Everyone with even a slight interest in the man behind The Lord of the Rings knows J.R.R. Tolkien became, and remained, a devout Catholic all his life. Don and Author, J.R.R. Tolkien’s early years provide hints as to why he took this scholarly and literary path in life. As to his success in these pursuits, little need be said.
The third book I’ve picked up, to learn more about this great Christian Author, is Humphrey Carpenter’s biography on J.R.R. Tolkien. More questions arose in my mind about the literary giant’s parents, and how their behaviors and decisions influenced J.R.R. Tolkien for the long term. I will detail the most obvious influences, as much for my benefit, as for any young person who has yet to learn about the Most Influential Fantasy Author of this age.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Early Years – Why Hobbits Enjoy English Countrysides
Soon after young J.R.R. Tolkien turned four-years-old, his father passed away from rheumatic fever. Therefore, his mother, Mabel Tolkien, was forced to take charge for her two sons, Ronald (as J.R.R. Tolkien was then called) and Hilary. After many months of staying with her family, Mabel finally found an affordable spot in Sarhole, the English countryside.
Author Humphrey Carpenter emphasized the strong impact this move made on J.R.R. Tolkien and his imagination. He went on to describe how young Tolkien and his younger brother would trespass on their neighbors properties, including local farms. Memories from these times must have influenced J.R.R. Tolkien in writing The Fellowship of the Ring. Or, at the very least, it influenced the film makers. Merely consider how Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took joined Frodo and Sam, as they travelled to Rivendell, from the following quote:
An old farmer who once chased Ronald for picking mushrooms was given the nickname ‘the Black Ogre’ by the boys.
~ Humphrey Carpenter, as found in J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Early Years – How Middle Earth’s Languages Were Born
Ever since Mabel first began to teach her sons, Ronald showed an enthusiastic interest in linguistics. Enthusiasm, and to emphasize an obvious point, GREAT aptitude. Word meanings, as well as word sounds, fascinated Ronald. And he brought this fascination with him to King Edward’s School, where he added on to his Latin, French, and English language skills.
To connect this with The Lord of the Rings requires no effort at all. Everyone who has read the books, and/or seen Peter Jackson’s movies, knows about the Elvish language. The language that J.R.R. Tolkien created himself. And, as I recently learned in my studies about the man, the Elvish language was only one of many. One of 14, was it? I will find out for certain later.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Early Years – Why The Lord of the Rings Contains Many Christian Values
In my last article about The Lord of the Rings, many readers made the assumption that I assumed Tolkien’s great work lacked in Christian principle and meaning. This is false, for I have read and heard the Holy Bible many times, and I have a fair understanding about what the Christian values are (though, Christian values in regards to Catholicism, and all the meaning behind it, I am completely ignorant of). And, having read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I can see where the values and principles apply.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s early years ended up containing much family drama, especially in regards to religion and death. Mabel Tolkien and her sister, May Incledon, both decided to become Catholic and receive instruction, around the time Ronald entered his school years. The predominantly Baptist Tolkien relations, and Mabel’s Unitarian father, were outraged. And much funding that Mabel relied on was suddenly cut.
Suffering both from financial hardships and diabetes, Mabel crossed over to be at peace with Our Father in Heaven in year 1904. She left Ronald and Hilary orphaned at the tender ages of 12 and 10. Thus, her passing solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s love for linguistics and Catholicism, and his love for her and all she did for her children.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Early Years – In Summary
I pray that I have done J.R.R. Tolkien justice, based on what I have written so far. I intend to learn a great man’s mind, and attempt to share what I learn with my peers. My apologies for upsetting many readers with my previous article. It surely was close-minded and presumptive.
Humphrey Carpenter has so far written plainly and comprehensively on J.R.R. Tolkien’s early years, and I can’t wait to read more! I see where humanity’s fallen nature affected the Tolkien family, but what more can we expect from people who walked the earth? I shall not cast the first stone, for I am not without sin.
Title picture as seen in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring, found at Movie Screencaps.com.