J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is one of the world’s great storytellers. He lost both his parents by the time he was twelve. A priest of the Birmingham Oratory then took him under his wings in rural settings, as an orphan he was forced to live in crowded cities. From childhood he had been fascinated by languages, mostly for their beautiful sounds. Surrounded by urban squalor, he took refuge in his imagination and began inventing new languages.

Soon after his marriage, he was sent to France to fight during World War I, and contracted trench fever. After convalescing in England, he taught languages at Oxford most of the rest of his life. As a scholar he lived at the margin of society, nourishing society by his teaching and research. He died in a rest home at the age of eighty one.

He is best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, stories that began as entertainment for his two young sons, but developed into a vast work of mythology. As a devout Catholic intellectual, he felt that such creative use of our imagination was a reflection of God’s own creative activity, and eloquent proof that we are made in God’s image and likeness. Millions have read his books, which have now been translated into many different languages, and have rediscovered in themselves the childlike gift of imagination that belongs to all of us as icons of God.


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