Although many people equate Tolkien with pastoral English landscapes, he wasn't born in that "green and pleasant land." Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (now part of the Republic of South Africa), to English parents. And although his family had lived in England since the 1700s, they actually came from Germany.
In fact, the name Tolkien, in the extinct language of Old Prussian, means "foolhardy."
When he a teenager, Tolkien fell in love with Edith, a young woman three years older than him. So when his guardian found out, he forbade the boy from contacting her, fearing that a romance would distract Tolkien from his studies. On the day Tolkien turned 21—a full three years later—he proposed to her.
He cited Edith as the inspiration for Luthien, the elf who loved the human Beren, two characters from The Silmarillion.
Tolkien spoke at least 20 languages (paying special attention to dead languages like Old English, Medieval Welsh and Lombardic) and invented many others.
This love of language helped him create a code for Edith, to help him secretly relay information during World War I. According to Wikipedia, "By deciphering the code, Edith was able to track his movements on a map of the Front."
Important communications during WWII were encoded, and someone with Tolkien’s language skills could have been invaluable. He was asked to become a codebreaker during the war,. But after agreeing, Tolkien was never called for service.
Good news for fans, as the book was written during the wars years. Bad news for Bletchley Park, who could have used his services.
The Lord of the Rings wasn't meant to be a trilogy.
The Oxford professor of English language and literature finished the first draft his epic 200,000-word novel in 1949. It was too epic. The price of paper was extremely high in post-World War II England, so it was broken up into three parts rather than published all at once.
This means there are still people who remember anticipating the release of The Two Towers with as much fervor as we feel waiting for George R.R. Martin's The Winds of Winter.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are fantasy. They're also history and biography.
Many authors use personal experience in their writing, and Tolkien is no different. His aunt's farm was named Bag End, which inspired the name of Bilbo's home. There's the forced separation of himself and Edith, much like his characters Beren and Luthien. He spent the summer of 1911 hiking with 11 friends across the misty mountains of Switzerland. And sadly, his terrible experiences during World War I were reflected in many of the larger-than-life battles of Middle Earth.
Fans of his books won't be surprised to learn that, as a young child, Tolkien was bitten by a spider.
The LOTR characters were on an epic quest. So were the publishers.
After the success of The Hobbit, and publishers Allen & Uwin requested a sequel, which Tolkien finished … 12 years later. But the amount spent on countless edits, plus the introduction of the appendices (104 highly detailed pages' worth) and maps resulted in the delay of publication. The Felllowship of the Ring didn’t appear in print until 1954.
The Hobbit wasn’t Tolkien’s first foray into Middle Earth.
Tolkien began The Hobbit in the early 1930s. But this wasn’t his first trip to the fantasy realm for which he became famous. Tolkien’s first tale of Middle-earth was The Silmarillion. He started writing it in 1914, with a rough draft completed in 1926.
Tolkien tried to have The Silmarillion published along with The Lord of the Rings, but Allen & Unwin rejected it for being “too Celtic.” The book, which was more backstory more than actual story, was completed by his son Christopher (along with fantasy novelist Guy Gavriel Kay). It saw print in 1977, four years after his death.