127 years ago today, January 3, 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien came into the world in Bloemfontein, South Africa. After the death of his father in 1896, his mother, Mabel, decided to return to England with ‘Ronald,’ just three years old at the time, and his younger brother, Hilary. While it’s possible, even likely, that the family would have returned to England eventually, the loss of his father at such a young age, the move back to England, and the loss of his mother less than ten years later, propelled Ronald on an adventure that would take him ‘West of the Moon, East of the Sun.’
Tolkien’s adventures included meeting and eventually marrying the love of his life, Edith; fighting in World War I; attending and later teaching at Oxford; meeting, collaborating (and having a few pints) with his fellow Inklings, including C.S. Lewis; and, of course, creating and writing about the beloved realm of Middle-earth.
Today is a day for all of us to celebrate the life of a great man, and our love of the world and characters he created. As is the tradition every year, the Tolkien Society invites his fans to raise a glass (alcoholic or not, alone or with friends), to “The Professor.” Alternatively, you may want to celebrate by pulling something off of your shelf of Tolkien’s works (we all have one), opening it to a favorite passage (or two), and smiling in remembrance.
However you choose to celebrate, let’s all wish a happy birthday to J.R.R. Tolkien and the amazing, awe-inspiring legacies he left us.