J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography


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The authorized biography of the creator of Middle-earth. In the decades since his death in September 1973, millions have read THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books. Born in South Africa in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood and brought up in near-poverty. He served in the first World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he returned to the academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford where he was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and the other writers known as The Inklings.

Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while grading essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' -- and worldwide renown awaited him.

Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618057023
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 06/06/2000
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 103,694
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Humphrey Carpenter, the author of THE BRIDESHEAD GENERATION and THE INKLINGS, among other books, was given unrestricted access to all of Tolkien's papers for his biography of Tolkien, J.R.R. TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY.

J.R.R. TOLKIEN (1892–1973) is the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. His books have been translated into more than fifty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"A panorama of vignettes done with poise and exhaustive command. A man emerges whole." The Washington Post

"J.R.R. Tolkien left his impress upon a whole generation as few recent writers have done ... an excellent biography." Newsweek

"Excellent." Newsweek

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J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure what the last reviewer meant when s/he said 'Is LOTR racist?'. I personally think it's not up to Mr. Carpenter to bring such a question up in a BIOGRAPHY of JRR Tolkien.

Besides that point, I find it thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable from the start to the finish. For one, Mr. Carpenter has provided many detailed information on Tolkien's life; two, he included quotes, excerpts from letters, and bits from Tolkien's diary to 'give proof' about what he wrote is precisely true. I don't think anyone else can write a more complete biography of JRR Tolkien than Mr. Carpenter. I suppose the only drawback of it was the fact that he didn't specifically tell us exactly why and how Tolkien could come up with such wonderful stories. But then again, like he said at the end, these questions are 'certainly unanswerable in a book of this sort.'

Anonymous 11 months ago
J.R.R. Tolkien was a devout Catholic. A fact that the biographer conveniently ignored. If you have read the New Testament you'll find a theme throughout the four books. Good vs. Evil, life vs. Death, kindness, temptation, resurrection, salvation and love.
irishdutchman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Tolkien since early childhood. So naturally, I have consumed much material by and about him. This biography was a pleasant blend of Tolkien¿s life events and his literary influences. For any who wonder how or why Tolkien wrote the stories he is now famous for, this is an excellent resource. This is no dry biography but rather a story of how a man, who had quirks and flaws, produced a masterful work that continues to impact readers of all ages. Humphrey Carpenter draws on all the pertinent influences of Tolkien¿s life to give you a portrait of one of the twentieth centuries most enigmatic and influential writers. If you only want facts about Tolkien¿s life, search him on wikipedia. But if you want to gain an understanding of the man and his myth, read Humphrey Carpenter¿s book and gain a deeper appreciation for the creator of middle-earth.
Arctic-Stranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tolkien taught philology, and wrote books. Not exactly the stuff of great biorgraphies, and Carpenter does not really take you "behind" his thinking, but overall this is an entertaining book. For hobbitophiles, it is a neccessity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Muglas More than 1 year ago
There are other biographies of Tolkien, but none are so close to the author himself or so detailed in the spirit of his work. This is the classic, and should be required reading for anyone interested in one of the greatest authors of the 20th century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this fine biography when I was a senior in high school. By that time, I had already become fiercely devoted to Tolkien's works. Tolkien's life, however, was as inspirational to me as his stories. Ten years later, I was a student at Oxford myself, studying literature. I had the pleasure of meeting Humphrey Carpenter there, who was giving a lecture on Lewis Carroll. I couldn't thank Professor Tolkien, but I was able to thank Mr. Carpenter for helping to change my life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Carpenter does a fine job of detailing the esoterica of Tolkien's quirky yet often quite pedestrian life (imagine Bilbo Baggins before the dwarves dropped by), from his birth in South Africa, through the early death of his parents, his life at Oxford and his attempts to grapple with unexpected fame in his latter years. Carpenter is illuminating in showing us some of the sources of Tolkien's inspiration. His devout Catholicism; his love of the English countryside; and particularly his profound fascination with words and languages. We come to see Middle Earth as necessary to house Tolkien's languages. A selection of photos is quite helpful in putting flesh on the legend of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, Carpenter disappoints by studiously avoiding evaluations of Tolkien's work. Carpenter seems to believe that is not his place, but failing even to include a good sampling of contemporary reviews of Tolkien's work leaves us still wondering about questions such as 'why are there almost no women in Lord of the Rings? ... Where is religion in LOTR?' ... And completely untouched: Is LOTR racist? This volume is a good starting point in understanding Tolkien's personal history, but readers wanting more insights into Tolkien's writing will need to find additional sources. I found ithe book quite readable, quite accessible, but all the details of English academe might make it too heavy for Tolkien's younger fans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admire Carpenter's declaration to not critisize Tolkien's works. He was simply respecting the wishes of the late Tolkien, and we must respect his decision. However, he did not suceed in not showing a bias, since he potrayed those that gave bad reviews to LOTR as meanies. However, we must give Carpenter some credit: it HAD to be biased! This book was only going to be read by fans of Tolkien and either his mythology or his works in languages. The details from childhood through his last years made the book interesting from beginning to end. I especially enjoyed the potrayal of his parents wedding and the 'Oxford life' chapter, where an average day was given step by step. In conclusion, If you want to know more about the development of Tolkien's life to show the development of his mythology, this is the book for you. However, One who had never read his Trilogy would have no clue what is going on throughout 2/3's of the entire book. I had read it twice, so I knew what was happening. However, now I am also inspired to read the Silmarillion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tolkien's story is not a sociology essay, it is a fantasy epic. There are women in the LOTR story: Arwen, daughter of Elrond the Elven king, Galadriel. the Elf Queen of the Golden Wood, Eowyn of Rohan, the niece of King Theoden plus Frodo's aunt, Lobelia Sackville- Baggins. There is no evidence of racism in Tolkien's classic. The reason that there are is no so-called diversity is that the story is inspired by Celtic and Teutonic myths and the myths of the Anglo-Saxons of medieval England. Middle Earth resembles the descriptions of the English countryside, the northern reaches of Scandinavia, Ireland and Scotland and its diversity is in the various creatures and peoples that make up the story. Any attempt to label it as racist or sexist is nothing more than propaganda by the pc-mongers who do not wish for any "euro" stain upon the linguistic and literary culture of the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Avara was born in a moonlit grove, the forbidden demigod child of a mortal and Zorgagroz. The child learned to lie alone, the world hunted her. One to bring this child back to Xtosk would have a huge prize. She bore back wings ane the ability to turn into a dragon. She had cosmic eyes and her name meant 'Spirit'. She wore boots of the Aqua-tree, the Celestial socks, and a black robe over all. She had the pendant of the RainbowSnake. Her life was spent running from her mother, her father, her step-father, and anyone else. She hid herself, never to show her face. She resembled a pygme dragon, as big as a chariot. She also has the Lunar gloves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I haven't read the book itself quite yet, but I want to, because I'm doing a report on him for my school. It's more of a 'dress up as an assigned author and do the research on him/her' deal, but I am so glad that I found this book! Cross your fingers in hopes I get an 'A'!!=^_~=