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The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

My copy of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Although Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein (1892), he only lived in South Africa until he was three years old. After his father’s death, his British mother took him and his siblings back to Britain.

It was speculated that Tolkien’s many adventures as a child led to him becoming a writer. Not only did he create “Middle-Earth” but also a language of his own that he used in his writing.

By the time that he published “The Lord of the Rings” in the 1950s, fantasy wasn’t a great seller. It was with luck (and the help of a friend in the business) that “The Lord of the Rings” was published as a trilogy.

It didn’t sell well.

Until Lady Luck smiled upon him and someone (without Tolkien’s permission) republished it in America.

Suddenly everyone talked about it. And the more people talked, the more sales took place. The English-speaking world was divided in two: those who’ve read the trilogy and those who were going to read it.

Tolkien’s other works (“The Hobbit” and eight other books) were immediately in high demand. [11 other books of his were published posthumously in 1973.]

As a result of this, high fantasy like “Middle-Earth” and even stories with paranormal aspects got a lot of fans. New doors opened for a lot of writers.

That is why Tolkien is known as the father of modern fantasy.

[“The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” was turned into various movies and computer games – many that are only about “Middle-Earth”.]

It’s wonderful inspiration to writers like myself who grew up with fairy tales, “Narnia”, “Middle-Earth” and “Hogwarts”. Now we can follow in Tolkien’s footsteps and maybe one day others will follow in ours…


This opinion piece was first published on Woes in Afrikaans. It won the Ode to Famous Artists completion (in the column category) which ran from 16 to 29 September 2015.

I wrote this piece because I felt that “The Lord of the Rings” and “Middle-Earth” couldn’t be brought up in a discussion without everyone having an opinion about it. Some love it. Some hate it. A few (the minority in my social group) just feel blah about it. But everyone has heard about it, even if they’ve never read it. Okay, some only saw the movies. Still, they’ve heard about it.

Some people even know this quote by heart. (Yeah, I confess to be one of them…) So why is this story (let’s just call all the “Middle-Earth” stuff one story for ease of reading) so popular?

The plotting? Sure, as a whole the story has a great arc. But chapter to chapter it sometimes makes even the most determined readers doze off. (Though that may just be pacing.) I personally found it confusing the first time I read it. Yet I still felt that I needed to know if Frodo was going to die. (It felt from page one that he should die – and in the end, he sort of did.)

The story never fails to entertain, instruct and surprise. Even if you’ve read it a couple of times.

Which is probably why it has such a great following.

And if someone hadn’t started people talking about it, that following wouldn’t have existed. Especially with the reported mediocre sales it was making in its first edition. How sad it would’ve been if fantasy hadn’t gotten such a boost – I might even have had to channel my inner Lois Lane in order to write.

“We never know how far reaching something we may think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.” – Bartlett Joshua Palmer

What are your thoughts on “Middle-Earth”? Do any of the other fantasy worlds mentioned have any place in your heart? Do you like fantasy, or are you a straight forward realism fan?

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