Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, in 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a sick child who moved with his mother Mabel and his brother to England. His father, Arthur, died before he could join the rest of the family; Tolkien's mother died in 1904. The Tolkien boys were raised at Birmingham Oratory, operated by the Roman Catholic Church; Tolkien would remain a devout Catholic for the rest of his life. After studying Classics and English Language and Literature at Oxford, Tolkien entered the British army during World War I. In 1916, his battalion fought a fierce and futile battle in Ovillers, France. In 1925, Tolkien assumed the Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, where he taught philology, the study of word origins. Tolkien had always been fascinated by words and their etymologies; this passion had led him to create his own imaginary languages, languages which became the basis of Middle-earth, his virtually life-long mythological creation. Tolkien viewed Middle-earth as his attempt to give England a truly national mythology of its own. In 1937, Tolkien published The Hobbit. Its critical and commercial success led the public to demand a sequel. Instead of a true sequel, however, Tolkien wrote his epic novel, The Lord of the Rings (published in three volumes, 1954-55). It, too, enjoyed tremendous success, in Britain and around the world. Tolkien died September 2, 1973.
The Hobbit: Biography: J.R.R. Tolkien