One of the great writers of the 20th century, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Orange Free State (now part of the Republic of South Africa) to English parents on 3 January, 1892. Publishing books as J.R.R. Tolkien and inspired by mythologies and legends, his most famous and influential work includes The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, while he also wrote gripping novels including Smith of Wootton Manor.
Tolkien was asked to become a codebreaker during the First World War but was never called for service at Bletchley Park. He also spoke at least 20 languages, including Old English and Medieval Welsh. To date, over 250 million copies of his books have been sold and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have been adapted into multi-million-grossing films directed by Peter Jackson.