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The Real J.R.R. Tolkien (ePub)

The Man Who Created Middle-Earth

Hobbies & Lifestyle > Biography Military > Biographies P&S History > Literary Figures P&S History > Social History

By Jesse Xander
Imprint: White Owl
Series: The Real...
File Size: 9.0 MB (.epub)
Pages: 176
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765161
Published: 12th April 2021


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The Real J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created Middle Earth is a comprehensive biography of the linguist and writer; taking the reader from his formative years of home-schooling, through the spires of Oxford, to his romance with his wife-to-be on the brink of war, and onwards into his phenomenal academic success and his creation of the seminal high fantasy world of Middle Earth. "The Real J.R.R. Tolkien" delves into his influences, places, friendships, triumphs and tragedies, with particular emphasis on how his remarkable life and loves forged the worlds of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Using contemporary sources and comprehensive research, "The Real J.R.R. Tolkien" offers a unique insight into the life and times of one of Britain's greatest authors, from cradle to grave to legacy.

With so much talk recently about another Tolkien movie potentially in the works, it’s a good time to highlight this book. As it states on the jacket, ‘a great jumping off point for fans of his works…’ this book gives a huge insight into the man, Tolkien, explaining his formative years, friends, and family.

What I would say about this book is that it’s both well-researched and easy to read. There are black and white photographs included too which always helps the reader get a better feel for the subject. There are also diagrams of the Elvin language.

The fact that Tolkien not only entered into world-building for The Lord of The Rings, but also created new languages that scholars still teach today, tells us how invested he was in the story and the characters.

If, like me, you were/are a fan of the movies and characters from Tolkien’s books, then allowing this one to sit on the shelf next to them would be entirely appropriate.


For the Love of Books

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Nice read for all Tolkien fans out there.

As suggested by the title, 'The Real JRR Tolkien' provides an insightful view into the life of the man who created The Shire, Mirkwood and much more fascinating places.

NetGalley, Nidhi Sinha

Jesse Xander has done an excellent job writing the life story of the man affectionately known to many as “The Professor” and showing us the real human behind the beloved books. Do I still consider Tolkien as a personal hero after reading this? Yes, but he is more relatable. Like the flawed men and women of his Legendarium.

NetGalley, Joanna Arman

A very interesting read about the famous author. If you are a fan of his work you might enjoy this read.

NetGalley, Heather Michael

The Real J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created Middle Earth is a comprehensive biography. The Real J.R.R. Tolkien offers a unique insight into the life and times of one of Britain’s greatest authors, from cradle to grave to legacy.

Read the full review here

Annabel and Grace

This was a very interesting biography of J. R.R. Tolkien. I found it interesting how his writings were inspired by some parts of his life! I recommend this Tolkien fans!

NetGalley, Lauralee Jacks

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It's funny I've never really thought of Tolkien as a real person, he always just felt like the mythical characters he wrote about. I really didn't know much about him in real life so when this book became available I went for it. I'm glad I did because this was a really well done book about the man.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

I have not read any of the other biographies of J.R.R Tolkien and so this book gave me a fascinating insight into his life. I was intrigued by the mind which could create The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as they are so different from the normal novel. These stories have captivated readers for many years and been popular as films too.

The author gives us an outline of all the stages of Tolkien’s life and tries to draw out influences that may have led to the inclusions of certain aspects and characters in his stories drawing from his childhood, college days, family background and war service. I used to drive past Sarehole Mill in Birmingham often when visiting a friend and so knew that Tolkien spent some of his childhood there.

The book draws on an extensive bibliography including Tolkien’s own letters.

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Amazon Customer, Jayne

An interesting read into the life of Tolkien, and how it influenced the fantasy world he created. Well-written, fast paced and very engaging.

NetGalley, Krubha K

The Real J.R.R. Tolkien is a biography of the life and works of the man who created Middle Earth. I have yet to read The Lord Of The Rings series; having only read The Hobbit and now that I know more about Tolkien and what may or may not have influenced the world of Middle Earth I am intrigued to read the books.

I was very interested in Tolkien’s background knowledge of ancient languages and dialects and how this evolved through his time in academia. I also liked how the author linked events and experiences with details from Tolkien’s writing.

There are a few black and white photographs to break up the writing, they were just enough to leave me with some images in my mind of the author. I expect that diehard Tolkien fans already know most of the details from this book, but if you are like me and know the author’s name and very little else, then this book may be useful to read.

4 stars

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Rosie Amber

This is an excellent biography. If you have any interest in Tolkien's work then it is one you should read. I completely recommend it as it is informative, very readable and provokes thought.

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Blackberry Garden

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A biography into the life of the famous writer Tolkien, starting from his parents, boyhood through to adulthood. It looks not only at the man but at his stories too and their adaptations whether that be film or video game. Included too are photographs of the author, his books and manuscript.

Well worth a read.

NetGalley, Samantha Stroud

Jesse's book is like a biopic - concentrating on Tolkien's early life and work in creating the amazingly complete world of Middle Earth and its back history. Really, really fascinating - a must for all LOTR fans.

Books Monthly

“The Real J.R.R. Tolkien” offers a fascinating look at the author, and the influence Tolkien has on modern letters. It is a book worth reading.

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These books White Owl Books are always interesting and stimulating to read. Whilst I didn’t know much about the man before, it really was interesting to read about Tolkien but not just about him but his family, life,places, friendships and the people he used to get along with. For a man who wrote such good books it was nice to read some of his influences and where some of his ideas and thinking came from. This is a really good read and I fully enjoyed it, certainly a good one for the fans of the man, books and films to read.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

The Real JRR Tolkien by Jesse Xander is a readable account of the famous author's life and works. The reader is given fascinating insights into Tolkien as a husband, father, linguist, Oxford don, and illustrious author of epic fantasy tales.

NetGalley, Phillip Kang

This book delves deep into the life of Tolkien and gives us a fascinating glimpse into what shaped him into the beloved author.
The analogy between the different characters that appear in his work and his real life experiences have been presented very well and it felt like I could almost see him growing up and forming in front of me.
This was an easy, fast and engaging read and I would definitely recommend it to all who want a deeper dive into the legend's life.

NetGalley, Meg A

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The Real J.R.R Tolkien The Man Who Created Middle Earth is a comprehensive biography of the linguist and writer that takes the reader from J.R.R Tolkien’s formative years of Homeschooling through the spires of Oxford, as well as the romance with his wife to be along with life on brink of war, and onwards into his phenomenal academic success and his creation of the seminal high fantasy world of Middle Earth.

This biography delves into the influences of J.R.R Tolkien, from the places he visited as well as lived friendships, triumphs and tragedies, with particular emphasis on how his remarkable life and loves forged the worlds of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

The Real J.R.R Tolkien uses contemporary sources and comprehensive research, to offer a unique insight into the life and times of one of Britain's greatest authors, from cradle to grave to legacy.

I give The Real J.R.R Tolkien five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

NetGalley, Michelle Kidwell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow! What a wonderful glimpse into the life of J.R.R Tolkien. The author has done a fabulous job of opening the door to Tolkein and bringing to life his past. It was an intriguing story and I'm glad to know more about the man behind so many favourite books.

NetGalley, Jenn Rizzoto

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is an easily read and well informed look at the life of a literary titan. Jesse Xander, the youthful author looks closely at the man himself, following him from the early years of poverty after the death of his father, through schooldays and university, two world wars, and eventually literary fame. Jesse explores the close friends, the tragedies, and the influences that helped inspire his genius, and clearly has a very intimate knowledge of all Tolkien's writing. This is a labour of love, but also an essential text, for anyone who wants to learn the origins of Middle-Earth.

NetGalley, Robin Price

This was my first time ever reading a J.R.R. Tolkien biography other than the small factual information I have read online. The author Jesse Xander gives an insightful journey about Tolkien's life, career, and texts. As a Tolkien fan, this was a such a joyful read to discover where his inspirations came from. I had some sort of idea before reading since we had talked about in my Medieval classes as his usage of laments in Lord of the Rings.

Xander gives a detailed account of Tolkien's childhood at the start of the book and how his family lived to start Tolkien's journey. It continues with his adolescence and his career as a Professor of Anglo-Saxon. I adored how his characters were discussed in the book and that his life inspired most of the LotR characters and events such as his years at war. Tolkien's most important influence in literature is the way he used Anglo-Saxon characteristics in his texts to indirectly mirror the troubles he faced in real life.

NetGalley, Merve Yazicioglu

This is a detailed and meticulously researched look at the life of J.R.R. Tolkien, from his difficult childhood to his marriage, children, and Oxford career. Every facet of Tolkien's life is compared to his writings and how different characters mirror his life experiences.

I enjoyed the description of Tolkien's friendship with C.S. Lewis. I had known they were friends, but did not know that Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis's conversion to Christianity. I was also fascinated by the descriptions of Tolkien's relationship with his wife, Edith.

NetGalley, Bonnie DeMoss

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The entire origin story is described, infatuated influences from which little by little it was shaping Tolkien's marked imagination. Every situation and adventure in his life was crucial for the creation of such a defined world and characters.

NetGalley, Andrea Guillén P.

If you are a fan of Middle Earth and wish to learn more about the man behind the words, then you cannot go past Jesse Xander’s book. It is sure to provide fresh insights into the places, people and events that shaped the man that made the legend.

NetGalley, Helen Hancock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a fantastic biography! I knew a little of Tolkien prior- Lord of the Rings, Oxford, etc. However, this compact but thorough biography looks at Tolkien's entire life. I appreciated that it didn't gloss over the darker moments/periods in his life, as many shorter biographies tend to do. There is more of an academic tone to this book, but as someone who prefers an academic tone, it was perfect for me!

NetGalley, Jessica Storoschuk

An incredibly well researched, well-written and well-balanced biography!
Highly recommended for all who love Tolkien's books - one totally sees how it was all but inevitable for him to create a whole world and languages in the books!

NetGalley, Katy R

This made me extremely happy to read. I really enjoyed Jesse Xander’s unfiltered take on Tolkien and their ability to be unbiased when it came to discussing Tolkien’s more problematic views. I really enjoyed the writing style and the “plot” or the way the story of Tolkien’s life was pieced together. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this book!

NetGalley, Helen (pagesandpeaches)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you read a really good biography, you realise how little you knew about the person concerned. "The Real J.R.R. Tolkien" by Jesse Xander packs in a whole heap of information that was new to me - a surprising amount considering the length of the book. Part story, part essay, this is a fascinating and really easy to read. I'll be reading Tolkien's work with a new perspective in the future.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

I was incredibly excited to read this as I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and it certainly did not disappoint. There was so much information packed into this relatively short book.

NetGalley, Heather Russell

Reading author biographies is one of the things I like to do and especially if they are about an author I like. That is the case with this book. Jesse Xander has done an incredible research about J.R.R. Tolkien and that shows in his writing.
I learned many things about Tolkien regarding his family and career that shaped him and his work. I liked that the author didn't show us only the good things in Tolkien's life but also the darker part of it. That way we learned more about his personality and his relationship with his wife and his friends.

Highly recommend it to any Tolkien and Middle - Earth fan.

NetGalley, Athina Semertzaki

Fantastic biography of J.R.R. Tolkien that did not shy away from the darker side of Tolkien's personality. This short read is recommended for any Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit fan who wants to know more about Middle Earth's creator.

NetGalley, Teresa Grabs

The Real J.R.R. Tolkien is a must read for every Tolkien fan. It's very detailed and it goes from his youth to his adulthood. We know more about Tolkien's character and personality, we can see his relationship with Edith, and with other writers and academics. This biography will give you a new insight into his incredible life.

NetGalley, Veronica Mancini

Author Jesse Xander wrote an interesting biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. Those moments when he likens Tolkien’s life to his books aren’t on the surface level or obvious - they’re in depth but easy to understand, so I love that.

I appreciate how Xander doesn’t shy away from difficult topics of machismo, racism and prejudice. Xander makes a point of saying that biographies can often gloss over the faults of a person, but this one will not, in the interest of showing the subject as a whole.

I would recommend this book to Tolkien fans.

NetGalley, Jaimie C.

I am a huge fan of both The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy so The Real J.R.R. Tolkien was right up my alley. I really enjoyed the biography, it is truly a great in-depth look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s life.

NetGalley, Steph Elias

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating man. I never grow tired of reading his works and have been enthralled with his life and career for decades. His world building is genius, as was his master of linguistics. This is a wonderful and concise biography that I believe his fans will enjoy. Well researched and well written, it is a joy to read.

NetGalley, Catherine Hankins

This autobiographical account of Tolkien's life packs a lot in even though its not a long book but it is detailed and keeps the reader informed and interested throughout and adds greatly to the books already written by Tolkien.

NetGalley, Stephen Hutchison

I enjoyed this biography that was very informative and included so many elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life. While at times the allusions to his work went over my head as I am only a light fan of the epic trilogy, I enjoyed learning about his family and life. I thought it was a skilled expose that was rather unbiased and included some of the unsavory parts of his personality as well as the more honorable parts which was refreshing.

NetGalley, Jillian Coleman

When we were in Oxford a few years back, I made it a point to visit the pub where JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to hang out. I am more familiar with the life of CS Lewis and so thought it was high time I know a bit more about Tolkien with this book.

You know how sometimes a biography can become a bore and a chore to read because the narrative just doesn't flow well and there's nothing but quotes. Well, I was so happy to discover that Jesse Xander is a good biography writer. I enjoyed reading about Tolkien's life from birth to death.

I would recommend this title for fans of Tolkien's books.

NetGalley, Flora Fung

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and have read most of Tolkien's works. I always thought I knew a lot about him, but I learned so much about his personal life and childhood in ways that I am utterly delighted by. his was obviously written by a fan of Tolkien's works, which is key. I really appreciated how unbias the author explores Tolkien - his relationship with his wife, Edith, and his friendships but also his possible antisemitic and racist views.

A must-read for all true Tolkien fans!

NetGalley, Marialuisa Monda

Precise, detailed, in-depth, this biography allows you to get to know Tolkien as a scholar and as a man, before as the creator of fantastic worlds.
An excellent starting point for those who want to go beyond the works, towards the person.

NetGalley, Sara Piras

I really liked this biography! It was incredibly thorough for such a short book. I am a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and have read most of Tolkien's works. I also thought that I knew a lot about his life already; he was a linguist like me, so I always admired him (yes, I am one of those fans who's spent hours studying Sindarin and Quenyan). But I learned a lot about Tolkien's childhood and personal life. This was obviously written by a fan of Tolkien's works, which makes a big difference in my opinion. It was simultaneously respectful towards Tolkien and his creations while also taking a not-often seen view of some of Tolkien's less-desirable qualities, such as possible antisemitism and racism. I also really appreciated the details about his wife Edith and friendships with other writers and academics. A great book that I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Annie McNulty

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As someone who is a huge fan of the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogy books and movies and Samurian, I had to request and the read this! This is more than a biography of JRR Tolkien, it is also about his innermost thinking about the worlds in these books. I hope he would have been proud of the movie adaptations because Peter Jackson tried to hold true the books as much as possible.

This is a must read for any fan of his books regardless of you liked in them I was unable to put this down because of all the above reasons. I highly recommend this to bring magic and fantasy back in to the reading of these books. I liked this so much, I am getting a hard copy at publishing.

NetGalley, Lisa Konet

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've read biographies of a few writers and whilst they've been enjoyable they've also been long and occasionally dry. In comparison, I found this biography refreshingly succinct and a page turner.

Jesse Xander explores Ronald Tolkien's life and legacy in detail whilst drawing convincing and thought-provoking parallels with characters and storylines from his work. I would highly recommend this biography to any Tolkien fan as it will give you a new insight into his fascinating life.

NetGalley, Rebecca Kearon-Wiles

About Jesse Xander

Jesse Xander is a queer non-binary writer and biological anthropologist who was born in 1991 in Kendal, Cumbria, and moved around the UK a lot in their early years before settling in the South East. They discovered Tolkien whilst they were studying Archaeology and Anthropology at Homerton College, Cambridge, thus beginning their ongoing independent research into Middle-Earth and its languages by applying anthropological tools to Tolkien’s world, with particular focus on the oft-neglected orcs. They have directed multiple plays and short films, and have written everything from academic articles for Beyond The Binary to comedy plays, but this is their first book. Aside from Tolkien and other high fantasy, their pet passions include gothic and psychological horror, sci-fi, noir and superheroes. They would very much like to be one of those authors who owns a cat or three.

Born on this day - J. R. R. Tolkien

3rd January 1892

Although J. R. R. Tolkien spent most of his working life as an academic, he is most famous today as the author of the epic fantasy novels "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings".

'The Hobbit' is published

21st September 1937

J. R. R. Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' is published by George Allen and Unwin in London

Publication of "The Return of the King"

20th October 1955

Publication of "The Return of the King", the 3rd and final volume of "The Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien by George Allen and Unwin in London

Died on this day - J. R. R. Tolkien

2nd September 1973

Although J. R. R. Tolkien spent most of his working life as an academic, he is most famous today as the author of the epic fantasy novels "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings".

View all events View all anniversaries

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