Tolkien: before the Lord of the Rings series, a biopic about its creator lands on…

The Disney+ platform is including the film “Tolkien”, a biopic dedicated to the novelist of “Lord of the Rings” released on our screens in 2019, in its catalog! In addition to the work, here is a summary of the life of the British author!

“In a hole lived a hobbit.”

It is on these few words – now considered to be among the most famous in the career of JRR Tolkien – that the biopic dedicated to the legendary British writer, in theaters since Wednesday, ends. Worn by Nicholas Hoult and made by Dome Karukoskithe film indeed lets us glimpse Tolkien’s most creative years (and the shadow of his major works) through the many events that shaped his past.

His early years in the English countryside, his orphaned adolescence, his romance with the beautiful Edith, his budding love for words and languages, the creation of his very first club and the horror of the First World War…until on that fateful day when, without even realizing it, lulled by the laughter of her children, Tolkien began to trace for them the inaugural line of his most famous work, risking a timid first step on the still imprecise paths of what was soon to become… Middle-earth.

What’s next? Tolkien fans all know her and Dome Karukoski’s movie clearly lets others guess her. Nevertheless, why not sketch here the major events which accompanied Tolkien in the second part of his life?


After a first job at the Oxford English Dictionary where he devoted himself to the letter “W” of the Germanic alphabet, Tolkien landed his very first teaching post at the University of Leeds, in the North of England. He taught English literature there for 5 years, while devoting himself to writing his first works: mostly academic essays, but also the roots of a universe whose immensity he did not yet suspect.

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In 1925, and for the next 20 years, he returned to Oxford, and taught Old English at Pembroke College. It is there, by correcting copies of students (contrary to what we can see in the film Tolkienwhere he is with his family) that he scribbled on a piece of white paper the very first sentence of the Hobbit. A work that he first intended for his children (just like his Letters from Santa Claus), but whose exceptional success pushes him to continue his journey in Middle-earth.

Gradually associating the adventures of Bilbo and Gandalf with the gigantic universe that has taken shape in his imagination for a few years, he decides (under the impulse of the publishers) to offer a sequel to his story, and then writes the first two parts from Lord of the Rings (the creation of the trilogy as a whole will take him more than 10 years).

Patient weaver, meticulous architect building brick by brick these future monuments of literature, Tolkien nevertheless spends most of his time in the amphitheatres of Oxford, where he assumes his main function. Giving between 70 and 136 lessons a year (while his contract only requires 36, according to the book JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia) he is the delight and admiration of most of his students, to whom he reserves real “shows” often greeted with standing ovations, and despite a slight speech impediment which can sometimes make him difficult to understand.

Tolkien: before the lord of the rings series, a biopic about its creator lands on...
2019 Twentieth Century Fox


Whether Tolkien finds himself alone with his manuscript when he gives life to Frodo, Aragorn or even Gandalf, he makes it a point of honor to sharpen his pen on a regular basis with other comrades in arms and letters. The TCBS (Tea Club Barrovian Society) which he formed during his years of study with fellow university students and which we see very well in the film by Dome Karukoskiis just the first example of his inclination for clubs and communities.

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Thus, during his years at Oxford, he met every Thursday evening with his writer friends at the pub named The Eagle and The Child to sprinkle long literary discussions with hops. Among the Inklings (name that can be translated as “idea” or “hunch” but which begins with the word “ink”, that is to say “ink”) include Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, WH Lewis and his brother CS Lewis.

The latter, famous author of Chronicles of Narnia (also adapted to the cinema) counted a lot in the life of Tolkien, and in spite of some notable disagreements between the two writers, they encouraged each other in the design of their fantastic universes. As will be explained lewis in his work Surprised by Joyit was especially during a long discussion with Tolkien that he converted to the Christian faith: the central pillar of all his work.

As for teamwork, Tolkien also participated in the Nazi code-breaking program during World War II. An opportunity for him to put his passion for languages ​​and puzzles at the service of his country.

Tolkien: before the lord of the rings series, a biopic about its creator lands on...
2019 Twentieth Century Fox


A few years after the triumphant success of Lord of the Ringswhose three volumes were published between 1954 and 1955, Tolkien retired from university in 1959 and then devoted himself to his translation and writing work. Suspicious of his growing notoriety, he went into exile alongside his wife Edith in the seaside town of Bournemouth in 1968.

There, he resumes the development of myths and legends parallel to the story of the Ring and plunges back into the universe he had begun to develop even before telling the journey of Bilbo. Although he did not publish many works during his lifetime, Tolkien left behind him a veritable world of sketches and annotations when he died in 1973 at the age of 81.

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Among the many texts collected by his son Christopher and published posthumously, we find in particular The Silmarillonthe genesis of his universe, a rich and complex work between the pages of which hides a story that he had begun to sketch in the 1920s: the tender and grandiose romance of Beren and Luthien.

An impossible idyll between a young mortal and an elven princess, an ardent love that will later ignite that of Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Ringsand Tolkien fashioned from his own feelings for Edith. On the latter’s death, about two years before him, the writer had the name “Luthien” engraved on the tombstone of his beloved. Today, his own family name also appears there in eternal letters, engraved under that of his wife, and followed by a second name: “Beren”.

Sources: JRR Tolkien Encyclopedia / mentalfloss / The Gospel Coalition / JRR Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth / Mythopoeic Society

The Tolkien film, available now on the Disney+ platform!

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