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LIFE

Timeline

1890

1892

    Born in Bloemfontein

    John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is born to English parents in Bloemfontein (Orange Free State, now in South Africa).

    3 January

    1894

      Brother is born

      Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien is born in Bloemfontein.

      17 February

        1895

          Visits England

          Arrives in England with his mother Mabel and his younger brother Hilary to visit family.

          April

          1896

          Father dies

          Arthur Reuel Tolkien falls ill and dies in Bloemfontein before he can join his family in England.

          15 February

          1896-1900

            Sarehole

            Mabel and her two young sons move to the village of Sarehole, near Birmingham.

            1900

            1900

            Mother converts to Catholicism

            Mabel Tolkien is received into the Catholic Church against the wishes of her family.

            June

            1900

              School-years in Birmingham

              Mabel and her children move closer to King Edward’s School in Birmingham, where her eldest son is now a pupil.

              September

              1904

              Mother dies

              Mabel Tolkien dies of diabetes. Father Francis Morgan, a Catholic priest, becomes the boys’ guardian.

              14 November

              1908

                Meets Edith Bratt

                Moves to a new lodging house with his brother Hilary. They meet fellow lodger, Edith Bratt, who is also an orphan.

                1909-1915

                Invents languages: Qenya

                After Nevbosh, after the Book of the Foxrook (1909), he keeps on inventing new languages such as Qenya: after new developments in 1914, the language is recorded in the 1915 Qenyaqetsa.

                1910

                1910

                  Discovers sagas & the Kalevala

                  Reads the Icelandic sagas and the Finnish Kalevala in translation.

                  1910-1916

                  Writes poetry

                  He writes many poems; some like ‘The Voyage of Éarendel the Evening Star, (Sep 1914) are related to his burgeoning mythology. A volume of poetry is rejected by a publisher in 1916.

                  1911

                    Foundation of the TCBS

                    Becomes part of the Tea Club & Barrovian Society, a group formed at school with his friends Chris Wiseman, Rob Gilson and Geoffrey Smith. The four of them meet for the last time in September 1915. Gilson and Smith are killed in action in 1916.

                    1911

                    Holiday in Switzerland

                    During the summer, before starting at university, he goes on a walking tour in the Swiss Alps, with a group that includes his brother Hilary and his aunt Jane Neave.

                    1911-1915

                      Student in Oxford

                      Studies Classics at Exeter College, Oxford, later changing to the English course in 1913.

                      1912

                      ‘The Bloodhound, the Chef and the Suffragette’

                      Writes (and plays the lead role in) the comic play, ‘The Bloodhound, the Chef and the Suffragette’, as part of family festivities.

                      Christmas

                      1913

                        Trip to France

                        Employed as a tutor for three Catholic Mexican boys, he accompanies them to Paris and Brittany with their two aunts.

                        July-August

                        1914

                        ‘The Story of Kullervo’

                        Rewrites the story of Kullervo from the Kalevala. Influenced by William Morris, the story is a mixture of prose and poetry.

                        1915

                          Graduates

                          Completes his studies and is awarded a first class honours degree in English.

                          June

                          1915

                          Enlists in army

                          Enlists as an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and by May 1916 completes specialist training in signalling.

                          1916

                            Wedding

                            Marries Edith Bratt in St Mary’s Catholic church in Warwick.

                            22 March

                            1916

                            Active service

                            Sent to France in June for the start of the Somme offensive. He falls ill in October and is invalided home in November.

                            1916-1917

                              Writes the ‘Lost Tales’

                              Starts to write The Book of Lost Tales, a fiction in prose, partly rewritten in 1920 – and later published by Christopher Tolkien in The Book of Lost Tales, vols. 1 & 2 (1983-4).

                              1916-1923

                              Invents languages

                              Works on Primitive Eldarin and Gnomish (grammar & lexicon); makes lists of names used in The Lost Tales, and The Fall of Gondolin; works on Qenya pronouns.

                              1917

                                John is born

                                First son, John Francis Reuel Tolkien, is born in Cheltenham.

                                16 November

                                1918-1919

                                Oxford English Dictionary

                                Returns to Oxford after the war, and works as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary.

                                1920

                                1920

                                  Michael is born

                                  Second son, Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien, is born in Oxford.

                                  1920-1925

                                  University of Leeds

                                  Appointed Reader in English Language at Leeds in 1920; promoted to Professor of English Language in 1924.

                                  © Artemis, Leeds City Council

                                  1920 – 1925

                                    Writes Lays and poems

                                    Besides The Lay of the Children of Húrin, he writes The Flight of the Noldoli, a Lay of Eärendel and a Lay of the Fall of Gondolin…, and leaves them unfinished. The texts are later published by Christopher Tolkien in The Lays of Beleriand (1985).

                                    1921 – 1924

                                    The Lay of the Children of Húrin

                                    Writes the first version of this alliterative poem, later published by Christopher Tolkien in The Lays of Beleriand (1985).

                                    1922

                                      A Middle English Vocabulary

                                      This glossary, intended to accompany Kenneth Sisam’s Fourteen century Verse & Prose (1921), was not completed in time and was published separately.

                                      1923 – 1925

                                      Invented languages

                                      Compiles earlier work on Elvish into a Noldorin dictionary; also works on an English-Qenya dictionary, and a Qenya phonology and grammar.

                                      1924

                                        Christopher is born

                                        Third son, Christopher Reuel Tolkien, is born in Leeds.

                                        21 November

                                        1925

                                        Professor at Oxford

                                        Elected Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.

                                        1925

                                          Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

                                          Publishes an edition of the Middle-English poem with his colleague at Leeds, E.V. Gordon.

                                          1926

                                          Meets C.S. Lewis

                                          C.S. Lewis, a Fellow and tutor in English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford becomes a lifelong friend.

                                          1926

                                            Beowulf

                                            Completes his prose translation of Beowulf but it is not published until 2015.

                                            1929

                                            Priscilla is born

                                            Fourth child and only daughter, Priscilla Mary Reuel Tolkien, is born in Oxford.

                                            18 June

                                            1930

                                            1935

                                              Francis Morgan dies

                                              Father Francis Xavier Morgan, his former guardian and ‘second father’ dies aged 78.

                                              11 June

                                              1936

                                              Songs for the Philologists

                                              Booklet of poems, privately printed at University College, London, containing thirteen poems by Tolkien written to amuse his students at Leeds.

                                              1936

                                                Beowulf lecture

                                                Delivers, ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’, the Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture at the British Academy.

                                                25 November

                                                1937

                                                The Hobbit

                                                His first work of fiction is published by George Allen & Unwin, with illustrations and maps by the author.

                                                21 September

                                                1937-1955

                                                  Writes The Lord of the Rings

                                                  Starts writing a sequel to The Hobbit in December 1937. The book is eventually published in three volumes, 1954-55.

                                                  1939

                                                  ‘On Fairy-Stories’

                                                  Delivers, ‘On Fairy-Stories’, the Andrew Lang Lecture at the University of St. Andrews. The lecture is later published in Essays Presented to Charles Williams (1947).

                                                  8 March

                                                  1939-1945

                                                    Second World War

                                                    Takes part in the civil defence in Oxford as an Air Raid Warden. 

                                                    His son Michael trains as an anti-aircraft gunner and defends aerodromes during the Battle of Britain.

                                                    His son Christopher trains as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force.

                                                    1940

                                                    1940-1950

                                                    The Notion Club Papers

                                                    Writes The Notion Club Papers. This unfinished tale is published after his death in Sauron Defeated (1992).

                                                    1945

                                                      ‘Leaf, by Niggle’

                                                      Publishes this short story, written several years earlier, in the Dublin Review.

                                                      January

                                                      1945

                                                      Merton Professor at Oxford

                                                      Elected Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Merton College.

                                                      June

                                                      1945

                                                        ‘Aotrou and Itroun’

                                                        Publishes ‘The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun’, a fairy-tale in verse based on Breton folk-tales, in the Welsh Review.

                                                        December

                                                        1949

                                                        Farmer Giles of Ham

                                                        This comic tale is published with illustrations by Pauline Baynes.

                                                        1940

                                                        1953

                                                          ‘The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm’s Son’

                                                          Publication of a dramatic dialogue in verse, based on the aftermath of the Battle of Maldon in Essex in 991.

                                                          1953

                                                          Sir Gawain lecture

                                                          Delivers the W.P.  Ker Memorial Lecture at the University of Glasgow, entitled, ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, later published in The Monsters and the Critics (1983).

                                                          15 April

                                                          1954

                                                            The Lord of the Rings, vols. 1 & 2

                                                            The Fellowship of the Ring is published in July, followed four months later by The Two Towers.

                                                            July and November

                                                            1955

                                                            The Lord of the Rings, vol. 3

                                                            The final volume, The Return of the King, is published.

                                                            October

                                                            1955

                                                              ‘English and Welsh’

                                                              Delivers the first O’Donnell Lecture, ‘English and Welsh’, in Oxford. It is later published in The Monsters and the Critics (1983)

                                                              21 October

                                                              1959

                                                              Retires

                                                              Retires from the University of Oxford and delivers a valedictory address in Merton College which is later published in J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller (1979).

                                                              5 June

                                                              1960

                                                              1962

                                                                Ancrene Wisse

                                                                Publishes Ancrene Wisse: The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle, an edition of a thirteenth-century prose work.

                                                                1962

                                                                The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

                                                                Publishes his first volume of poetry, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book.

                                                                1964

                                                                  Tree and Leaf

                                                                  Publication in one volume of, ‘On Fairy-stories’ (1947) and Leaf, by Niggle (1945). 

                                                                  In later editions the poem, ‘Mythopoeia’ is added

                                                                  1967

                                                                  Smith of Wootton Major

                                                                  Publication of a fairy-story based on ‘the bereavement of ‘retirement’, and of advancing age’, illustrated by Pauline Baynes.

                                                                  1968

                                                                    The Road Goes Ever On

                                                                    Publication of a song-book containing poems by Tolkien set to music by Donald Swann.

                                                                    1970

                                                                    1971

                                                                    Edith dies

                                                                    His wife Edith Mary Tolkien dies in Bournemouth after a short illness. They had been married for fifty-five years.

                                                                    29 November

                                                                    1972

                                                                      C.B.E.

                                                                      Awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year’s Honours List. Receives his medal from the Queen on 28 March.

                                                                      1973

                                                                      Dies aged 81

                                                                      Dies in Bournemouth whilst visiting friends.

                                                                      2 September

                                                                      1975

                                                                        Middle English translations

                                                                        Publication of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                        1976

                                                                        Brother dies

                                                                        Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien dies aged 81.

                                                                        25 January

                                                                        1976

                                                                          The Father Christmas Letters

                                                                          A selection of letters and illustrations from ‘Father Christmas’ is published, edited by Baillie Tolkien. Later editions are published as Letters from Father Christmas.

                                                                          1977

                                                                          The Silmarillion

                                                                          Publication of the long-awaited Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                          1979

                                                                            Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien

                                                                            Publication of a selection of his artwork, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                            1980

                                                                            1980

                                                                              Unfinished Tales

                                                                              Publication of Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                              1981

                                                                              The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

                                                                              Publication of a volume of letters selected and edited by Humphrey Carpenter, with the assistance of Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                              1982

                                                                                Mr. Bliss

                                                                                Publication of a children’s story, written and illustrated by the author.

                                                                                1983

                                                                                The Book of Lost Tales, I

                                                                                Publication of volume 1 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                1983

                                                                                  The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays

                                                                                  Publication of a collection of essays edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                  1984

                                                                                  The Book of Lost Tales, II

                                                                                  Publication of volume 2 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                  1985

                                                                                    The Lays of Beleriand

                                                                                    Publication of volume 3 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                    1986

                                                                                    The Shaping of Middle-earth

                                                                                    Publication of volume 4 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                    1987

                                                                                      The Lost Road

                                                                                      Publication of volume 5 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                      1988

                                                                                      The Return of the Shadow

                                                                                      Publication of volume 6 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                      1989

                                                                                        The Treason of Isengard

                                                                                        Publication of volume 7 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        1990

                                                                                        1990

                                                                                        The War of the Ring

                                                                                        Publication of volume 8 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        1992

                                                                                        Sauron Defeated

                                                                                        Publication of volume 9 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        1993

                                                                                        Morgoth’s Ring

                                                                                        Publication of volume 10 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        1994

                                                                                        The War of the Jewels

                                                                                        Publication of volume 11 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        1995

                                                                                        Artist and Illustrator

                                                                                        Publication of J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, edited by Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull.

                                                                                        1996

                                                                                        The Peoples of Middle-earth

                                                                                        Publication of volume 12 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        1998

                                                                                        Roverandom

                                                                                        Publication of a children’s story edited by Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond.

                                                                                        2000

                                                                                        2007

                                                                                        The Children of Húrin

                                                                                        Publication of a standalone tale from the legendarium, edited by Christopher Tolkien

                                                                                        2009

                                                                                        The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún

                                                                                        Publication of two long poems inspired by the Norse legends and edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        2013

                                                                                        The Fall of Arthur

                                                                                        Publication of an unfinished verse rendering of the legend of King Arthur, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        2014

                                                                                        Beowulf

                                                                                        Publication of Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        2015

                                                                                        The Story of Kullervo

                                                                                        Publication of one of his earliest works, adapted from the Finnish Kalevala and edited by Verlyn Flieger.

                                                                                        2017

                                                                                        Beren and Lúthien

                                                                                        Publication of the different versions of the tale of Beren and Lúthien from the Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien.

                                                                                        2018

                                                                                        The Fall of Gondolin

                                                                                        Publication of one of the earliest tales of Middle-earth, illustrated by Alan Lee and edited by Christopher Tolkien.