J.R.R. Tolkien Chronology


3 January 1892—John Ronald Reual is born to Arthur and Mabel Tolkien in Blemfontein, South Africa.

April 1895— Mabel travels with her two sons to Birmingham, England to improve three-year-old Ronald’s health.

14 February 1896—Arthur, Ronald’s father, dies in South Africa.

Summer 1896— Mabel and the boys move to the village Sarehole, south of Birmingham, to rent a cottage she can afford on Arthur’s merger pension.

June 1900- Mabel is received into the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant Tolkiens refuse to financially support Edith.

Early 1902- Mabel moves near to the Catholic Birmingham Oratory where the boys will attend St. Philip’s Grammar School.

November 1902—Ronald is awarded a scholarship to attend the King Edward’s School. While at King Edward’s, Tolkien forms friendships with Christopher Wiseman, Rob Gilson, and G. B. Smith, who together will form the TCBS (the Tea Club and Barrovian Society), a circle who dream that they are given a mission by God to change the world.

14 November 1904—Mabel dies from diabetes at age 34. Her two sons become wards of Father Francis Morgan of Birmingham oratory. Father Francis arranges for the boys to lodge with their Aunt Beatrice Suffield. Tolkien continues at King Edward’s.

Early 1908—The Tolkien brothers move to lodgings with Louis Faulkner. There Tolkien meets and eventually falls in love with Edith Bratt.

21 January 1910, Father Francis refuses to let Tolkien and Edith continue to see each other until he comes of age in three years.

1910-1911—Tolkien begins to write poetry.

July 1910—Tolkien passes exams for Oxford and Cambridge Higher Certificate.

17 December 1910—Tolkien awarded a scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford.


1911-1915—Tolkien studies Old and Middle English and Old Norse while at Oxford.

January 1913—Tolkien and Edith reunite and agree to marry in the future. Edith must agree to convert to the R.C.C.

October 1914-June 1915—Tolkien prepares with the Officers Training Corps while at Oxford.

22 November 1914—Tolkien reads “The Voyage of Éarendel” to the Essay Club at Exeter College.

27-28 April 1915—Tolkien writes “You and Me and the Cottage of Lost Play,” a love poem for Edith.

June-July 1915—Tolkien sits for his exams and is awarded First Class Honors in English Literature.

19 July 1915—Tolkien begins army training.

22 March 1916—Ronald and Edith are married by Father Francis in the Church of St. Mary, Warwick.

5-6 June 1916—Tolkien reports for duty and departs for Étaples, France. Soon after, he is attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers.

17 July 1916—Tolkien learns from G.B. Smith’s letter that Rob Gilson has been killed in battle.

28 October 1916—Tolkien, suffering from trench fever, is taken to the Officers Hospital

9 November 1916—Tolkien removed to Birmingham for further treatment.

December 1916—Tolkien placed on medical leave.

3 December 1916—G.B. Smith dies from wounds sustained in war.

Late 1916-Early 1917—Tolkien begins to write the first versions of The Book of Lost Tales, and possibly as well his first notebooks for his language Qenya.

1 May 1917—Tolkien is placed on light military Home Service.

1917-1918—Tolkien continues to convalesce in and out of hospitals.

16 November 1917—Edith gives birth to John, the Tolkiens’ first-born child.

November 1918—Tolkien joins the New English Dictionary (The Oxford English Dictionary) and works on the W’s.

ca. 1919—Tolkien begins to work on The Children of Hurin.

15 July 1919—Tolkien officially discharged from military service.

30 October 1919—Tolkien awarded his Master of Arts degree.


21 July 1920—Tolkien appointed as Reader in English Literature at University of Leeds.

October 1920—Tolkien publishes the poem “Goblin Feet.”

22 October 1920—Michael, the Tolkiens’ second child, is born.

Christmas 1920—Tolkien begins writing and drawing his annual Father Christmas letters for his children.

11 May 1922—A Middle English Vocabulary, which Tolkien complied to accompany Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose is published.

1923—Several of Tolkien’s poems are published in school journals and minor publishing projects.

21 November 1924—Christopher, the Tolkiens’ third child, is born. Christopher is named for Christopher Wiseman.

23 April 1925—Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an edition by Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, is published.

21 July 1925—Tolkien appointed the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, though he finishes out the fall term at Leeds.

Summer 1925—Tolkien takes up work on his Lay of Leithian.

Early 1926—Tolkien begins the Kolbítars for Oxford dons wishing to read Icelandic literature in the original.

April 1926—Tolkien completes a translation of Beowulf, as well as one of Pearl.

11 May 1926—Tolkien and C.S. Lewis meet to discuss faculty politics.

Late 1927—Tolkien writes down his Roverandom, a tale he had been telling to his children.

ca. Summer 1928—Tolkien writes and draws Mr. Bliss.

18 June 1929—Priscilla, the Tolkiens’ fourth child is born.

Late 1929-Early 1930—Lewis sends Tolkien a detailed critique of the first part of his Lay of Leithian.

ca. 1930-1931—Tolkien writes his versions of The Lay of the Völsungs and The Lay of Gúdrun.

1930—Tolkien is writing another version of his Silmarillion mythology.

23 September 1930—Tolkien writes The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun .


ca. 1931—1932—Meetings begin that will form the Inklings.

19-20 September 1931—Important dinner with Lewis and Hugo Dyson that proves instrumental in Lewis’s conversion from theism to Christianity.

Late 1932-Early 1933—Lewis borrows Tolkien’s draft of The Hobbit (through the death of Smaug).

17 June 1933—Tolkien confirmed as member of the Icelandic Literary Society.

1934—Several poems by Tolkien published, including “Looney.”

Middle-Late 1934—Tolkien’s Chaucer as a Philologist: The Reeve’s Tale published in Transactions of the Philological Society.

1936—Tolkien’s Songs for Philologists, sixteen poems for his students is published in pamphlet form by some of his students.

7 August 1936—Part of Tolkien’s translation of Pearl read on BBC radio.

October 1936-October 1938—Tolkien awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

25 November 1936—Tolkien’s lecture Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics is delivered to the British Academy. He delivers it again 9 December 1936 to the Manchester Medieval Society.

1 June 1937-- Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics published by Oxford UP.

21 September 1937—The Hobbit published by George Allen & Unwin.

Late 1937—Tolkien begins work on the sequel to The Hobbit: The Lord of the Rings (hereafter LOR).

1 January 1938—Tolkien lectures on dragons at the Oxford University Museum.


14 February 1938—Tolkien reads a version of Farmer Giles of Ham to the Lovelace Society at Worcester College, Oxford.

September-October 1938—Tolkien completes the drafting of LOR as far as Tom Bombadil.

8 March 1939—Tolkien delivers his Andrew Lang lecture, On Fairy-Stories, at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Autumn 1939—Tolkien drafts a version of the Council of Elrond for LOR.

ca. 1940s—Tolkien writes Sellic Spell, a story based on the events surrounding Beowulf.

15 June 1940—Michael Tolkien becomes an anti-aircraft gunner in WWII.

Late 1941-Early 1942—Tolkien drafting the material for Lothlórien in LOR through “The Scattering of the Company.”

Late 1942—Tolkien drafting early versions of Book III of LOR.

1943-1944—Tolkien prepares edition of Sir Orfeo. In 1944, he also composes a modern translation of the poem.

July 1943—Christopher Tolkien enters the Royal Air Force.

December 1943—The last of the Father Christmas letters is written.

April-May 1944—Tolkien drafts sections of Book IV of LOR.

January 1945—Tolkien publishes Leaf by Niggle in the Dublin Review.

15 May 1945—Death of Inkling member Charles Williams.

10 October 1945—Tolkien elected as fellow of Merton College, Oxford.

Late 1945—Tolkien begins working on The Notion Club Papers.

December 1945- The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun published in the Welsh Review.

10 February 1946—John Tolkien, Ronald’s eldest, is ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.

Late 1946-1947—Tolkien returns to working on LOR.

4 December 1947—A revised version of On Fairy-Stories is included in Essays Presented to Charles Williams.

August-September 1948—Tolkien drafts sections of Book VI of LOR.

October 1949—Tolkien finishes typed manuscript of LOR and gives it to Lewis to read.

20 October 1949—Farmer Giles of Ham is published by Allen & Unwin.


9 July 1951—The revised Hobbit is released in Britain after being released earlier that same year in the United States.

1951-1952—Tolkien begins serious revisions to his Silmarillion.

March 1953—Tolkien completes his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

15 April 1953—Tolkien delivers the W.P. Ker Memorial lecture, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, at the University of Glasglow.

October 1953—The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son published in Essays and Studies.

6, 17, 21, 30 December 1953—BBC broadcast of Tolkien’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

3, 7 January 1954—BBC broadcast of talk by Tolkien on Sir Gawain.

29 July 1954—The Fellowship of the Ring published. Published in the U.S. on October 21.

1 October 1954—C. S. Lewis appointed Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, Cambridge, a position Tolkien supported Lewis in gaining.

11 November 1954—The Two Towers published.

3 December 1954—BBC broadcast of The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son.

20 October 1955-The Return of the King published.

21 October 1955-Tolkien delivers the O’Donnell Lecture, English and Welsh.

November-December 1955—BBC broadcast of The Fellowship of the Ring.

November-December 1956—BBC broadcast of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

ca. 20 February-6 March 1957—Tolkien translates Jonah from the French for The Jerusalem Bible.

23 April 1957—Tolkien elected Royal Society of Literature Fellow.

1958-1960—Tolkien continues to work on The Silmarillion.

5 June 1959—Tolkien delivers his valedictory address at the University of Oxford.

Summer 1959—Tolkien retires from teaching and moves to Sandfield Road.

Late 1959-Early 1960—Tolkien is writing the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth.

February -May 1962—Tolkien purchases two of Cor Blok’s paintings based on The Lord of the Rings.

22 November 1962—The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book is published with illustrations by Pauline Baynes with which Tolkien was delighted.

December 1962—Tolkien’s long-awaited edition of Ancrene Wisse published.

22 November 1963—C.S. Lewis dies.


4 March 1965—Tree and Leaf published in United States.

May 1965--Ace Books publishes unauthorized editions of The Lord of the Rings in the U.S.

October 1965—Ballantine Books publishes authorized editions. Tolkien begins to receive a large amount of fan mail.

Summer 1965—Clyde S. Kilby works with Tolkien in organizing The Silmarillion.

September 1966-The Tolkien Reader is published.

26 October 1966—Tolkien reads Smith of Wootton Major at Blackfriars, St. Giles’, Oxford.

22 November 1966—Bronze bust of Tolkien is placed in the English Faculty Library.

19 July 1967—Tolkien awarded the A.C. Benson Silver Medal by the Royal Society of Literature for outstanding services to literature.

15 June 1967—Tolkien records readings of poems for Poems and Songs of Middle Earth.

31 October 1967—The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle by Donald Swann with additional materials by Tolkien. Published by Allen & Unwin 14 March 1968.

24 November 1967—Smith of Wooton Major published in U.S.

30 March 1968—Broadcast of film Tolkien in Oxford, which Tolkien hated.

June 1968—Tolkiens move to Bournemouth in attempt to escape intrusions of fans.

1969-1973—Tolkien continues to work on The Silmarillion.

29 November 1971—Edith dies.

31 January 1972—Tolkien is granted rooms at Merton Street as a Residential Fellow.

28 March 1972—Queen Elizabeth II confers the CBE medal (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Commander) on Tolkien.

3 June 1972—Tolkien is given the honorary Doctorate of Letters by Oxford University.

12 July 1973—Ediburgh University confers the honorary Doctorate of Letters upon Tolkien, as well.

2 September 1973—J.R.R. Tolkien dies.


1976—The Father Christmas Letters, edited by Baillie Tolkien, is published.

1977—The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien, is published.


"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding