Writer JRR Tolkien might have only spent three years in Bloemfontein, but South Africa is proud that the author of 'The Lord of the Rings' was born in the capital city of what is now the Free State province. His father's grave can be found in Bloemfontein’s cemetery.

Did you know?

"The Hobbit" was published in England in 1937, more than 40 years after he left South Africa.

While the author John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien identified himself primarily as a British writer, South Africans are proud to note that the first three years of his life were spent on South African soil.

The writer, best-known for his fantasy novels, 'The Hobbit', 'The Lord of the Rings', and 'The Silmarillion', was born in Bloemfontein in South Africa's Free State Province in 1892.

His father worked in a bank in Bloemfontein, having been transferred to South Africa from the United Kingdom with a view to being promoted. As a boy, Tolkien was a favourite among his family’s employees. On one occasion, Isaak, who worked for his father, took Tolkien home to his kraal for a night to show the baby off to his family. Isaak went on to name his first son Isaak Mister Tolkien Victor.

When he was three, Tolkien travelled with his mother and brother to England, a lengthy sea voyage that was to be followed by a long stay with family. While in England, his father died of rheumatic fever in South Africa. This left the family without an income, so Tolkien's mother took him to live with her parents in Kings Heath, Birmingham before moving to the hamlet of Sarehole.

Tolkien himself claimed to have few memories of South Africa, except for a vivid encounter with a large spider, an experience he is said to have put to good use later on in his writing. His father, Arthur Tolkien is buried in the Bloemfontein cemetery and his grave is still identifiable. Tolkien’s literature is widely read and readily available in South Africa.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Bloemfontein Tourism Bureau
Tel: +27 (0)51 4058489

How to get here

Bloemfontein, where JRR Tolkien was born, is a major South African city situated along the N1 Highway.

Best time to visit

Bloemfontein enjoys a hot to warm climate, with cold winters.

Around the area

Naval Hill offers magnificent panoramic views of the area. The Franklin Nature Reserve, just a short drive from Bloemfontein, has giraffe, springbuck, ostriches and buffalo, and is worth a visit.

Length of stay

Bloemfontein is South Africa's legal capital, and has some interesting historical buildings and museums to see, such as the Boer War Museum.