J. R. R. Tolkien Day Date in the current year: January 3, 2024

J. R. R. Tolkien Day Fans of fantasy around the globe celebrate J. R. R. Tolkien Day on January 3 every year. It commemorates the birthday of the author of archetypal works of the high fantasy genre, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, often referred to as the Professor by fans, was an English writer and philologist who is widely regarded as the “father” of modern fantasy literature. Although works of fantasy had been published before Tolkien, it is the great success of his works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that resulted in a popular resurgence of high fantasy and fantasy in general.

J. R. R. Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in the Orange Free State (now South Africa) to an English couple. His family moved back to England when Tolkien was three (sans his father, who had died). Tolkien studied English language and literature at Oxford and graduated in 1915. He then served in World War I, left the army in 1920, and started his academic and writing career.

Tolkien began working on The Hobbit in the early 1930s; he wrote the book for his own children and never expected it to become popular. Tolkien lent the manuscript to several of his friends, and that’s how publishing agent Susan Dagnall came across it in 1936. She persuaded Tolkien to submit it to publication, and a year later, The Hobbit was published to a wide acclaim.

The book was so popular that the publishers asked Tolkien to write a sequel, and that how his epic novel The Lord of the Rings was born. Tolkien started working on the novel in December 1937 and showed the manuscript to the publisher in 1947. Due to a dispute with his publisher, Tolkien had to find a new one, which delayed the release of the book. For economic reasons, The Lord of the Rings was split into three volumes. The first volume, The Fellowship of the Ring, was published in July 1954, followed by The Two Towers in November 1954 and The Return of the King in October 1955.

The Lord of the Rings is considered one of the greatest fantasy books in history and is credited with helping to shape modern fantasy, especially the high fantasy subgenre. After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher collected his extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts about Middle-earth, systematized them, and published The Silmarillion and other works that make up J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendarium.

The tradition of celebrating Tolkien’s birthday was inaugurated by the Tolkien Society, a literary society and educational charity that focuses on studying and promoting the life and works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Every year on January 3, the Society encourages Tolkien fans to stand, raise a glass of their drink of choice, toast to the Professor at 9 P.M. their local time, and share pictures or videos of themselves raising a toast to Tolkien on social media with the hashtag #TolkienBirthdayToast.

Of course, toasting to the Professor is not the only way to celebrate his birthday. You can read Tolkien’s books, watch their movie adaptations, or both, organize a Tolkien Birthday Toast event with fellow Tolkien fans, learn interest facts about Tolkien’s life and the impact of his works on the fantasy genre, start learning one of the languages constructed by Tolkien, watch the 2019 biopic Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult, etc.

By the way, J. R. R. Tolkien Day is not the only holiday honoring the Professor and his fictional worlds. The Tolkien Society also organizes Tolkien Reading Day on March 25 (the anniversary of Sauron’s downfall) to promote the reading of Tolkien, and Hobbit Day on September 22 to commemorate the birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

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J. R. R. Tolkien Day, Tolkien's birthday, Tolkien Birthday Toast, cultural observances, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings