The Authorized Biography of the Creator of Middle-Earth In the decades since Tolkien's death in September 1973, millions have read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion and have become fascinated with 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 World War I, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he returned to academic life, achieving great repute as a scholar and university teacher and 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.Carpenter, Humphrey is the author of 'J. R. R. Tolkien A Biography' with ISBN 9780618057023 and ISBN 0618057021.