John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Professor of English Language and Literature from 1945 to 1959. His fascination with languages caused him to invent several languages; later elaborating an entire cosmogony and history of Middle Earth as background. He did much critical work on Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He was one of the members of the literary discussion group The Inklings, and very close friends with C. S. Lewis.
The Hobbit (1937), intended for children but read by adults as well, achieved popularity. His most famous work was the richly inventive epic three-volume novel The Lord of the Rings (1954-55), which, though a direct sequel to The Hobbit, was intended for a much older audience, drawing upon the immense back-story of Middle Earth that he had constructed and that eventually saw publication as The Silmarillion and in other posthumous volumes. Tolkien at first thought that The Lord of the Rings would be another children's book like The Hobbit, but it quickly grew more dark and serious in the writing.
The Lord of the Rings was, judged both by sales and surveys of readers, one of the most popular works of fiction of the twentieth century. The influence of Tolkien lies heavy over the fantasy genre that grew up after the success of The Lord of the Rings.
Work published in JRRT's lifetime:
- 1937 The Hobbit
- 1945 Leaf by Niggle (short story)
- 1947 Tree and Leaf (essay)
- 1949 Farmer Giles of Ham
- 1954 The Fellowship of the Ring, part 1 of The Lord of the Rings
- 1954 The Two Towers, part 2 of The Lord of the Rings
- 1955 The Return of the King, part 3 of The Lord of the Rings
- 1962 The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book
- 1964 Tree and Leaf (On Fairy-Stories and Leaf by Niggle in book form)
- 1967 Smith of Wootton Major
Posthumous non-Middle Earth material
Tolkien continued to work upon the history of Middle Earth until his death. His son Christopher Tolkien with assistance from fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay organised some of this material into one volume, published as The Silmarillion (1977).
Christopher Tolkien continued over subsequent years to publish lots of background material on the creation of Middle Earth, beginning with Unfinished Tales (1980), The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981), and an essay collection, The Monsters and the Critics (1983), and continuing with:
The History of Middle-Earth series
- 1983 The Book of Lost Tales 1
- 1984 The Book of Lost Tales 2
- 1985 The Lays of Beleriand
- 1986 The Shaping of Middle-Earth
- 1987 The Lost Road and Other Writings
- 1988 The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.1)
- 1989 The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.2)
- 1990 The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.3)
- 1992 Sauron Defeated (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.4)
- 1993 Morgoth's Ring (The Later Silmarillion v.1)
- 1994 The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion v.2)
- 1996 The Peoples of Middle-earth