J. R. R. Tolkien

The Father of all Fantasy literature; J. R. R. Tolkien's influence on literature extends even past his creation of a new genre (through the melding of the ancient aural Epic, the then-popular morality allegory, and the ever-appealing children's fairy tale). While previous authors such as George MacDonald had already written fantastical works, Tolkien's work represented a new sort, now dubbed "high fantasy"-- one obviously intended for adults, highly polished and deeply layered. His goal (which he achieved!) was to make his readers feel as if the story they were reading was both true and familiar to them; part of a distant past which they somehow shared. He wrote volume after volume of backstory, grammar of invented languages, writing systems, and genealogies so that his work has the feel of a historical chronicle.

He was close friends with a young man named Jack, whom most of us know as C. S. Lewis, and was, humanly speaking, the one who led Christianity's most beloved apologist to Christ. In addition, he and Lewis founded a group of authors known as "The Inklings." These men and women-- including literary greats G. K. Chesterton and Dorothy Sayers-- met regularly to encourage one another in writing, and the resulting atmosphere of intelligent creativity begat dozens of the literary works we now cherish.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic who served in the British Cavalry in WW1 (giving him a love of horses and nostalgia on their role in "honorable warfare" before the advent of tanks). He was a devoted husband (the names "Luthien" and "Beren" are on their tombstones; readers of The Silmarillion will understand) and nurturing father. Indeed, his children's tales The Hobbit, The Father Christmas Letters and Roverandom were originally told to his children, and much of The Fellowship of the Ring was sent in letter form to encourage his son stationed abroad during WW2.