John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
1892-1973. English writer. Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where his father, who died in 1897, was a bank manager, Tolkien was sent to England for his education and graduated from Oxford in 1915. After service in World War I, he returned to Oxford as a professor of Anglo-Saxon and English literature. He has been a gifted and diversified writer of scholarly treatises, essays, novels, poems, and a play. The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) are the works that have made Tolkien most widely known-the latter based on a series of myths of his own devising. A trilogy, the myths describe a cosmic war between good and evil in which the forces of evil are routed in a great struggle through courage and sacrifice. Peace and harmony are reestablished in the world order. Tolkien's work often reveals his enthusiasm for philology, legend, myth, and quests as a part of his fictional design. Like many medieval characters, Tolkien heroes are often engaged in perilous adventures that prove their moral strength. It is in this moral growth that there are often religious implications. Before he became a popular writer, Tolkien established his reputation as a serious scholar with critical studies of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925) and Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics (1936). He retired from active teaching in 1959.