(born Jan. 3, 1892, Bloemfontein, S.Af.—died Sept. 2, 1973, Bournemouth, Hampshire, Eng.) South African-born English novelist and scholar. A professor of Anglo-Saxon and of English language and literature at Oxford (1925–59), Tolkien achieved fame for his heroic epic The Lord of the Rings
(1954–55), consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring
(film, 2001), The Two Towers
(film, 2002), and The Return of the King
(film, 2003). The Hobbit
(1937) serves as an introduction to the series, The Silmarillion
(1977) and The Children of Húrin
(2007) as “prequels.” Set in the mythical past, the richly inventive tale chronicles the struggle between good and evil kingdoms to possess a magic ring that controls the balance of power in the world. In the 1960s its popularity with young people made it a sociocultural phenomenon, and the release of a series of critically acclaimed films in 2001–03 renewed interest in the epic.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.