To refer to Professor Tolkien as a "linguist" is to have two meanings. It is to mean, first, that he revels in the communicative potential of the English language and, second that he is a creator of language, new language that is comparable to English in its origins, its consistency, and its expressiveness.
"[Tolkien] read a lot of medieval Welsh literature, taught medieval Welsh when he was working at Leeds University and you can see the influence of the language and the literature in his creative writing and his scholarly work." [Dr. Carl Phelpstead of Cardiff University] added: "Welsh is important as an influence particularly on one of the Elvish languages, Sindarin."
[C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien] had both personal and professional reasons for this interest. Personally, they had both read and enjoyed such stories as they were growing up, in collections by the brothers Grimm, Andrew Lang, and others. Lewis had also heard Celtic myths—his nurse had told him some of the folk tales of Ireland. Professionally, they studied and taught the literatures of medieval romance and, in Tolkien's case, the background of Norse myth.
Tolkien was a private man who, when he met Lewis, had written his mythic tales for a private audience. He had very little confidence that they could speak to a wider audience.
In 1916 Tolkien was sent to France, where he and his fellow soldiers faced the terrifying new mechanisms of modern warfare—machine guns, tanks, and poison gas—fighting in some of the bloodiest battles known to human history. Tolkien fought in the Battle of the Somme, a vicious engagement in which over a million people were either killed or wounded.
In the trenches of World War I, Tolkien began recording the horrors of war that would later surface in The Lord of the Rings. Later that year he caught trench fever, an illness carried by lice, and was sent back to England. During his convalescence, he began writing down the stories and mythology of Middle-earth, which would form the basis for The Silmarillion.
Tolkien refused to admit that his ring had anything to do with Wagner’s. “Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceased,” he said. But he certainly knew his Wagner, and made an informal study of “Die Walküre” not long before writing the novels. The idea of the omnipotent ring must have come directly from Wagner; nothing quite like it appears in the old sagas.
[Tolkien] bemoaned how the Nazis had corrupted “that noble northern spirit.” You could see “The Lord of the Rings” as a kind of rescue operation, saving the Nordic myths from misuse—perhaps even saving Wagner from himself. Tolkien tried, it seems, to create a kinder, gentler “Ring,” a mythology without malice.
As [Tolkien] was finishing The Lord of the Rings, he wrote the short story "Leaf by Niggle," the autobiographical sense of which is perfectly clear: in it a "little man," Niggle/Tolkien, who has spent his whole life trying to paint a Tree in spite of innumerable distractions is called away by Death before he finishes it... At about the same time Tolkien was writing another fiction in which his work survived only as a bundle of papers on a dusty shelf, anonymous and unread. As a medievalist, after all, Tolkien was professionally familiar with works just like that.
Tolkien was a twentieth-century English unconstitutional monarchist, a devout Roman Catholic, and a strong believer in the limitations placed upon humans by Adam's original sin. According to his official biographer and family friend, Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien "held in contempt" Wagner's interpretation of the Norse and German versions of the Niebelungen Saga. Still, he studied or listened to Wagner and his music frequently.