On the 3rd January 1892 John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa where his father was managing a branch of the Bank of Africa (a British owned colonial banking concern).
When he was three his mother Mabel decided that the climate in England would be better for John and his younger brother Hilary Arthur Reuel so they returned while his father carried on in South Africa, but he died the following year of a severe haemorrhage as a result of rheumatic fever. His mother was to die in 1904 as a result of complications from diabetes. Therefore before he was 13 J.R.R. Tolkien found himself orphaned. This may well be why Frodo Baggins lost both his parents in a boating accident when he was twelve and like his creator was orphaned at the same young age.
The boys guardian upon their mother's death was Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory. She had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1900 to the disgust of many of her Baptist family. Possibly a basis for the separation of Bilbo Baggins from the Sacksville-Bagginses. However, one of the places he visited on holiday growing up as an oprhan was his Aunt Jane at her farm Bag End.
Of course he may well have just be another Oxford Don who was only known to academics of Anglo-Saxon, had he not in the early 1930s started to write a story about imaginary lands and races. Starting with the line "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." The book that was published on 21st September 1937, with the birthday of its hero being the 22nd it was always getting mentioned near my own birthday. This year of course Peter Jackson, who has already brought the sequel The Lord of the Rings to the screen, will be finalising The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to present to expectant audiences in December. The second part The Hobbit: There and Back Again is due the following year.
I shall probably not be alone this year is revisiting my first Tolkien book, and the others probably, in preparation for the film that I have been waiting for since the campaign to ensure that Jackson was selected to direct it.
But of course the best reason for celebrating J.R.R. Tolkien's Eleventy-tenth of Twelvetieth birthday is that I can of course show Gandalf's fireworks.
Of course as well as looking back we should also look forward, so here is that trailer which some of us can never tire of.