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Friday, January 3, 2020

Stepping Into The Unknown

“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 in South Africa on this date in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a 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.  Tolkien learned to read and write by age 4, Latin by age 6, and all about botany – the look and “feel” of plants – before age 12. 

A code-breaker – and highly decorated soldier – in the English army during WWI, he started teaching right after the war, ultimately becoming the youngest professor at Leeds.  While there he published A Middle English Vocabulary and a scholarly work on Sir Gawain the Green Knight and wrote a first draft of The Hobbit, which sat in his desk drawer unpublished for many years.

At Oxford’s Pembroke College he and friend C.S. Lewis formed a writers group called The Inklings, bouncing ideas off one-another about their writings.  With encouragement from his friend, Tolkien published The Hobbit and the rest is history.      In defining his drive to succeed Tolkien once said it was like the words he wrote for one of his characters.

“You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart as you have.”

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