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Is The Tolkien Movie Accurate?

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Making a movie about someone’s life is a difficult feat. Fitting in all the important details and milestones of someone’s life story is a tough task, let alone being completely accurate. Such ushers in the debate about Tolkien, a new biopic based on the life of Jonathan Ronald Reuel Tolkien, famously known as J.J.R. Tolkien.

An Interesting Story

Tolkien became well-known for writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Aside from creating these iconic stories, Tolkien led an interesting life, from growing up in poverty and losing his mother to an untimely death, to meeting his future wife in an orphanage and serving in World War I. It’s easy to see why he found such great pleasure and success creating worlds of fantasy. Tolkien, released on May 10, stars Nicholas Hoult as J.R.R., and Lily Collins as Edith Bratt, Tolkien’s long-term love. As with any biopic, it’s accuracy has come into question.

Tolkien Estate Distanced From Film

If anyone can verify the details of Tolkien’s life, it would be his family. But they’re on record stating they want nor had anything to do with the film. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first biopic to draw criticism from family and fans of the subject.

Apparently, no one in the Tolkien family has seen the movie, nor expressed issue with any particular aspect of it. Rather, they made it clear they were never consulted nor issued an approval for the making of the movie. Although the family released the statement, it isn’t necessarily a condemnation of the movie, either.

The Truth About Tolkien’s Early Life And Engagement

As shown in the movie, Tolkien’s mother did die of diabetes-related complications. Father Francis assumed legal guardianship over J.R.R. and his brother. While living in a boarding home, J.R.R. met his future wife, Edith Bratt. Another aspect the movie got right was Father Francis’ disapproval of J.R.R. and Edith’s relationship. His legal guardian banned J.R.R. from communicating with Bratt until he was 21 so he could focus on his studies. But there was more to the story than the film showed. The disapproval was also fueled by the age difference between the two and that Bratt was Protestant. As shown in the movie, Bratt was engaged to a man before Tolkien.

Another aspect Tolkien seems accurately portray are the friendships Tolkien shared with the men in the self-titled group T.C.B.S (Tea Club, Barrovian Society). Some of the film’s cast members revealed that the letters and diary entries of Tolkien’s real-life friends informed their on-screen performance. Absent from the film was mention of Tolkien’s close friendship with writer C.S. Lewis.

War And Work

There are some aspects that aren’t accurate, like the scene in the film where J.R.R. gets drunk and wakes up his tutors. There is no evidence suggesting that happened. Also, the movie makes it seem like J.R.R. readily went to war. In reality, he and his friends delayed joining the military. In the film, Tolkien becomes a teacher immediately following the end of World War I. It fails to include the job he had before teaching, which was working at the Oxford English Dictionary. He worked as an assistant to Henry Bradley, an editor of the first edition of the dictionary.

The film concludes with Tolkien with his wife and children, seemingly content working as an Oxford teacher. But letters written by Tolkien at the time insinuate he wasn’t that fond of teaching, calling it “exhausting and depressing.” Though there is a good amount the film does get right, some parts are embellishments and others are purely fictional. Though the dramatized version may not be entirely accurate, it’s at least entertaining.

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