The basic facts are easy: he was born in 1892 in South Africa, both his parents of English origin. When he was still a child, he was brought back to Birmingham whose industrial ugliness made him a sworn enemy of modern civilization for the rest of his life. In 1922 he published his two major scholarly works, A Middle-English Vocabulary and a critical edition of medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. His knowledge of medieval literature stood him in good stead later when he began writing his fantasy novels which are, in many ways, idealized images of the Middle Ages as they never were: the Middle Ages without dirt, ugliness, fear, religious intolerance, leprosy and plague, but with ever-green fields, virtuous knights, marvellous creatures, spectacular magic and easy demarcation between good and evil. On the strength of his research, Tolkien became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College at Oxford. There he met fellow religious conservatives and fantasy writers and Charles Williams. In 1937 he published The Hobbit, essentially a children's book, and already in 1936 he began working on The Lord of the Rings that was finished in 1949. The trilogy was originally published in England in 1954, with good reviews but indistinguishible sales. However, once it crossed the ocean, the flower generation of the 1960s made The Lord of the Rings their Bible. And since then, Gandalf and Mordor and Frodo and Bilbo have become household words in every human tongue. Just consider the scope of this phenomenon. The flower children whose lax sexual mores would have horrified Tolkien and whose radical politics would have upset him deeply, trying to master the Elvish language. In contemporary Russia, youngsters brought up in the tenets of Marxism-Leninism living in the world of role-playing games based on The Lord of the Rings. My sabra son being deeply upset when I dared suggesting Tolkien was somewhat inferior to Shakespeare. What is this magic that crossses national, social and cultural barriers, triumphing where religions, ideologies, and greater art have failed?