[[And that punk Harry Potter can kiss my ass... This from Writer’s Almanac today]]
It’s the birthday of J.R.R. (John Ronald Reuel) Tolkien, born in South Africa (1892). He was a professor of philology, the study of the derivation of languages, at Oxford. He was fluent in classical Greek and Latin, Old Norse, Old English, medieval Welsh and Anglo-Saxon, and an ancient form of German called Gothic, among other ancient European languages. He was so interested in the structure of language that he decided to invent an entire language of his own. He even invented a new alphabet to write in that language, and when he began writing Lord of the Rings, he gave that new language to the Elves, calling it “High Elvish.” He later said, “I wrote Lord of the Rings to provide a world for the language...I should have preferred to write the entire book in Elvish.”
Many critics now consider Lord of the Rings to be one of the greatest fantasy novels ever written. But after the 12 years it took to write, Tolkien wasn't sure anyone would want to read The Lord of the Rings. He wrote, “My work has escaped from my control. I have produced a monster...a complex, rather bitter and rather terrifying romance.”
The book was moderately successful when the first volume came out in 1954, but it didn’t become a huge best-seller until the 1960s when American college students fell in love with it.