John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa in 1892 to British parents. The family moved back to its native city of Birmingham following the death of Tolkien’s father in 1896. His new surroundings were a great influence on the future author and provided the inspiration for Hobbiton and the Shire.
Tolkien’s mother died when he was 16 years old and he was subsequently brought up by a Catholic priest, growing up to be devoutly religious. He served as a lieutenant in World War One, then pursued an academic career after the war’s end, eventually becoming Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. Here he befriended CS Lewis, the author of the Narnia books.
Tolkien wrote stories to amuse his four children. One of these, The Hobbit, was published in 1936. This was very popular and spawned the sequel The Lord of the Rings, published 18 years later. He died in 1973, an academic most famous for his works of fantasy.