6 Shocking Facts About J.R.R. Tolkien

Posted Mar 22, by Alison Stanton

Before The Hobbit could be published in Germany, Tolkien was asked if he was Aryan. He gave two very different answers!

Before the German publishing house Rutten & Loeing Verlag released The Hobbit in Nazi Germany, they asked Tolkien if he was of Aryan origin. In a letter to his British publisher, Stanley Unwin, he asserted that Nazism was “wholly pernicious and unscientific.”

He also said that he had many Jewish friends and was considering “letting a German translation go hang.” He provided two letters for Rutten & Loeing Verlag, and told his publisher to send whichever one he preferred. 

The first was a more “tactful” letter, and simply stated that he was. In the other more honest letter however, Tolkien writes; “If I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.” Naturally and unfortunately, the first one was sent.

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J.R.R Tolkien used the only car he ever owned to accelerate dangerously down the street screaming “Charge ‘em and they scatter!”

On top of other little things, J.R.R Tolkien was famous for his extreme dislike of cars. However he did purchase a Morris Cowley in 1932 and nicknamed it “Jo” after the first two letters on its registration. 

On a simple ride to visit his sister, he put poor “Jo” through quite a bit; she sustained two punctures and knocked down part of a wall. Some months later, he charged down a busy street on Oxford in order to get to the side street. He ignored all other vehicles and screamed “Charge ‘em and they Scatter”- and his prediction was pretty much correct. 

After some time however, he saw what the internal combustion engine and new roads were doing the landscape, and never took hold of the wheel again. I’m assuming that they didn’t have driving tests back them, or the instructor would have definitely said “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” 

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Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings using only 2 fingers!

The novel took him over 14 years to write. After he wrote the Hobbit in 1937, it wasn't until the mid 1950s when the first volume "The Fellowship of the Ring" was actually published. 


When all was said and done, the book was over 1200 pages that he typed himself! It is said that when he needed a copy of the manuscript, he didn't have the resources to make one, so he retyped the whole thing himself.


The craziest thing is that he wasn't a particularly adept typer, so he pecked his way through the 1200 using only two fingers!


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The Lord of the Rings isn't a Trilogy!

J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” is often erroneously called a trilogy when it is actually one book often published in three volumes! The Lord of the Rings is a single novel with six books and appendices. It is sometimes published in 3 volumes and people erroneously call it a trilogy. 

The reason for this was that paper was scarce and expensive at the time, so the publisher decided that it would be better to publish it in 3 volumes, so that they could recoup the cost of paper. 

The first volume, “The Fellowship of the Ring” was first published in Great Britain in July 1954 and in the U.S. in October 1954. The publication of the first volume began a problem that Tolkien continued facing with each volume published. 

The editors made many well-intentioned corrections that actually ruined what Tolkien had tried to write. Instead of Tolkien’s “elven” they would correct it to “elfin” or “dwarves” to “dwarfs.” Tolkien’s invented language was continuously “corrected,” something he constantly fought to get reverted back to his original writing. 

The second volume, “The Two Towers,” was published in Great Britain in November 1954 and in the U.S. in April 1955. The third volume was delayed, because Tolkien had promised in his first volume that he would add an index and full etymological information on the languages, especially on the elven tongues. 

In the end, there wasn’t an index in the third volume, only an apology from the publisher for the lack of index. Volume three was finally published in October 1955 in England and January 1956 in the U.S. 

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Frodo wasn't the real hero of Lord of the Rings… Sam was!

JRR Tolkien considered Sam Gamgee the "chief hero" of The Lord of the Rings. If you’re unfamiliar with The Lord of the Rings, it is a world famous story of the struggle of a group of people to destroy a powerful ring before it results in the resurrection of the evil Sauron. The “main character” of the story is Frodo Baggins, a hobbit (a person with large hairy feet and in short stature). 

Frodo is tasked with taking the ring to Mordor, the place where it can be destroyed. Frodo is joined by his gardener, Samwise Gamgee. Throughout the course of the story, it might seem obvious that the main character and carrier of the ring is the story’s hero. J. R. R. Tolkien, the author, saw things differently though. Tolkien claimed that Sam was the true hero of the story. 

To be fair, the claim holds some merit. Sam did beat a man eating giant spider in single combat, storm a tower full of orcs on his own, resist the temptation of the ring, and carry Frodo up the side of a volcano essentially carrying the fate of the world on his back- all while suffering from starvation and dehydration. So it seems to stand to reason.

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\"\" The authors of The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were good friends.

In fact, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis became friends long before either man had become famous! Their initial meeting in 1931 would prove to have a direct influence on both their literary careers and the rest of their lives. The two men went out with a third companion for a late-night stroll around Oxford’s campus which developed into an argument about religion that nearly lasted until morning. In addition to teaching at Oxford, the pair had several shared interests, including Anglo-Saxon verse, Icelandic sagas, and a general love of the culture of “the North.”

Their friendship really took off a year later when Tolkien invited Lewis to join a literary group known as “the Coalbiters.” The group got together every week to read Icelandic epics in the original Old Norse language. These meetings inevitably led to a perusal of Tolkien’s pet writing projects by Lewis, and vice versa. The timing could not have been much better, as both men were experiencing sweeping self-doubts about their respective writing abilities at the time, and may have otherwise kept their writing a private hobby. Tolkien having a hand in Lewis’s return to Christianity bore its fruit in the Narnia series, and in return, Lewis prodded Tolkien relentlessly until he completed The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

It could easily be said that neither author would have earned the reputation they have today if not for their shared friendship. But did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien even based one of his characters on C.S. Lewis? Treebeard, the leader of the walking trees known as “Ents,” shares many of Lewis’s mannerisms, such as a booming voice and a constant throat-clearing habit. The deep camaraderie the duo shared is probably best summarized in a letter from Tolkien to his daughter following Lewis’s death in 1963: \"So far I have felt the normal feelings of a man my age -- like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.\"
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