John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is an author that needs no introduction. The late author of novels such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, he bears the distinction of not only being the father of the Fantasy genre, but also the creator of a book whose number of translations worldwide is second only to The Bible. Between the books and the massively successful Peter Jackson films based on them, chances are you know at least a bit about J.R.R. Tolkien, but do you know any of these interesting facts?
He was quite the lecturer
Tolkien was anything but your stereotypical stuffy British lecturer. He went to parties dressed as a polar bear, chased a neighbor with an axe, and was known to hand shopkeepers his false teeth as payment. One of his students famously said "He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall."
His childhood fears made it into his books
As a child, Tolkien grew up in South Africa, which at the time remained a British colony. One day, he was bitten by a poisonous spider and had to be rushed to the hospital. While he survived, he developed a lifelong fear of spiders, leading to the creation of the Spiders of Mirkwood Forest in The Hobbit and Shelob in The Lord of the Rings.
So did plenty of languages he made up or revived
It's well-known that Tolkien invented the entire Elvish language for use in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but it was far from the only one that he created. An avid linguist, he was fascinated with not only inventing new languages, but even reviving long-dead ones like Medieval Welsh and Lombardic; languages that hadn't been used in over a thousand years.