Richest CelebritiesAuthors
Net Worth:
$50 Million
Jan 3, 1892 - Sep 2, 1973 (81 years old)
5 ft 8 in (1.74 m)
Author, Writer, Poet, Philologist
United Kingdom
đŸ’° Compare J. R. R. Tolkien's Net Worth

What was J. R. R. Tolkien's Net Worth?

J.R.R. Tolkien was an English writer and professor who had a net worth equal to $50 million at the time of his death in 1972. In the decades since his death, Tolkien's works have generated tens of billions of dollars in revenue from movie tickets, DVDs, merchandise and more. His heirs have earned at least $500 million in royalties from the various income streams.

J. R. R. Tolkien best known for authoring the fantasy books "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. From the 1920s through the 50s, he was a professor at the University of Oxford, and belonged to the famed literary discussion group The Inklings. Due to the huge success and enduring cultural influence of his work, Tolkien is often considered the father of modern fantasy literature. Tolkien earned the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in early 1972.


Tolkien is considered one of the best British writers of his time and continues to be one of the top-earning dead celebrities. His books generate tens of millions in royalties each year and the estate has gone on to earn hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and licensing fees, especially to television and film studios.

Today his estate is controlled by the aptly named Tolkien Estate. For example, decades after his death the Tolkien Estate earned $200 million from a licensing deal with Amazon Studios.

In 2008 the Tolkien Estate sued New Line Cinema, the studio behind the unimaginably successful "Lord of the Rings" original trilogy seeking $100 million in unpaid royalties. At the time of their filing, the estate claimed to have not yet received "one penny" from the studio. The case was eventually resolved for an undisclosed amount.

Early Life and Education

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 in Bloemfontein, in the Boer sovereign republic of the Orange Free State. His parents were Arthur, an English bank manager, and Mabel. Tolkien had one sibling, younger brother Hilary. At the age of three, Tolkien traveled to England with his mother and brother for a family visit; his father passed away of rheumatic fever before he could leave South Africa to join them. Without income as a result, Tolkien's mother took him to Birmingham to reside with her parents. They subsequently moved to Sarehole, and then to Worcestershire. Tolkien was homeschooled, and was able to read by the age of four. When he was 12, his mother passed from acute diabetes; she had previously assigned guardianship of her two sons to her friend Father Francis Xavier Morgan.

In 1911, Tolkien attended King Edward's School. In October of that year, he enrolled at the University of Oxford's Exeter College, where he began studying classics. After changing his course to English language and literature, he graduated in 1915 with first-class honors.

World War I

Following his graduation, Tolkien was commissioned as a temporary second lieutenant for the British Army's Lancashire Fusiliers. For 11 months, he trained with the 13th Reserve Battalion. In 1916, he was summoned to a posting in France, where he was assigned as a signals officer for the 11th Service Battalion. Arriving at the Somme in July of that year, he was involved in the assaults on the Leipzig salient and on Schwaben Redoubt. In October, when his battalion attacked the Regina Trench, Tolkien came down with trench fever; he was subsequently invalided to England.

Tolkien was frail when he returned to the home front, spending the remainder of the war performing duties at garrisons and hospitals. Although his illness was recurrent over the following two years, he was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant in 1918. In 1919, he was removed from active service.

Academia and Writing

After being officially demobilized in 1920, Tolkien took his first postwar civilian job with the Oxford English Dictionary. The same year, he became a reader at the University of Leeds, where he was the youngest of all the professors. While there, he produced the academic works "A Middle English Vocabulary" and "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight." In 1925, Tolkien returned to his alma mater of Oxford as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, and had a fellowship at Pembroke College.

It was at Pembroke that Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit," as well as the first two volumes of "The Lord of the Rings." He also undertook a translation of the Old English epic poem "Beowulf," which he completed in 1926. Ten years later, Tolkien gave a renowned lecture on the work that revolutionized how literary critics interpreted the poem. "Beowulf" and Old English literature were majors influences on Tolkien's writings. Other influences included archaeology, Christianity, and Germanic, Finnish, Greek, and Celtic mythology and languages. The author's work was also heavily informed by his childhood experiences in the urbanizing English countryside, as well as his later experiences fighting in World War I.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

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World War II and Late Career

Just before the outbreak of World War II, Tolkien was to become a codebreaker, serving in the cryptographic department of the Foreign Office. However, after taking an instructional course, he was told his services were not needed. Following this, he became Merton Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford's Merton College, where he remained until his retirement in 1959.

From his retirement to his passing in 1973, Tolkien's literary fame and public popularity increasingly rose, with his books becoming incredibly profitable. The attention became so great that the author removed his number from the public directory, and moved to the English coastal resort town of Bournemouth. During this time, Tolkien served as a translator and consultant for "The Jerusalem Bible," which was published in 1966.

Personal Life and Legacy

Tolkien met his wife, Edith Mary Bratt, when he was 16. In 1913, Tolkien traveled to meet her in Cheltenham, where he proposed. In March of 1916, they married at St. Mary Immaculate Roman Catholic Church.

In 1971, Edith passed away at the age of 82. Tolkien subsequently returned to Oxford, and was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1972. That same year, the University of Oxford granted him an honorary Doctorate of Letters. In 1973, at the age of 81, Tolkien passed from a chest infection and bleeding ulcer. Following his death, in 1977, Tolkien's son Christopher published a series of works based on his father's unreleased manuscripts and notes. These included "The Silmarillion," a collection of mythopoetic stories. Later, in 1980, Christopher published "Unfinished Tales of NĂºmenor and Middle-earth," which comprised more fragmentary materials from Tolkien.

Throughout England, a number of blue plaques commemorate places associated with Tolkien. Among the sites are 1 Duchess Place, Ladywood, Birmingham, where he lived from 1902 to 1910; 2 Darnley Road, West Park, Leeds, where he held his first academic appointment; and 20 Northmoor Road, North Oxford, where he resided from 1930 to 1947. In 2008, The Times ranked Tolkien sixth on its list of the "50 Greatest British Writers Since 1945."

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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