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Friday, January 4, 2019

When chosen, you must respond

“They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited 'first chapters'. I have indeed written many.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien

Born on this date in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet and university professor, best known of course for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  But had he not written these precursors to much high fantasy as we know it today, he probably would have gained equal fame for his scholarly work and teaching, including his definitive studies of the epic poem Beowulf.  His translation of Beowulf, completed in 1926, was not published until 2014, but his 1920s lectures, particularly “Beowulf:  The Monsters and the Critics,” had a lasting impact on Beowulf research and criticism.

J.R.R. Tolkien lost his father at age 3, then his mother at age 12, but by then both had instilled in him a lifetime love of books, the understanding and use of language, and a spirit of adventure that was to permeate his writing.   
                                      A decorated soldier in World War I, he developed a writing code and became a code-breaker for the English army.  His academic career began by working on the Oxford Dictionary, then teaching at Leeds and Oxford. At Oxford’s Pembroke College he wrote The Hobbit, which sat unpublished for many years.  Once it was out, he was encouraged to write a sequel and produced Lord of the Rings. 

In defining his drive to succeed he once said it is like a line he wrote for a character:  “You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart as you have.”

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