading the Hobbit and the Trilogy when I was younger, however, I was never aware of Tolkin's inspiration for the books. Thank you for talking about the handful of made-up languages Tolkin either learned in life or created himself. The amount of work needed to create an entire language for a novel has to be immense. Furthermore, the amount of creativity need to create an entire world, as Tolkien and other fantasy writers have done in the past is incredible. It takes one creative person to come up with an idea for an entire new world. I appreciate you bringing up such creative works.

  4. I would hazard a guess in saying that Tolkien's books are some of the most well known works of fantasy. I, as well as millions of others, have greatly enjoyed either seeing the movies, or reading the original source. It's incredible to think that for the purposes of his books, he created entire languages. Rather than just create lines of a foreign language to fit as needed in his book, Tolkien went the extra mile and created an entire language. I think this speaks volumes to both his creativity as well as his dedication to his work. It takes a passionate writer to invent some of the things Tolkien did, just to create a more immersive world for his audience. I also found it interesting to hear about some of his inspirations. It's strange to think that some of the wildest stories and settings in a fantasy novel could be grounded in real life stories from the author.

  5. The way I went about seeing the LOTR movies was by force. Two years ago during a blizzard, my friends sat me down and forced me to watch all four of the movies, the last one being the extended version. For this reason, I am not a fan. However, I am able to see how creative and intricate the world of LOTRs. I can easily see how anyone could fall so deeply in love with this fantasy world. I found it very interesting to learn about Tolkien's life because it paints a better picture of where he got his ideas and how much of an intellectual he was.


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