Articles & Insights into the world of handwriting.

Tolkien, the Father of Modern Fantasy

The Hobbit house

Tolkien, writer of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is regarded by many as the father of modern fantasy literature. Born in South Africa in 1892 he was educated in England and became professor of Anglo-Saxon, English language and literature at Oxford.

Tolkien’s books were undoubtedly inspired by his fascination with the early literature of Old and Middle English. He had an amazing grasp of language and was known as one of the best philologists in the world. In fact, he invented a special Celtic-style language for the characters in his books. He even invented a whole new mythological world as a setting for “Lord of the Rings.” His imagination and creativity were boundless.

Tolkien’s books “The Hobbit” and “The lord of the Rings” were in fact the forerunner of a complete new genre of modern fantasy literature –  they even led to a new class of games such as Dungeons and Dragons and that hugely popular game World of Warcraft.

So what made Tolkien tick? Can his handwriting and signature gives us some insight into his creative ability?

There are indeed indications that reveal Tolkien’s inner independence, his ability to go it alone and to write the type of literature that had never been attempted before.

Here is a sample of Tolkien’s handwriting. It comes from a discarded draft from one of his manuscripts.tolkien1

Illustration by permission of Oxford University Press.  © Image copyright

Tolkien’s handwriting is warm, rounded, small and cerebral. We could almost have expected his handwriting to look like this. It has an unmistakable air of intellectuality combined with creativity. Look a little closer and you will see that there are some words that are so artistically penned that they seem to have been done by an artist.

Take a look at some of the artistically formed R’s scattered about the manuscript. The warmth and fullness of the strokes suggest artistry, creativity and imagination. And indeed, Tolkien did paint word landscapes and evocative, imaginative scenery into his books.

In addition to the creative aspect which is so marked, there is also a highly cultured and academic feel to the manuscript as a whole. The even-sized letters, the careful spacing, fluency of line and attention to detail all point to a highly organized and intelligent mind.

Tolkien’s Signaturetolkiensignature

Tolkien’s Signature also gives us some insight into his creative ability. Note again the full warm strokes – as if painted with a paintbrush. Also the stylish “K” that over-arches part of his name. All in all it is a very elegant and distinctive signature befitting a man of his talent and creative genius.

One more thing; I’d  like to point out the simplicity of the signature. No show and no embellishments.  The signature is legible and easy to read. So many signatures today are showy and over-elaborated. The simplicity of Tolkien’s signature mirrors his sincerity.

From “The Mark of Genius


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