Jan 3 2014 9:00am

J. R. R. Tolkien Went into the West, but Gave Us Middle-earth

JRR TolkienIt’s January 3, which means that on this day, in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born. Undoubtedly one of the most influential authors of modern mythic literature, Tolkien spent his childhood as an avid reader and a lover of language. As a boy, he often preferred to invent new tongues himself or with friends. His youthful fancies informed his academic career, and Tolkien eventually became a professor of English Literature. In the 1930s, he wrote an article about the criticism of Beowulf that forever changed how the literary world academically viewed the poem.

But of course, the world remembers Tolkien for changing the fantasy genre forever. By penning The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien set a framework for fantasy literature that countless authors have attempted to recapture over the years. The creation of Middle-earth, from its languages to its poetry to its rich cultural history and varied peoples, was an astounding feat of imagination that no one had managed before with such detail and ardent care.

It denotes a particular status as a writer to have your name instantly associated with an entire genre, and indeed, it is impossible to call up the names of science fiction and fantasy authors and not include Tolkien. He intended with his works to create stories that entered our mythic consciousness, a feat that he accomplished in every sense. Though we may never glimpse the House of Elrond, Minas Tirith, or the peaceful Shire for ourselves, it is enough that he left his world to us, and that we will always be able to journey there… and back again.

1. pilgrimsoul
And alas we shall not see his like again. Although there many extraordinarily talented fantasy writers are out there no one will have his unique combination of life experience, passion for language, and erudition.
Mordicai Knode
2. mordicai

& let's not forget that the Professor has the most romantic tombstone of all time, rivaled only by "I am Providence."
3. Mountain-Dancer
Rest easy, sleep well J.R.R.T
Know the line has held, your job is done.
Rest easy, sleep well.
Others have taken up where you fell,
the line has held.
Peace, peace, and farewell ...
4. Dennis_H
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Rest well, Professor. And thank you.
5. Ragnarredbeard
@2, holy carp, I never knew that story until now. Looked it up just now and its the greatest thing. Love knows no time, no bounds.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
6. Lisamarie
I have so much to say, I'm not going to say it - Tolkien has been influence for me, not just in terms of entertainment, but in my emotional and even spiritual development. I'm just going to bask in the feels :)
Robert Garza
7. FunBob
I have read (and re-read) The Lord of the Rings and some of Tolkien's other works and I am always astounded at the sheer brilliance of the writing itself. Every word was carefully chosen and the flowing meter is always maintained; word after word, page after page.

We thank you for sharing with us, Professor.
8. ducky
The Professor has profoundly colored my world and influenced my love in literature and beyond. Thank you for introducing me to wonders, sir!
9. HC68
I first read the LOTR when I was about 12, and was instantly fascinated and drawn into the wonderful story, since then I've reread it (and the Hobbit and the Silmarillion) many times, and as I get older I find ever more levels and depth in his work that simply isn't present in most other authors, in _any_ genre.

Those levels are lingual, cultural, historical, philosophical, and moral. Other stories that I loved at that age have often note 'aged' well for me as I myself have aged and grown and learned, Tolkien's work gets better with that same process.
Orayelle Johnson
10. Orayelle
His works were almost too spectacular for me. I first read them when I was nine and I couldn't go back to the boring and the ordinary! The Silmarillion has got to be the world's most epic book ever written, and The Lord of the Rings is an equally unrivaled masterpiece! Kudos to you, J.R.R. Tolkien!

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