Tolkien: The story of his life and inspirations

As you might guess, I love stories about writers and how they eventually came to produce their works. Along these lines, I can highly recommend the movie Tolkien, a 2019 American biographical film about the early life of English professor J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as well as many notable academic works.

This is a beautifully composed and filmed, sensitive presentation on the lives of four young men who enthusiastically went to fight World War I, and how only two of them came home again. Starting from Tolkien’s poverty-stricken beginnings, he lived with his widowed mother until he found her dead one day. He then was taken in by a kindly rich woman who found a way to send him to college. Tolkien struggles there, but attracts the attention of a prominent philology professor, when Tolkien realizes that language is his true passion. By chance, that kindly rich woman also adopted a girl named Edith, who would figure prominently in Tolkien’s life.

The scenes from the battle of the Somme in France are so powerfully presented and filmed. The excitement of the young men to go fight a war are so skillfully juxtapositioned with the realities of trench warfare. In fact everything about this film is well-thought out and presented.

Edith and Tolkien

While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a resurgence of this genre. Eventually Tolkien came to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy writing and more specifically “high fantasy.”

Personal note: I have never been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. I did not read his books and I walked out of the first film “The Hobbit.” I’m not much on fantasy, but I love this film about Tolkien’s life. Mike has tried to encourage my interest in fantasy stories. Perhaps I’ll try again with the film “The Hobbit.”