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J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

This article is about the book by Humphrey Carpenter. For the the book by Leslie Ellen Jones, see J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (Greenwood Biographies).
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
J.R.R. Tolkien - A Biography.jpg
AuthorHumphrey Carpenter
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released5 May 1977 (UK)
29 June 1977 (US)
Pages304 pages

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography is a book by Humphrey Carpenter. Originally published in 1977, it is the official, authorized biography of J.R.R. Tolkien.


[edit] From the publisher

The authorized biography of the creator of Middle-earth. In the decades since his death in September 1973, millions have read THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books.

Born in South Africa in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood and brought up in near-poverty. He served in the first World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he returned to the academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford where he was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and the other writers known as The Inklings.

Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while grading essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' -- and worldwide renown awaited him.

Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.

[edit] Contents

  • I. A visit
  • II. 1892-1916: Early years
    • Bloemfontein
    • Birmingham
    • 'Private lang.' - and Edith
    • 'T.C., B.S., etc'
    • Oxford
    • Reunion
    • War
    • The breaking of the fellowship
  • III. 1917-1925: The making of a mythology
    • Lost Tales
    • Oxford interlude
    • Northern venture
  • IV. 1925-1949(i): 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit'
    • Oxford life
    • Photographs observed
    • 'He had been inside language'
    • Jack
    • Northmoor Road
    • The storyteller
  • V. 1925-1949(ii): The Third Age
    • Enter Mr Baggins
    • 'The new Hobbit'
  • VI. 1949-1966: Success
    • Slamming the gates
    • A big risk
    • Cash or kudos
  • VII. 1959-1973: Last years
    • Headington
    • Bournemouth
    • Merton Street
  • VIII. The Tree
  • Appendix
    • A. Simplified genealogical table
    • B. Chronology of events
    • C. The published writings of J. R. R. Tolkien
    • D. Sources and acknowledgments
  • Index

[edit] Rejection of the first draft

In a BBC interview with Martin Wainwright in 2003, Carpenter confirmed that Christopher Tolkien rejected the first draft of the biography believing it to be a very boring to read. Carpenter assumed that this was due to the number of letters quoted.[1]

[edit] See also

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography


  1. "BBC Radio 4, Custodians of the World ", BBC News (accessed 13 September 2014)