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Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, a brilliant philologist, and a self-described "hobbit," J.R.R. Tolkien created two of the best-loved stories of the 20th century, "the Hobbit" and "the Lord of the Rings", recently made into a multiple award-winning movie by the director Peter Jackson for New Line Cinema.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa, to English parents. At the age of three his mother brought him and his younger brother, Hilary, back to England, where they resided in the bucolic town of Sarehole. Tolkien's father died soon afterward in South Africa, so the family stayed in England.

Tolkien's family lived in genteel poverty, eventually moving to a grimy suburb of Birmingham, just northwest of Sarehole. When he was 12, Tolkien's mother died, and he and his brother were made wards of a Catholic priest. They lived with aunts and in boarding homes thereafter. The dichotomy between Tolkien's happier days in the rural landscape of Sarehole and his adolescent years in the industrial center of Birmingham would be felt strongly in his later works.

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