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"John Ronald ("Ronald" to family and early friends) was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, on January 3, 1892. His memories of Africa were slight but vivid, including a scary encounter with a large hairy spider, and influenced his later writing to some extent; slight, because on February 15, 1896 his father died." (Doughan 1) But before Arthur Reuel Tolkien died, "Tolkien, his mother, and his brother Hilary boarded the SS Guelph at Cape towns harbor. The voyage took three weeks to arrive at Southampton, England." (Neimark 5) Within six months of finding out his son had died, John Benjamin Tolkien, Arthur's father, devastated, also died. (Neimark 9-10)

In 1900, his mother Mabel and her sister May were received into the Roman Catholic Church. Tolkien and Hilary were brought up in the faith of Pio Nono and were devoted Catholics during the rest of their lives. Father Francis Morgan, a parish priest who was half-Welsh half-Spanish regularly visited the family. (Doughan 2) By the time Tolkien was just 5 years old, his mother taught him to read Latin, French, German, and English. His mother, encouraging his love for plants, also introduced him to the science of botany. (Neimark 10-11)

Tolkien returned to King Edward's in the fall of 1903 on a scholarship. He studied Greek, and on his own, read Chaucer in its original Middle English, the language of England between the 12th and 15th centuries. (Neimark 19) Only a year after returning to King Edwards his mother died on November 14, 1904. He was only twelve years old. Father Francis Morgan was named as Tolkien and his brother Hilary's legal guardian. (Grotta 25-26) The boys were sent to live with an unsympathetic aunt-by-marriage, Beatrice Suffield. Ronald did not enjoy living with his aunt, but the Oratory and Father Morgan were close and he spent many hours a day there. In King Edward's he met Christopher Wiseman, a boy who would become his best friend. (Grotta 26)

By this time Tolkien had mastered Latin and Greek, which was the staple fare of an arts education at that time, and knew some of a number of other languages, both modern and ancient, notably Gothic, and later Finnish. He was already busy making up his own languages, purely for fun. He also met a few close friends at King Edward's, which in his later school years would meet regularly as the "T. C. B. S." (Tea Club, Barrovian Society). They continued to correspond closely and exchange and criticize each other's literary work until 1916. (Doughan 2)

"Tolkien was probably not yet sixteen when he fell in love for the first - and only - time in his life. At the Eddystone boarding house he met Edith Mary Bratt. She was three years older than Tolkien, but that disparity had no effect on their friendship. Nor did the difference in religion seem important to them. In time, the friendship grew into a "love match," as the Tolkien family later described it. Such a relationship at their tender age was bound to be discouraged, so it necessarily developed in secret." (Grotta 29) Eventually Father Francis took control of the relationship and forbade Tolkien to see or even correspond with Edith until he was 21.

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