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J.R.R. Tolkien was born in 1892, Bloemfontein, South Africa. After three years in South Africa, he returned to England with his Mother Mabel; unfortunately, his father died one year later, leaving him with little memory of his father. His early childhood was, by all accounts, a happy one; he was brought up in the Warwickshire countryside (many regard this idealised upbringing as the basis for the Shire in Lord of the Rings). In 1904, when John was just 12, his mother Mabel died from diabetes leaving a profound mark on him and his brother. After his mother’s passing, he was brought up by the family’s Catholic priest, Father Francis Morgen. Poster Cycling when nothing goes right go cycle. From an early age, J.R.R. Tolkien was an excellent scholar, with an unusually specialised interest in languages. He enjoyed studying languages especially Greek, Anglo Saxon, and later at Oxford, Finnish.
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The 100m final of the Seoul Olympics was one of the most eagerly anticipated races, and the race itself was a sensation with Ben Johnson storming ahead to win in a world record time of 9.79 s. Carl Lewis set a new American record of 9.92 s. Three days later Ben Johnson was disqualified for testing positive for steroids. It was one of the great shocks for the Olympic movement; Carl Lewis was given gold. Ben Johnson later admitted to long-term steroid use in a 1989 enquiry. In the 1991 World Championships, Carl Lewis was involved in a titanic long jump duel with Mike Powell. Both were in great shape and set personal bests. Carl Lewis jumped 8.83m, coming very close to Bob Beamon’s record. Then Mike Powell jumped 8.95m in a non-wind assisted jump. Someone had finally beaten Bob Beamon’s 1968 record. Later talking about the 1991 World Championships, Lewis said, “This has been the greatest meet that I’ve ever had.”
From an academic point of view, his separation from Edith seemed to do the trick, and a year later he won an exhibition at Exeter College, Oxford where he would study classics. John did not particularly shine in this subject and grew to enjoy the pleasures of University life, though his meagre income made it difficult to keep up with the spending habits of more affluent students. Uninspired by the classics, John was able to switch to his real love — English literature. He was a competent scholar, but a lot of his time was spent researching other languages in the Bodleian library. It was here in Oxford that he became fascinated with Finnish, a language which would form the basis for Quenya; a language he would later give to his Elves. Poster Cycling when nothing goes right go cycle. His love of languages remained with Tolkien throughout his life; in particular, he began developing his own languages, a remarkable undertaking. In fact, he later commented that languages lied at the heart of his Middle Earth creations. Tolkien said the stories existed to provide an opportunity to use the languages. Devotees of the book may not agree, but it does illustrate the profound importance he attached to the use of language.
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At the outbreak of the First World War, J.R.R. Tolkien decided to finish off his degree before enlisting in 1916. Joining the Lancashire Fusiliers, he made it to the Western Front just before the great Somme offensive. At first hand, J.R.R. Tolkien witnessed the horrors and carnage of the “Great War”; he lost many close friends, tellingly he remarked “By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead”. J.R.R. Tolkien survived, mainly due to the persistent re-occurrence of trench fever, which saw him invalided back to England. He rarely talked about his experiences directly, but the large-scale horrors of war will undoubtedly have influenced his writings in some way. Perhaps the imagery for the wastelands of Mordor may have had a birth in the muddy horrors of the Western Front.