With his mystical worlds of Hobbits, wizards and dragons, JRR Tolkien touched the global imagination like few other writers before or since.

A new film, in cinemas now, explores the formative years of the Oxford writer’s life, exploring his friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school.

It explores the bonds that develop as they grow up and weather love and loss together, including John Ronald Reuel’s tumultuous courtship of his beloved Edith Bratt, until the outbreak of the First World War which threatened to tear their fellowship apart.

It was these experiences which would inspire Tolkien to write his Middle-earth novels –The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Directed by Dome Karukoski it stars Nicholas Hoult as Tolkien with Lily Collins as his future wife and muse Edith. The film also stars Colm Meaney, Anthony Boyle, Patrick Gibson, Tom Glynn-Carney, Craig Roberts, and Derek Jacobi. And it has once again got everyone talking about how the once lonely orphan transformed into one of the great storytellers of all time.

“I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since I was 12 years-old, so the most important thing to me was to bring all the emotions I had reading his books to this movie,” says Karukoski. “Tolkien is a magical story of love and friendship. It’s the story of an orphaned boy finding fellowship, going to war and discovering the one woman he’ll love for eternity. At the same time, it is about how Tolkien, in his creative brilliance, might have been inspired to weave each of these real things – friendship, war and love – into his incredibly lively fantasy worlds.”

The Oxford Times:

He adds: “For me, one of the biggest challenges going in was: how do you express the mind of a genius visually? I dug deep into Tolkien’s stories and his illustrations, searching for how his mind operated, for ways to show how he saw the world.

“I wanted those who love the books to be able to trace everything you see in the film forward into Tolkien’s work, but also for that to be so subtle that the story is equally compelling without knowing a thing about Middle-earth.”

Rising star Nicholas Hoult (previously seen in The Favourite, Mad Max: Fury Road and X-Men: Apocalypse) plays the author in his formative time as a student, young romantic and soldier. Raised by a devoted and imaginative mother who died tragically when he was only 12, Tolkien was left to carve his own precarious path until he found solace in a secret society with his fellow students. In them he discovered steadfast friendships that buoyed him through the dark times of war and gave him the confidence to try to follow the star-crossed lover he was forbidden to see. Crucially, it also inspired him to write his fantasy epics.

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Hoult took pleasure in getting to know a side of Tolkien he’d never encountered before: “Though I’ve loved Tolkien’s novels since I was a boy, I knew nothing about this time in his early life, which is so intriguing and illuminating,” he says.

“I never knew about his personal losses, tragedies at love and at war, or about the foundational friendships that meant so much to him. Or that he found a great love and had it taken away and struggled to find it again.

"I loved Dome’s approach to the story, the idea that through each of these light and dark experiences, Tolkien gained the voice to create the stories we’re more passionate about than ever now.”

The Oxford Times:

Writer David Gleeson described researching the author’s life as a labour of love. He said he especially loved that Tolkien first sharpened his storytelling savvy as part of his clandestine society of teen misfits along with Robert Gilson, Christopher Wiseman and Geoffrey Smith. The group was playfully dubbed the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, TCBS for short, and specialised in trading barbs, sharing ideas, debating everything, unleashing their inner poets and supporting one another in their aspiration to lead lives of courage, creativity and meaning.

“I found it really revelatory to discover that Tolkien was part of this foursome of friends who really were a fellowship,” he says.

“They all enlisted together, so you truly had this alliance of young men who had to confront tremendous peril, which is a theme that became so close to Tolkien’s heart.

“Later in life, Tolkien was quite keen to separate his personal life from his works, and talked very little about it, but it’s impossible now not to draw the connections.”

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He also became swept up in the almost Shakespearean love story between Tolkien and fellow orphan Edith Bratt. After a fiery courtship based on their mutual love of art and mischief, their link was nearly severed when Tolkien’s guardian, Father Francis Morgan, banned the love-struck pair from seeing each other until Tolkien was 21.

“Here was a tremendous romance between two lost souls who were torn apart just when they really needed each other, only to find each other again and make it work,” he says.

“It’s another remarkable story from Tolkien’s life.”