Before They Were Famous: J.R.R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien

Due to the rapidly growing success of a major motion picture franchise, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series remains exceedingly popular with a contemporary audience. Loved by (literally) millions of readers worldwide, Tolkien has been long celebrated for his vivid imagination. However, fans might be surprised to learn about his less commercially popular contributions to literature.

An avid lover of language, Tolkien received an undergraduate degree from Exeter College in English in addition to earning two degrees from Oxford University.

He served briefly in World War I as a Second Lieutenant but, after being discharged, rekindled his romance with words. His first civilian job was at the famous Oxford English dictionary. An academic at heart, Tolkien dedicated much of his life to teaching English and Literature at universities, including his beloved alma mater, Oxford.

Beowulf Adaptation

Within the literary realm, he was fairly renowned, establishing friendships with other well-known writers including author of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis. He enjoyed a long career as a critic and theorist, introducing perhaps one of the most influential analyses on Beowulf to date. In 1936, Tolkien delivered his lecture, “Beowulf: The Monsters and Critics,” dramatically redirecting scholarship on one of England’s most historically significant poems.

While Tolkien remains perhaps best loved for his fictional works, his contributions to academia continue to influence scholars. They are a lasting testament to his profound understanding and love of both language and writing.

— Dominique Dusek, Assistant Managing Editor & Submissions Manager

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