Tolkien was rich during his lifetime

125 years ago: Middle-earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien was born

It was January 3, 1892 when Mabel Tolkien gave birth to her first son in Bloemfontein, South Africa: John Ronald Reuel. He is to later create a globally successful literary universe and thus become one of the most famous writers of all time.

But Tolkien's mother could never appreciate her son's success - she passed away when he was twelve years old. But it was she who laid the foundation for his later career. She read him fairy tales and sagas and taught him Latin, French and German. Young John absorbed his mother's stories and was enthusiastic about languages ​​from an early age. Later he was even supposed to invent his own.

Growing up in the Shire 

John and his younger brother Hilary grew up in the suburbs of the English city of Birmingham. Sarehole Hill was green, pristine and idyllic - like the landscape in which Tolkien later settled his hobbits.

When Mabel died, her two sons came into the care of Father Francis Morgans, who was from now on the guardian of the two children. John stood out as a very good student. Fascinated by languages ​​and old English myths, he founded the "Tea Club Barrovian Society" with some friends, where they discussed literature and poetry. During this time, Tolkien also began to write himself - initially poetry. But it wasn't long before he invented the first languages ​​- something he would also do for his later novels.

Husband in the trenches

Published in 1937: Tolkien's fantasy novel "The Hobbit". It was not until 1957 that the book appeared in German.

Tolkien first studied the classical languages ​​Latin and Greek at Exeter College in Oxford before turning enthusiastically to Welsh. At that time World War I was at its height, and Tolkien's time at the university was not going to last long. As a 24-year-old he was called to the front in northern France - the marriage to his wife Edith was only four months young. "Leaving my wife was like death to me," he later wrote.

While many of his closest friends fell victim to the cruel trench warfare at the Battle of the Somme, Tolkien survived. He returned to Oxford and from then on sought the tranquility of simple life. Tolkien became a lecturer and later professor of Old English language and literature. He lectured during the day and wrote at night: on a fantasy universe with its own history, cultures and languages.

From professor of literature to author of the century

Originally intended as a bedtime story for his children, Tolkien penned "The Hobbit" chapter by chapter. The word "hobbit" had happened to him one day. He imagined the hobbits as small human-like creatures with fur on their feet who lived in caves in the green Shire. He also endowed them with some qualities that he himself had: a love of nature, simple food and an aversion to travel. But years would pass before Tolkien presented the story to a publisher. When "The Hobbit" came out in 1937, it fascinated readers of all ages. The publisher was inundated with letters as readers thirsted for a sequel. But good things took time, and so Tolkien took 15 years to work on the novel "The Lord of the Rings". After all, writing was his hobby, not his job.

Big box office success: The "Lord of the Rings" films with Elijah Wood in the role of Frodo

The fantasy epic "The Lord of the Rings" appeared in the mid-1950s - and made the British professor the author of the century. Tolkien became a cult. "The Lord of the Rings" alone has sold over 150 million copies to date. The film trilogy for the book grossed around three billion US dollars and won 17 Academy Awards. The film adaptations of The Hobbit were no less successful.

New film shows Tolkien's life story

Warner Brothers will film Tolkien's life story under the title "Middle Earth", directed by British filmmaker James Strong. Peter Jackson, who previously directed "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit", will also be involved in the production.

Another Tolkien book will come out posthumously in May. "Beren and Lúthien", the love story between a mortal and an immortal elf, is one of many works that he was unable to complete and publish during his lifetime. "Beren and Lúthien" was one of Tolkien's first stories - he wrote it 100 years ago. Both names are engraved on the joint tombstone of Tolkien and his wife Edith - they were married to each other for 50 years. Shortly after her death he wrote in a letter: "I never called Edith Lúthien, but she was the origin of the story."

The world-famous author died in 1973. But his stories still fascinate people today.