J.R.R. Tolkien was undoubtedly the father of modern fantasy. And while he may not have invented elves, dragons, and dark lords, he's the guy who made them cool. Without Tolkien, the fantasy landscape would look incredibly different today. Here's the untold truth of the man himself.
According to Biography, Tolkien was born John Ronald Reuel Tolkien in Bloemfontein South Africa, in 1892. When he was still pretty young, his mother moved him and his younger brother to Sarehole in Birmingham, England. His father stayed behind in South Africa and later died from rheumatic fever when Tolkien was just 4 years old.
Then his mother died, too, when he was just 12. Tolkien spent his teenage years as an orphan, living with a relative and in a number of boarding homes, before he was finally taken under the guardianship of a Catholic priest named Father Francis. It's impossible to say how much of that difficult childhood informed his writing, but Tolkien stories do tend to have an edge to them ... so it's entirely possible that Tolkien's early days made him the writer he was.
In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo almost falls prey to Shelob, a giant spider who lives in the mountain pass into Mordor. And that's not the only Tolkien story that features monstrous arachnids ... Bilbo also encounters a forest full of spiders in The Hobbit. So clearly Tolkien had a thing about spiders. But why?
Well, Tolkien's fear may have stemmed from an encounter he had as a small child living in South Africa. According to J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, Tolkien was bitten by a tarantula while learning to walk. Tolkien, however, admitted he had little memory of the event and actually claimed to like spiders, to the point where he would rescue them if he found them in distress.
Having dismissed the idea that his spider encounter had anything to do with Shelob, Tolkien instead blamed his son Michael. Michael was evidently terrified of spiders, so Tolkien did what any good father would do ... he wrote two of the world's scariest spider attack scenes with the sole intention of scaring the hell out of his son.
Watch the video for more on the untold truth of the man who wrote Lord of the Rings!
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Origins | 0:15
Spiders | 0:58
Bag End | 1:53
Lúthien | 2:46
Tolkien's tongues | 3:49
War | 5:24
Beowulf | 6:14
A hole in the ground | 7:07
Inspiration | 8:06
The Nazi letter | 9:04