J. R. R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, but spent the majority of his life in Oxford, England - first as a student, then as a don (professor) at the University. He married Edith Bratt in 1916, and they had four children, all of whom shared his middle name, 'Reuel', including his daughter Priscilla.
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Tolkien is best known for his fantasy fiction. He began writing The Hobbit on the blank pages at the end of his students' exams, and it was read to his children as bedtime stories. But it was part of an epic fantasy far bigger than any children's fairy-tale...as was seen when The Lord of the Rings was published seventeen years later in 1954-1955. Tolkien died before finishing the Silmarillion, the great history of his imaginary universe. The work was under constant revision (and expansion) through most of his life. His son, Christopher Tolkien, was able to complete it and publish a set of 'histories' of Middle Earth using his father's notes and unfinished manuscripts. These now contain eleven volumes of material from J.R.R. Tolkien's notes on the languages, legends, and people of his fictitious universe.
In addition to being one of the preeminent fantasy writers of our century, Tolkien was a scholar of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse languages. He was a translator, critic, and philologist (classical linguist.) He worked as a translator of the Jerusalem Bible and wrote definitions and researched word origins for the Oxford English Dictionary. His works of translation and criticism include Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf and the Critics.
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J. R. R. Tolkien's writing, especially his fiction, has inspired a wealth of scholarly criticism, as well as films, parodies, artwork, and fan clubs. There are now guides and atlases to Middle Earth, literary magazines devoted to Tolkien and his contemporaries, yearly calendars, etc. He has of course inspired many of the fantasy writers of the late twentieth century as well.
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