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J. R. R. Tolkien Biography

Tolkien family origins Most of Tolkien's paternal ancestors were craftsmen. The Tolkien family had its roots in the German Kingdom of Saxony, but had been living in England since the 18th century, becoming "quickly and intensely English". The surname Tolkien is Anglicized from Tollkiehn (i.e. German tollkühn, "foolhardy", etymologically corresponding to English dull-keen, literally oxymoron), and the surname Rashbold, given to two characters in Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers, is a pun on this.

Tolkien's maternal grandparents, John and Edith Jane Suffield, were Baptists who lived in Birmingham and owned a shop in the city centre. The Suffield family had run various businesses out of the same building, called Lamb House, since the early 1800s. Beginning in 1812 Tolkien's great-great grandfather William Suffield owned and operated a book and stationery shop there; Tolkien's great-grandfather, also John Suffield, was there from 1826 with a drapery and hosiery business. Childhood John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on 3 January 1892, in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province, part of South Africa) to Arthur Reuel Tolkien (1857–1896), an English bank manager, and his wife Mabel, née Suffield (1870–1904). The couple had left England when Arthur was promoted to head the Bloemfontein office of the British bank he worked for. Tolkien had one sibling, his younger brother, Hilary Arthur Reuel, who was born on 17 February 1894.[11]

As a child, Tolkien was bitten by a large baboon spider (a type of tarantula) in the garden, an event which would have later echoes in his stories. [12]

When he was three, Tolkien went to England with his mother and brother on what was intended to be a lengthy family visit. His father, however, died in South Africa of rheumatic fever before he could join them.[13] This left the family without an income, so Tolkien's mother took him to...


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