Born in Bloemfontein
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is born to English parents in Bloemfontein (Orange Free State, now in South Africa).
Brother is born
Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien is born in Bloemfontein.
Arrives in England with his mother Mabel and his younger brother Hilary to visit family.
Arthur Reuel Tolkien falls ill and dies in Bloemfontein before he can join his family in England.
Mabel and her two young sons move to the village of Sarehole, near Birmingham.
Mother converts to Catholicism
Mabel Tolkien is received into the Catholic Church against the wishes of her family.
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.
Mabel Tolkien dies of diabetes. Father Francis Morgan, a Catholic priest, becomes the boys’ guardian.
Meets Edith Bratt
Moves to a new lodging house with his brother Hilary. They meet fellow lodger, Edith Bratt, who is also an orphan.
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.
Discovers sagas & the Kalevala
Reads the Icelandic sagas and the Finnish Kalevala in translation.
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.
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.
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.
Student in Oxford
Studies Classics at Exeter College, Oxford, later changing to the English course in 1913.
‘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.
Trip to France
Employed as a tutor for three Catholic Mexican boys, he accompanies them to Paris and Brittany with their two aunts.
‘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.
Completes his studies and is awarded a first class honours degree in English.
Enlists in army
Enlists as an officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and by May 1916 completes specialist training in signalling.
Marries Edith Bratt in St Mary’s Catholic church in Warwick.
Sent to France in June for the start of the Somme offensive. He falls ill in October and is invalided home in November.
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).
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.
John is born
First son, John Francis Reuel Tolkien, is born in Cheltenham.
Oxford English Dictionary
Returns to Oxford after the war, and works as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary.
Michael is born
Second son, Michael Hilary Reuel Tolkien, is born in Oxford.
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).
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
Compiles earlier work on Elvish into a Noldorin dictionary; also works on an English-Qenya dictionary, and a Qenya phonology and grammar.
Christopher is born
Third son, Christopher Reuel Tolkien, is born in Leeds.
Professor at Oxford
Elected Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Publishes an edition of the Middle-English poem with his colleague at Leeds, E.V. Gordon.
Meets C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis, a Fellow and tutor in English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford becomes a lifelong friend.
Completes his prose translation of Beowulf but it is not published until 2015.
Priscilla is born
Fourth child and only daughter, Priscilla Mary Reuel Tolkien, is born in Oxford.
Francis Morgan dies
Father Francis Xavier Morgan, his former guardian and ‘second father’ dies aged 78.
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.
Delivers, ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’, the Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture at the British Academy.
His first work of fiction is published by George Allen & Unwin, with illustrations and maps by the author.
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.
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).
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.
The Notion Club Papers
Writes The Notion Club Papers. This unfinished tale is published after his death in Sauron Defeated (1992).
‘Leaf, by Niggle’
Publishes this short story, written several years earlier, in the Dublin Review.
Merton Professor at Oxford
Elected Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of Merton College.
‘Aotrou and Itroun’
Publishes ‘The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun’, a fairy-tale in verse based on Breton folk-tales, in the Welsh Review.
Farmer Giles of Ham
This comic tale is published with illustrations by Pauline Baynes.
‘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.
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).
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
The Lord of the Rings, vol. 3
The final volume, The Return of the King, is published.
‘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)
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).
Publishes Ancrene Wisse: The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle, an edition of a thirteenth-century prose work.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Publishes his first volume of poetry, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book.
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
Smith of Wootton Major
Publication of a fairy-story based on ‘the bereavement of ‘retirement’, and of advancing age’, illustrated by Pauline Baynes.
The Road Goes Ever On
Publication of a song-book containing poems by Tolkien set to music by Donald Swann.
His wife Edith Mary Tolkien dies in Bournemouth after a short illness. They had been married for fifty-five years.
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.
Dies aged 81
Dies in Bournemouth whilst visiting friends.
Middle English translations
Publication of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien dies aged 81.
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.
Publication of the long-awaited Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien
Publication of a selection of his artwork, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
Publication of Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
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.
Publication of a children’s story, written and illustrated by the author.
The Book of Lost Tales, I
Publication of volume 1 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
Publication of a collection of essays edited by Christopher Tolkien.
The Book of Lost Tales, II
Publication of volume 2 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Lays of Beleriand
Publication of volume 3 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Shaping of Middle-earth
Publication of volume 4 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Lost Road
Publication of volume 5 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Return of the Shadow
Publication of volume 6 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Treason of Isengard
Publication of volume 7 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The War of the Ring
Publication of volume 8 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
Publication of volume 9 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
Publication of volume 10 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The War of the Jewels
Publication of volume 11 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
Artist and Illustrator
Publication of J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, edited by Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull.
The Peoples of Middle-earth
Publication of volume 12 of The History of Middle-earth, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
Publication of a children’s story edited by Christina Scull & Wayne G. Hammond.
The Children of Húrin
Publication of a standalone tale from the legendarium, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún
Publication of two long poems inspired by the Norse legends and edited by Christopher Tolkien.
The Fall of Arthur
Publication of an unfinished verse rendering of the legend of King Arthur, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
Publication of Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, ed. by Christopher Tolkien.
The Story of Kullervo
Publication of one of his earliest works, adapted from the Finnish Kalevala and edited by Verlyn Flieger.
Beren and Lúthien
Publication of the different versions of the tale of Beren and Lúthien from the Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
The Fall of Gondolin
Publication of one of the earliest tales of Middle-earth, illustrated by Alan Lee and edited by Christopher Tolkien.