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The Tolkien Timeline

Because so much of the focus has been on his two most famous literary works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien appears to the casual reader as nothing more than an author of fantasy literature. He was, however, a very distinquished linguist and scholar. This compilation is a chronological list of important events relating to Tolkien's life, career, and scholarly pursuits, and attempts to provide a more clear picture of this astounding man.

The Tolkien Timeline, despite being started more than a year ago, is in its infancy, and as such is still very much incomplete. As time permits, it will become more accurate and complete. If you have comments or suggestions for references, feel free to let me know. My email address is

Last Update: October 24, 1995
Late 1850's
Arthur Reuel Tolkien is born.
January 1870
Mabel Suffield is born
April 16, 1891
Mabel Suffield and Arthur Reuel Tolkien are married at the Cape Town Cathedral in Bloemfontien, South Africa
January 3, 1892
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa
January 31, 1892
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is christened in the Bloemfontein Cathedral
February 17, 1894
Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien, younger brother to JRRT, is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa
April 1895
Mabel Tolkien boards the SS Guelph and returns to Birmingham, England with her two children, John and Hilary. Arhtur Tolkien remains in South Africa with plans to join his family when time permits.
February 15, 1896
Arthur Tolkien dies in Bloemfontien, South Africa, as a result of a severe hemorrhage suffered the previous day. He had been sick for many months with rheumatic fever, and never made the trip to Birmingham to see his family.
Mabel Tolkien moves her family from Birmingham to the hamlet of Sarehole.
January 21
Edith Bratt is born in Gloucester.
Autumn JRRT, at the age of 7, takes the entrance exam for King Edwards School, but fails to obtain a place.
June -- Mabel Tolkien and her sister May Incledon are received into the Church of Rome, bringing about the wrath and opposition of their strongly Baptist relatives.
September -- Tolkien retakes the entrance exam for King Edward's, and is accepted.
Late 1900 -- The J.R.R. Tolkien's move from Sarehole to Moseley to be closer to Birmingham and King Edwards School.
The J.R.R. Tolkien's move again, from Moseley to a small villa behind King's Heath Station.
Early 1902
Mabel Tolkien again moves her family, from King's Heath to a house in Edgbaston next door to the Birmingham Oratory and the Grammar School of St. Philip. To save money, Mabel removes the boys from King Edwards and enrolls them in St. Philips.
Autumn 1903
JRRT wins a Foundation Scholarship to King Edwards, and returns there to continue his studies.
November 14
Mabel Tolkien, age 34, dies after spending six days in a diabetic coma
Ronald & Hilary move in with their Aunt, Beatrice Suffield
Late 1904, Early 1905
After the death of Tolkien's mother, the guardianship of he and Hilary is taken over by Father Francis Xavier Morgan, a priest of the Birmingham Oratory
Early 1908
Ronald and Hilary move to 37 Duchess Road, behind the Birmingham Oratory, into a room let by a Mrs. Faulkner.
J.R.R Tolkien begins his first term at Oxford
December 17, 1910
Tolkien is awarded an Open Classical Exhibition to Exeter College
Tolkien takes the Honours Moderations exams
Awarded First Class Honours degree in English Language and Literature
Commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers
March 22, 1916
John Ronald Reuel Tolkein marries Edith Bratt
June 1916
Tolkien is assigned to the Lancashire Fusiliers and sent to France where he sees some action in Somme as second Lieutenant. Returns to England suffering from shell shock.
Birth of J.R.R. Tolkien's first son John
Tolkien works as an assistant on the Oxford English Dictionary for two years

Birth of J.R.R. Tolkien's second son Michael
Tolkien begins teaching at the University of Leeds as Reader in the English Language
Tolkien becomes Professsor of English Language at Leeds
Birth of third son Christopher
Tolkien moves to Oxford, where he serves as Rawlingson Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College for the next 24 years
Tolkien and E.V. Gordon publish their translation of Sir Gawain and the Greene Knight
Tolkien meets C.S. Lewis and the two enter into a lifelong friendship
Tolkien's forth child, Priscilla, is born
c. 1933
JRRT first begins telling his children of a funny little creature named Bilbo
Tolkien gives W.P. Ker lecture at Glasgow University
Tolkien completes The Hobbit
Tolkien delivers his address "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" before the British Association
The Hobbit is published, and Tolkien begins working on the "sequel"
1938 - 1939
Tolkien writes "Leaf by Niggle"
Tolkien delivers his lecture "On Fairy-Stories"
Tolkien becomes Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford; a position he holds until his retirement in 1959
"Leaf by Niggle" is published in The Dublin Review, a scholarly Catholic journal
"Leaf by Niggle" is published
The Lord of the Rings is completed
Farmer Giles of Ham is published
The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, the first two portions of The Lord of the Rings, are published
The Return of the King, the final portion of The Lord of the Rings, is published
Tolkien was to travel to the United States to accept honorary degrees from Marquette, Harvard, and several other universities, and to deliver a series of addresses. The trip was cancelled due to the ill health of his wife Edith. Tolkien never made the trip before his death in 1973.
Tolkien retires his professorship at Oxford
Tolkien was a collaborator in the translation of the Jerusalem Bible from the French (he did Job)
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is published
"Leaf by Niggle" and "On Fairy Stories" are published together in a single edition called Tree and Leaf
Publication of American paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings
Smith of Wotton Major and The Road Goes Ever On are published
The Tolkien family moves to Poole near Bournemouth
November 29, 1971
Edith Tolkien dies after a short, but severe, illness attributed to an inflamed gall-bladder
Tolkien returns to Oxford
Receives CBE from the Queen
September 2, 1973
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien dies at the age of eighty-one in a private hospital in Bournemouth
Silmarillion published posthumously (final editing was completed by his son Christopher)
April 12, 1994
Twenty-one years after Tolkien's death, Darryl Friesen begins comprising a list of important events in the life and career of J. R. R. Tolkien

Here you can find pages concerning J.R.R. Tolkien's life, work, what other people said about him and his books...
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