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 distinguished 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.

 Late 1850's : Arthur Reuel Tolkien is born.

 January 1870 : Mabel Suffield is born

 January 21, 1889 : Edith Bratt is born in Gloucester.

 April 16, 1891 : Mabel Suffield and Arthur Reuel Tolkien are married at the Cape Town Cathedral in Bloemfontein, 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. Arthur Tolkien remains in South Africa with plans to join his family when time permits.

February 15, 1896 : Arthur Tolkien dies in Bloemfontein, 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.

1896 : Mabel Tolkien moves her family from Birmingham to the hamlet of Sarehole.

 Autumn 1899 :  JRRT, at the age of 7, takes the entrance exam for King Edwards School, but fails to obtain a place.

 June 1900 : 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 1900 :  Tolkien retakes the entrance exam for King Edward's, and is accepted.

 Late 1900 : The Tolkiens move from Sarehole to Moseley to be closer to Birmingham and King Edwards School.

 1901 : The Tolkiens 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, 1904 : Mabel Tolkien, age 34, dies after six days in a diabetic coma

Nov./Dec. 1904 : Ronald & Hilary move in with their Aunt, Beatrice Suffield

Late 1904, Early 1905 :  After the death of his mother, the guardianship of Tolkien and his  brother 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.

 Early 1908 : J.R.R Tolkien begins his first term at Oxford

 December 17, 1910 : Tolkien is awarded an Open Classical Exhibition to Exeter College

 1913 : Tolkien takes the Honours Moderations exams

 1915 : Awarded First Class Honours degree in English Language and Literature

 1915 : Commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers

 March 22, 1916 : John Ronald Reuel Tolkien 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.

 1917 : Birth of J.R.R. Tolkien's first son John

 1919 : Tolkien works as an assistant on the Oxford English Dictionary for two years

 1920 : Birth of J.R.R. Tolkien's second son Michael

 1921 : Tolkien begins teaching at the University of Leeds as Reader in the English Language

 1924 :  Tolkien becomes Professor of English Language at Leeds

 1924 :  Birth of third son Christopher

 1925 :  Tolkien moves to Oxford, where he serves as Rawlingson Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fellow of Pembroke College for the next 24 years

 1925 : Tolkien and E.V. Gordon publish their translation of Sir Gawain and the Greene Knight

 1926 :  Tolkien meets C.S. Lewis and the two enter into a lifelong friendship

 1929 :  Tolkien's forth child, Priscilla, is born

 circa 1933 :  JRRT first begins telling his children of a funny little creature named Bilbo

 circa 1933 : Tolkien gives W.P. Ker lecture at Glasgow University

 1936 :  Tolkien completes The Hobbit

 1936 : Tolkien delivers his address "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" before the British Association

 1937 :  The Hobbit is published, and Tolkien begins working on the "sequel"

 1938 - 1939 : Tolkien writes "Leaf by Niggle"

 1939 : Tolkien delivers his lecture "On Fairy-Stories"

 1945 :  Tolkien becomes Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford; a position he holds until his retirement in 1959

 1947 : "Leaf by Niggle" is published in The Dublin Review, a scholarly Catholic journal

 1948 :  "Leaf by Niggle" is published

 1948 : The Lord of the Rings is completed

 1949 :  Farmer Giles of Ham is published

 1954 :  The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, the first two portions of The Lord of the Rings, are published

 1955 :  The Return of the King, the final portion of The Lord of the Rings, is published

 1957 :  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.

 1959 :  Tolkien retires his professorship at Oxford

 1960's :  Tolkien was a collaborator in the translation of the Jerusalem Bible from the French (he did Job)

 1962 :  The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is published

 1964 :   "Leaf by Niggle" and "On Fairy Stories" are published together in a single edition called Tree and Leaf

 1965 :  Publication of American paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings

 1967 : Smith of Wotton Major and The Road Goes Ever On are published

 1968 : 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

 1972 :  Tolkien returns to Oxford

 1972 : 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

 1977 : Silmarillion published posthumously (final editing was completed by his son Christopher)

 April 12, 1994 : Twenty-one years after Tolkien's death, Darryl Friesen begins compiling a list of important events in the life and career of J.R.R.Tolkien

Tolkien Timeline © 1995-98 Darryl Friesen