JRR Tolkien "Second Rate" According to Nobel Jury

October 18, 2019Stacey Lynn

The late JRR Tolkien, author of more than 25 books, was a well-known author for many years. For those who know only little about him, you might be surprised to find that his books are actually quite old. The Hobbit was published in 1937 and The Fellowship of the Ring, along with The Two Towers, was published in 1954. The Return of the King, the final part in The Lord of the Rings series, was published the following year, in 1955.

As is the standard, the particulars of each Nobel Prize Council are sealed for fifty years after the actual prize is awarded. Once those fifty years are up, the archive opens and is first released to the Nobel Library, located in Sweden.

Tolkien Was Homeschooled by His Mother

Born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien on January 3, 1892, in what is now known as South Africa, he was an author, poet, philologist, and academic who eventually went on to attend Exeter College, in Oxford. After his father’s death, due to rheumatic fever, Tolkien’s mother, Mabel, moved to her parent’s home, and then on to a Birmingham village called Sarehole. She homeschooled both of her children, with “Ronald” (as Tolkien was known by family members) being a particularly intense and enthusiastic learner. He especially enjoyed botany as well as drawing and language. Latin was a part of his very early education, as he could read and write fluently by four years of age.

Mabel died when Tolkien was only 12, having suffered long from diabetes. Prior to her passing, she assigned her sons’ guardianship to Fr. Francis Xavier Morgan, one of her close friends. He was then sent to King Edward’s School, then on to St. Philip’s School. His devotion to his faith was a central factor in C.S. Lewis’s own conversion. Tolkien was disappointed, however, that Lewis chose to join the Church of England instead of his own dear Roman Catholic faith. Previously an atheist, Lewis went on to write many faith-based works including his renowned, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Tolkien served in the British Army from 1915 until 1920, fighting in the Battle of Somme in the First World War. He became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, on March 28, 1972, just over a year before his death on September 2, 1973.

A Nobel Jury Passes Him Over

After documents were declassified in January 2012, after the mandated fifty-year silence, it was found that Tolkien had been nominated for the 1961 Nobel literature prize by his good friend, CS Lewis, who was also a fellow author at the time. The writings for which he was nominated were none other than that of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which the Nobel jury determined had not “in any way measured up” to what they considered “highest quality” storytelling.

The prize that year was instead given to Ivo Andric, who was said to have written with what the Nobel jury believed to be “epic force”. Runners-up included Graham Greene, a British writer who never actually won a Nobel, as well as Danish author Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa.

Other 1961 candidates for the Nobel literature prize included Briton EM Forster along with Americans John Steinbeck, and Robert Frost.

Douglas Gresham, Keynote Speaker for Great Homeschool Conventions 2019

Douglas Gresham, who happens to be the stepson of C.S. Lewis, also knew Tolkien personally. He was one of the keynote speakers at our Cincinnati Great Homeschool Convention in 2019. Douglas is a stage and voice actor, as well as a film producer, an executive record producer, and a biographer who was born in 1945 in New York State.

After his parents, Willliam Lindsay Gresham and Joy Davidman, divorced, his mother met and later married, C.S. Lewis. Lewis Adopted Douglas and his brother David during that marriage and went on to raise both boys after their mother passed away in 1960 following a battle with cancer.

Lewis himself died in 1963, leaving his entire estate to his brother Major Warren Hamilton Lewis. However, ten years later, Major Lewis turned the estate over to the brothers. Douglas and his wife, Merrie, have a total of five children.

In Closing

If you’d like to hear from more speakers with interesting and eventful backgrounds, be sure to attend one of our seven regional Great Homeschool Conventions. There is much to glean from the speakers we have on deck for 2020, including Phil Robertson, Gracia Burnham, Andrew Stanley, Dr. Kathy Koch, and Attorney Judy Sarden. You won’t want to miss their presentations.

We know that the families who attend our Great Homeschool Conventions often travel longer distances than others do. In order to make the experience as comfortable as possible, we offer hotel discounts, military discounts, and free admission for active members of the clergy, so feel free to take advantage of these.

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