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Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century Paperback – October 21, 2014
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About the Author
Devin Brown is a Lilly Scholar and a Professor of English at Asbury University where he teaches a class on Lewis and Tolkien. He is the author of The Christian World of the Hobbit and Hobbit Lessons, both published by Abingdon Press. He has spoken at Lewis and Tolkien conferences in the UK and the U.S. Devin has published numerous essays on Lewis and Tolkien, including those written for CSLewis.com, ChristianityToday.com, SamaritansPurse.org, and BeliefNet.com. Devin earned a PhD at the University of South Carolina and currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
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Let it be said up front - if you think this text is a biography of Tolkien your likely to leave disappointed. However if you read this text for what it is - the tale of how Tolkien came to write <em>The Hobbit</em> and <em>The Lord of the Rings</em> than you will find a great read, full of interesting tidbits and striking biographical connections between the life of Tolkien and the world he created.
<em>Tolkien</em> was my first encounter with the author Devin Brown. Though a quick Google search showed me this was not the author's first foray into Tolkien having written a book titled <em>The Christian world of the Hobbit</em>. Further it appears that he also teaches a class on Tolkien and CS Lewis at Asbury. His comfort in the world of Tolkien shines through this book as he makes connections that might otherwise be missed and speaks at times of Tolkien as if he knew him. I appreciated the knowledge and perceived comfort that Brown brought to this topic it made the text very readable and easy to recommend to a wide audience.
I received a review copy of Tolkien had it read and reviewed within a day. The book is under 200 pages and is a very quick read. For some this will be a point of frustration as certain aspects of Tolkien's life that are covered in this book have the reader wanting to know more; Brown however stays on point using the skeletal biography given to serve as a means of better understanding of how the <em>Hobbit </em> <em>Lord of the Rings</em> came to be. Reading this work left me wanting to know more about Tolkien, and for that I credit Brown.
Whether he'd have me read another authors biography or he plans to write an in depth one I couldn't say.
What I can say is that Brown did well to write a book that in topic alone could have easily been bogged down and esoteric and instead wrote an approachable text that this reader enjoyed immensely.
I struggle as a reviewer to know what tidbits to include from the text. The brevity of the work tempts me to tell the reader of this review to just purchase the text and read it themselves. There are fascinating peeks into each phase of Tolkien's life from the tragedies of his childhood and the loving care of Father Francis, to his struggles as a student more interested in teaching himself ancient Finnish and other explorations of philology than studying for upcoming exams. Though the text is short there is a lot to be gained from reading it. I find myself though I read the works of Tolkien not long before wanting to reopen and take a journey through Middle Earth.
If you have read and loved Tolkien's works like myself and so many others than I recommend this text. It is well written and a great peek into the mind of a great author.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born January 3, 1892, not in England but in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State, the former colony we now know as South Africa. His father, Arthur, was manager for a branch of the Bank of Africa. When Ronald was four, his homesick-for-England-mum took Ronald and his brother Hilary (then two), back to England for family visits. While his family was in England, Arthur Tolkien died and was buried there in South Africa. This left the boys and their mother Mabel with family but what to do? Mabel was homeschooling for awhile but moved her little family several times in the Birmingham area, near schools she wanted the boys to attend. The boys loved living in the country and the scenery, woods and trees, a mill on a river, and other attractive scenes stayed in Ronald's mind when he began writing stores and eventually The Hobbit.
Schooling meant the need for scholarships. Ronald admitted he was not a good student, often studying languages he loved instead of what was required to gain scholarship aid. He did eventually attend King Edward's School, then Exeter College, and then Oxford. And suddenly there was World War I and he became a Second Lieut. in 1915. And in March 1916 he and his long-time love, Edith Bratt were married. Tolkien had to go off to war, where he caught Trench Fever and was very ill, and finally returned to Birmingham Hospital for recuperation. As his health improved he was able to begin teaching, first at Leeds College, then back to Oxford, where he remained.
There he met C. S. Lewis and the two professors-authors became good friends, sharing, critiquing, and encouraging each other on their writings. Thus, the Inklings group began again, meeting each week to talk and share their work. Still, it was many years before Tolkien's The Hobbit, accepted by Allen & Unwin in 1930, was published in 1937, and even more years before his The Lord of the Rings, accepted in 1937, was finally published in 1954.
It took a long time, but eventually The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings "were translated into more than 40 different languages, and became beloved, best sellers all over the world."