15 Wondrous Facts About Wonder Woman

DC Comics
DC Comics

She's the Amazonian superhero who changed the world when she first emerged in late 1941. Shirking the passive portrayal of women as typists, librarians, or young girls in love (at least most of the time), she was a butt-kicking, take-charge champion of justice who very quickly became a star and holds her place next to the likes of Superman and Batman as one of the longest running superhero characters of all time. And she recently turned 75 years old. So Mental Floss asked DC Comics to dig deep into her history for some fascinating facts about the warrior goddess who deflects bullets with her gauntlets, wields the golden Lasso of Truth, and fights all manner of man and beast in her globe-spanning adventures. The woman who left her Amazonian home on Paradise Island to look after military officer Steve Trevor and aid him in his fight against the Nazis has grown through some amazing adventures since then.

1. SHE WAS AN INSTANT SENSATION.

When Wonder Woman debuted in All-Star Comics #8 (dated December 1941, released in October 1941), she took the comics world by storm. But her then-publisher All-American Publications knew that they had something great. Her next appearance followed just a few weeks later in Sensation Comics #1 (dated January 1942), and she was one of the first superhero characters to get her own book, in the summer of 1942. "Superman was first, Batman was second, and Wonder Woman did it in less than a year from the moment she was first created," DC Comics archivist and librarian Benjamin LeClear tells mental_floss. "It's just mind-boggling." She initially had psychic powers like telepathy and astral projection, and she became invulnerable to electric shocks.

2. SHE HAS NEVER WORN A SKIRT.

Image courtesy of DC Comics

While several images make it look like she is wearing a skirt, they are actually culottes, split pants that vary from thigh to knee length. "It was never a skirt," LeClear says. "But it's so flowy and loose on the bottom that it flows in the early versions very much like a skirt." Over time, and on more than one occasion, the garment was shortened. "Sometimes it's because of taste, and other times because it's a lot easier to draw. It really did start out as a form of elaborate shorts," LeClear says.      

LeClear adds that the original costume design "had a fully Grecian look with sandals" that was rejected by both the character's creator, William Moulton Marston, and his wife Elizabeth, upon whom she was based. She thought a skirt was impractical for combat, and he insisted on boots over the sandals that had been suggested. Interestingly enough, sandals eventually showed up on the cover of a 1951 issue when she got an image makeover.

3. HER CREATOR ALSO INVENTED AN EARLY LIE DETECTOR TEST.

William Moulton Marston invented one of the first “modern” lie detector tests after realizing how people's blood pressure changed when they were lying. He constructed the first version in 1915 and published his findings in 1917. Beyond his involvement with the police and government, Marston was also an early champion of women's rights, so it's no surprise that he created Wonder Woman while pulling from his extensive knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology.

4. SHE WAS ORIGINALLY MADE OF CLAY.

Image courtesy of DC Comics

Originally, Wonder Woman was made of clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta, and then brought to life. Later writers would add that the Olympian deities gave her powers reflecting her original description: "Beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, stronger than Hercules, and swifter than Mercury." In the post-New 52 era of the past few years, Wonder Woman became the daughter of Zeus proper, but as part of the ongoing Rebirth storyline she has learned that her past is a lie and is setting out to discover the truth.

5. SHE WAS A REFORMER OF CRIMINALS.

In the early days of superheroes, before the Comics Code Authority and censorship hit the comics industry in the mid-1950s, Batman had guns and Superman was hanging criminals by their ankles over the edge of buildings. Wonder Woman's creator felt that his beloved character was made of sterner moral fabric. She also was not going to kill people. (That would change many, many years later.) "She had this thing that other superheroes didn't do in her era—she was looking to reform them," LeClear says. "Especially [with] the female super villains, she takes them over to Reform Island [also known as Transformation Island] and tries to get them rehabilitated back to their true nature of women, which Marston believed was a superior nature and, like many suffragettes, thought was the only recipe for peace—women being in charge of society."

6. SHE'S THE ORIGINAL WONDER GIRL.

DC Comics Wiki

Back in the 1950s, DC Comics decided to tell some teenage stories of Wonder Woman, much in the same way that Superman's early years were explored through the Superboy series. The Wonder Girl idea was so well received that the company receded another generation and created Wonder Tot. "She's adorable," says LeClear. "It's Wonder Woman as a baby, just a little kid in a costume. They wanted to show all three of them together, so the writer Robert Kanigher came up with a weird idea where her mother was able to splice film together and show all three of them at the same time. It was an imaginary tale as if all three ages of Wonder Woman had an adventure together."

This triage actually confused other DC writers, who assumed one of them was Wonder Woman's sister. "The later Donna Troy was created from that internal misunderstanding about who the first Wonder Girl was," LeClear explains. "Wonder Girl had a skirt, but Wonder Woman did not. It's much later that she gets that armored skirt that she has in the [recent Batman v Superman] film, which is starting to become her new predominant look. It does throw back to the flowiness of the original costume, but has this other military strength aspect to her that we've come to expect out of her in the last 30 years."

7. WONDER WOMAN LOST HER POWERS FOR A FEW YEARS.

In an unusual narrative twist, Wonder Woman surrendered her powers in 1968. She wanted to stay in Man's World and look after Steve Trevor (who, ironically, was killed off), rather than join her Amazonian sisters in traveling to another dimension. She opened a mod clothing boutique, dressed in the fashion of the time, and learned martial arts. "The mod years have some great looks for her, but no real fixed costume," LeClear says. "She had a white jumpsuit with a W on it, but she wore all kinds of glamorous clothes in that period." The Cathy Lee Crosby TV movie, which aired in 1974—one year before the Lynda Carter series—was inspired by this incarnation of Wonder Woman.

8. GLORIA STEINEM GOT WONDER WOMAN’S POWERS BACK.

Image courtesy of DC Comics

The famed feminist grew up loving Wonder Woman, and after she got Ms. magazine rolling in December 1971, she got permission from DC to put her favorite childhood icon on the July 1972 cover with the tagline "Wonder Woman for President." (She had previously run for the Oval Office in a storyline set 1000 years in the future, published back in the 1940s.)

"Gloria Steinem put her on the cover in her classic bathing suit and tiara look and asked DC what was going on with Wonder Woman at the time," LeClear recalls. "She was horrified to find out she had no superpowers. She said that could not stand. Girls and women needed to know about the strength and power that was Wonder Woman as a superhero, so based on that we put her back [into her classic mode]." The classic costume also returned with the emergence of the TV series starring Lynda Carter in 1975.

Steinem also gets credit for collecting all of Wonder Woman's Golden Age adventures into a book many years before the graphic novel trend set in. She commissioned and paid for it.

9. DIANA PRINCE HAS HELD A VARIETY OF JOBS.

Image courtesy of DC Comics

As the Wonder Woman/Diana Prince storylines and continuities have mutated over the years, she has held a variety of different positions, from being Steve Trevor's assistant to being a spy to being a romance editor in the 1950s. She also worked in fast food and as a singer. (In real life, Lynda Carter has successfully toured in recent years as a jazz and pop vocalist. She recorded an EP of songs for the Fallout 4 video game soundtrack last year.)

Perhaps the most notorious gig was Wonder Woman herself serving in the Justice Society of America as their secretary, which reflected the sexism of the time.

"There was a great questionnaire in the back of All-Star Comics #11," according to LeClear, "and it said: 'Should Wonder Woman be allowed, even though a woman, to become a member of the Justice Society?' So they put it up to the kids to vote, and what's crazy is that by an 8-to-1 margin they all voted in favor of it. And of course they put her in as secretary."

10. THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL WONDER WOMEN.

While Diana is the Wonder Woman, there have been other stand-ins during various phases throughout her history. Orana challenged her for the title in 1978 and won, but she later died "because of her brashness," says LeClear. Artemis later challenged Wonder Woman for her title in 1994, won, took her power, then also passed away. "So the lesson is don't beat Wonder Woman in a contest; it doesn't work out well for you."

Donna Troy, the most famous Wonder Girl, filled in for Wonder Woman at a certain point "because there have been points where Wonder Woman has disappeared through death or Multiverse transformation or travel," says LeClear. Another replacement was Nubia, "a brief character who was a sister of hers who'd been raised by Mars instead, who really had an equal claim and challenged her for it," LeClear says. "She died and has been erased by later Multiverse continuity changes." Nubia first emerged in 1973.

In one storyline, Diana died and was granted divinity as the Goddess of Truth. While her daughter served as a god in Olympus, Diana's mother Queen Hippolyta actually became Wonder Woman for a time, and DC liked the idea so much they had her travel back in time to join the Justice Society of America in the 1940s. It was after "that whole Multiverse trick that we did where they put the original Golden Age comics as just existing back [in] another world," notes LeClear. "She was able to travel to that and fill in the part as Wonder Woman."

11. WONDER WOMAN GAINED THE ABILITY TO FLY.

Image courtesy of DC Comics

When she originally emerged, Wonder Woman wore a tiara that doubled as a boomerang-like weapon, had gauntlets that could deflect bullets, and wielded the golden Lasso of Truth. The Invisible Plane first emerged (powered by an invisible propeller) in Sensation Comics #1 and it was later changed to the Invisible Jet as real-life technology evolved. She first gained the ability to glide on air currents in Wonder Woman #98 (May 1958), and in 1985 her origin was rebooted and she has been able to fly ever since. In recent years, the Invisible Jet has taken a reduced role given her natural abilities—although, depending upon the writer, her flight skills vary.

"When I worked on Superman: For Tomorrow, in which Wonder Woman played a pretty big role for several issues, she went to the Fortress of Solitude," says Jim Lee, artist, writer, and publisher of DC Comics. "When you show her flying, it begs the question: what is the Invisible Jet for? I wanted to draw the Invisible Jet and thought it was a cool part of the mythology. It looked a little more militaristic and futuristic, then she dropped out of the jet and kind of flew in on her own powers. In my mind as creator, she had the power of flight for short periods of time. So the jet was for more long-range purposes."

12. FOR A FEW YEARS, SHE AND SUPERMAN HAD A THING.

While Steve Trevor has been the perennial love of her life, DC shook things up when they rebooted their major heroes with the launch of The New 52 line in 2011. Wonder Woman got a more super powered paramour. "One of the interesting things about New 52 was that it allowed us to nullify the marriage between Superman and Lois Lane and restore that classic love triangle between Superman, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane," explains Lee. "That also allowed us to do some different creative material that had never been more fully explored. That Superman-Wonder Woman relationship was well received, and we were able to build a little franchise out of it." But with the 2016 DC re-launch of the Rebirth line, the classic Wonder Woman-Steve Trevor relationship is back on.

13. HER MOVIE AND TV HISTORY IS SPOTTY.

For some reason, Wonder Woman had a slow start making it to television. Unlike Batman or Superman, who appeared in 1940s serials, the first attempt at a Wonder Woman series was a botched attempt in 1967 to portray her as the young daughter of a traditional matriarch who does not understand why she does not want to just settle down with a man. Watch the teaser; it's awkward.

Cathy Lee Crosby starred in the 1974 TV movie, which took its lead from the power-less Wonder Woman of the mod era, giving her a star spangled jumpsuit and sending her after villain Abner Smith (Ricardo Montalban), who stole code books from the American government. The special actually did decently, but ABC decided to retool their approach, which paved the way for Lynda Carter and the well-known series of the late 1970s.

The original pilot in November 1975 was a success, followed by two one-hour specials in the spring of 1976. Then 11 episodes comprised the first full season in 1976-1977. While a ratings success, the show switched networks to CBS, who reduced the period piece budgetary costs by shifting it from the WWII era to the 1970s, where Diana Prince—now a full-fledged government agent—was working with Steve Trevor's lookalike son. The show lasted until 1979.

Since that time, efforts to bring Wonder Woman back to TV or the movies have not been so valiant. A 2011 TV series created by David E. Kelley starred Adrianne Palicki in the titular role. Diana Prince was CEO of Themyscira Industries (a nod to the renamed Paradise Island from the comics), her privately run, crime-fighting organization. Her identity was not so secret, her plane was highly visible, and her lasso was used as a normal weapon, not as a truth-telling device. The pilot was never aired and the show never got its wings.       

Finally, the goddess superhero has gotten her own movie after appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The Wonder Woman movie, which hits theaters on June 2, stars Gal Gadot in the title role and is already poised to kick butt at the box office.

14. THE CATHY LEE CROSBY AND LYNDA CARTER VERSIONS HAVE MET.

The DC series Wonder Woman '77, which is a comic book recreation of the famed TV series, pitted the two women against each other when the Carter version developed amnesia and found herself in the alternate universe of the Crosby continuities. As she started to sort out all of the craziness, the two engaged in an urban rumble. This is probably the only time the two TV characters have officially crossed paths. "That's a nod to the past that's done in a very entertaining, clever, innovative way," says Lee.

15. THE NEW WONDER WOMAN SERIES HAS TWO STORY ARCS.

Image courtesy of DC Comics

The re-launch of Wonder Woman is a biweekly series that alternates between a retelling of her origin and a more modern storyline that starts with a jungle adventure involving her, Steve Trevor, and her old nemesis Cheetah. "I think the aim [of the current creators] is an abnormal one, which is to take all the disparate takes on Wonder Woman and try to synthesize them into a whole," explains Lee.

The 15 Best TV Series Finales of All Time

Ursula Coyote, AMC
Ursula Coyote, AMC

What makes a great TV series finale? It depends on the show, of course. But no matter what series you may be watching, you want a finale that ties up loose ends without being annoyingly completist, gives you heart without seeming overly sentimental, and of course makes you feel just as happy, sad, thrilled, or compelled as you did with each previous episode. It’s a very tricky needle to thread, and some series have undoubtedly done it better than others.

In celebration of what it takes to deliver a great final episode, here are (some of) the greatest series finales of all time.

1. The Sopranos // “Made In America”

“Made In America” is, infamously, the episode of television that made millions of viewers briefly think that their cable had just gone out at some crucial moment, when in reality what happened was creator David Chase simply decided one seemingly random moment was the exact second where Tony Soprano’s journey would end. The series finale of The Sopranos spent the better part of its runtime wrapping up a mob war that crippled the family, and then devoted its final minutes to a family dinner set to Journey. Fans still debate the meaning and merits of the final scene, but the sense of palpable unease Chase built up in those last moments—signifying Tony’s perpetual state of watching his back—were a brilliant way to end a show that began as a meditation on existential dread in the first place.

2. Six Feet Under // “Everyone’s Waiting”

The final minutes of “Everyone’s Waiting” are among the most famous in the history of television, and even if the rest of the episode had been a disappointment, they would still rank among the greatest farewells in the medium. As it is, Six Feet Under's final episode with the Fisher family is a gripping, heartfelt, and bitterly funny gem, all building to that last montage. As Sia’s "Breathe Me" plays, we see the deaths of every member of the main cast, which reminds us that death takes many forms beyond mere tragedy, all culminating in the last breaths of Claire. Just thinking about it is enough to make fans of the show burst into tears.

3. Breaking Bad // “Felina”

Few series finales have ever faced such high expectations and managed to rise to meet them so powerfully as Breaking Bad did with its final episode in 2013. “Felina” has everything you could ever want from a Breaking Bad send-off: Walt’s final conversation with Skyler, that incredible revenge shoot-out featuring the rigged machine gun, Jesse’s defiant cry of freedom as he drives away, Walt’s collapse, and that little smile of victory on his face. Some series finales deliver what you want; others deliver what you need. “Felina” somehow manages to do both.

4. M*A*S*H // “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

M*A*S*H was on longer than the Korean War was actually fought, and was more than 250 episodes into its run by the time “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” aired and became one of the most-watched television events in the history of the medium. You’d think the staff of the 4077th might have run out of things to say after such a run, but the series finale manages to be absolutely jam-packed, featuring everything from Hawkeye’s dark repressed memories to Klinger’s wedding. It all builds to that final shot of “GOODBYE” written in stones, which still ranks as one of the most iconic moments in TV history.

5. The Americans // “START”

The Americans quietly became one of the best shows on TV before finally winning a bunch of awards for its final season, and with good reason. The final adventures of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings as they contemplated a return to Russia and an end to their double lives in America were among the best the series ever delivered, all building to a final episode that stuck the landing in every possible way, from the thrills of their final escape to the emotional payoff of their daughter Paige’s big decision.

6. The Wire // "-30-"

The Wire was never going to end anything in a clean, cut-and-dried way, but its series finale did mange to wield the various talents at play in the series to end everything on an ambitious and fairly comprehensive note. The finale reckoned with many of the same questions the entire series did—from the nature of justice to the fragility of power systems and how far people will go to keep them in place—as it worked to resolve the homeless serial killer hoax, illegal wiretapping, and the all-important future of Tommy Carcetti. One last montage reminds us that life goes on in Baltimore, whether the show’s characters have reshaped it for the better or not.

7. Seinfeld // “The Finale”

The series finale of Seinfeld is also among the most divisive in the history of television, and it all begins with an amusing swerve. The show leads off by making us think Jerry and George are about to embark on a typical sitcom sendoff, bidding New York City farewell as they head to California to make a television series, but then the real plot kicks in as the show’s quartet of main characters is arrested for literally doing nothing as a man is carjacked.

The brilliance of the show’s protagonists getting in trouble for the very same thing they’d been doing for nine seasons in a “show about nothing” then pivots to a trial that does play by the sitcom rule of allowing old fan-favorite characters to come back as witnesses, then launches into a wrap-up that mocks the characters, the show’s fans, and the show’s own place of seeming importance in the pop culture landscape. Sitcom finales are usually more like curtain calls; "The Finale" was a provocative final joke.

8. Battlestar Galactica // “Daybreak Parts 1-3”

The finale of Battlestar Galactica might be a little too metaphysical in nature for some viewers, but there’s something about the sense of totality running through it that makes it a perfect sendoff for a series that always placed everything on the line with every single story it told. As the surviving humans of the fleet finally defeat their Cylon enemies, Starbuck sends them to a new home, and they agree to abandon all of their old technology and live among the primitive humans already present on what turns out to be our Earth. It’s a beautiful blending of victory, bittersweet goodbyes, seismic changes to everyone’s lives, angels, the future, and—believe it or not—“All Along the Watchtower.”

9. Star Trek: The Next Generation // “All Good Things…”

“Encounter at Farpoint,” the series premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a famously slow, bloated affair that was a sign of things to come for the relatively weak first season. “All Good Things…” brilliantly repurposes that story as a time travel saga in which Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns that Q, the alien being who put humanity on trial back in the premiere, is continuing his test of the human race by placing Picard in three different eras of his life. It’s a brilliant conceit that makes an elegant circle out of the series while also allowing Picard to give viewers a grand tour of the series’ entire history, including his own future.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer // “Chosen”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer spent weeks setting up its series finale, laying out a last stand that would either end Buffy and her gang of allies forever or wipe Sunnydale off the face of the Earth—or both. The final battle itself has since been dwarfed by more epic series like Game of Thrones, but what makes “Chosen” so magical isn’t its fight scenes, but its heart. With her own army of potential Slayers at her back, Buffy asks Willow to perform a spell that will give them all the powers of a Slayer, leading to one of the most empowering montages in the history of television. Then, even while mourning absent friends, Buffy is able to look toward tomorrow.

11. Newhart // “The Last Newhart”

So many sitcom series finales are all about final goodbyes. Very often characters leave their longtime TV homes for somewhere new, leading to tearful farewells or at least a final moment for everyone to spend one last day together. Newhart absolutely blew that premise up with a twisty, joke-filled finale that includes the entire town being turned into a resort, a five-year time jump, and that brilliant final scene which reveals all of Newhart to have been the dream of Dr. Bob Hartley, Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show. The level of ambition is admirable. That the ambition translated to genuine laughs is wonderful.

12. Twin Peaks: The Return // “Part 17 and Part 18”

Twin Peaks famously ended its early ’90s run with a cliffhanger, which then led to the joyous reception that accompanied The Return, an 18-hour monument to creative freedom which everyone hoped would finally provide some answers. In true David Lynch fashion, though, the answers we got were often difficult to parse. And by the time it was all over, we were left with even more questions. The final two hours of The Return are among the most mind-meltingly intense episodes of television ever devised, all building to a daring and stunning final scene that still has fans talking.

13. The West Wing // “Tomorrow”

The West Wing played the long game with its series finale thanks to a year-long election storyline, which meant that its final episode was always going to be the combination of both an end and a beginning. The intense election story—which included a live debate episode—culminated in the inauguration of a new president, and a farewell to Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlet, but the sense of transition inherent in the plot managed to imbue the series with a new sense of potential energy as it made the turn toward home. Watching “Tomorrow,” you can’t help but fantasize about what it will be like for Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn to be together in the White House again, changing the world in all new ways. That emotional weight meant that, after seven years, we actually all felt like we could use a little more of The West Wing.

14. Halt and Catch Fire // “Ten of Swords”

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in Halt and Catch Fire
Bob Mahoney, AMC

Halt and Catch Fire never got the audience it deserved when it was airing, which means many people likely don’t know just how brilliant and daring the show got in its final seasons, which included a time jump, a shocking death, and the dawn of the internet age. “Ten of Swords” is all about closing old chapters and starting new ones, and sends the show’s trinity of remaining major characters in promising new directions, even as they all come to terms with the fact that they can never again recapture what they once had.

15. 30 Rock // “Last Lunch”

30 Rock was one of the most acclaimed comedies of its era in part because of its outright refusal to ever be straightforward about anything. Every plot was jokes on top of jokes and references on top of references, creating a show that rewards viewers who can’t get enough of rapid fire wit (and deserves rewatching). “Last Lunch” continued that tradition while also managing to inject some genuine emotion into the affair, as Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) reconcile their friendship in a half hour packed with so many gags and callbacks you could watch it half a dozen times and still not catch everything.

10 Surprising Facts About J.R.R. Tolkien

Phil Romans via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Phil Romans via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are plenty of things even the most ardent fans don't know about The Lord of the Rings author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In honor of Tolkien Reading Day (March 25th), here are 10 of them.

1. Tolkien had a flair for the dramatic.

As a linguist and expert on Old English and Old Norse literature, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University from 1925 until 1959. He was also a tireless instructor, teaching between 70 and 136 lectures a year (his contract only called for 36). But the best part is the way he taught those classes. Although quiet and unassuming in public, Tolkien wasn't the typical stodgy, reserved stereotype of an Oxford don in the classroom. He went to parties dressed as a polar bear, chased a neighbor dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior, and was known to hand shopkeepers his false teeth as payment. As one of his students put it, "He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall."

2. Tolkien felt many of his fans were "lunatics."

Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were largely Tolkien's attempt to construct a body of myth, and their success caught him largely unaware. In fact, he spent years rejecting, criticizing, and shredding adaptations of his work that he didn't believe captured its epic scope and noble purpose. He was also utterly skeptical of most LOTR fans, who he believed were incapable of really appreciating the work, and he probably would have been horrified by movie fandom dressing up like Legolas.

3. Tolkien loved his day job.

To Tolkien, writing fantasy fiction was simply a hobby. The works he considered most important were his scholarly works, which included Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, a modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and A Middle English Vocabulary.

4. He was quite romantic.

At age 16, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, three years his senior. His guardian, a Catholic priest, was horrified that his ward was seeing a Protestant and ordered the boy to have no contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed, pining after Edith for years until that fateful birthday, when he met with her under a railroad viaduct. She broke off her engagement to another man, converted to Catholicism, and the two were married for the rest of their lives. At Tolkien's instructions, their shared gravestone has the names "Beren" and "Luthien" engraved on it, a reference to a famous pair of star-crossed lovers from the fictional world he created.

5. Tolkien's relationship with C.S. Lewis was complicated.

Tolkien's fellow Oxford don C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) is often identified as his best friend and closest confidant. But the truth is, the pair had a much more troubled relationship. At first, the two authors were very close. In fact, Tolkien's wife Edith was reportedly jealous of their friendship. And it was Tolkien who convinced Lewis to return to Christianity. But their relationship cooled over what Tolkien perceived as Lewis's anti-Catholic leanings and scandalous personal life (he had been romancing an American divorcee at the time). Although they would never be as close as they were before, Tolkien regretted the separation. After Lewis died, Tolkien wrote in a letter to his daughter that, “So far I have felt ... like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

6. Tolkien enjoyed clubbing.

Well, the extra-curricular, after-school sort. Wherever Tolkien went, he was intimately involved in the formation of literary and scholarly clubs. As a professor at Leeds University, for example, he formed the Viking Club. And during his stint at Oxford, he formed the Inklings, a literary discussion group.

7. He wasn't blowing smoke about those war scenes.

Tolkien was a veteran of the First World War, and served as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was also present for some of the most bloody trench fighting of the war, including the Battle of the Somme. The deprivations of Frodo and Sam on their road to Mordor may have had their origins in Tolkien's time in the trenches, during which he contracted a chronic fever from the lice that infested him and was forced to return home. He would later say that all but one of his close friends died in the war, giving him a keen awareness of its tragedy that shines through in his writing.

8. Tolkien invented languages for fun.

A philologist by trade, Tolkien kept his mind exercised by inventing new languages, many of which (like the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin) he used extensively in his writing. He even wrote songs and poems in his fictional languages. In addition, Tolkien worked to reconstruct and write in extinct languages like Medieval Welsh and Lombardic. His poem "BagmÄ“ BlomÄ" ("Flower of the Trees") might be the first original work written in the Gothic language in over a millennium.

9. Tolkien been published almost as prolifically posthumously as he was when he was alive.

Most authors have to be content with the works they produce during their lifetime, but not Tolkien. His scribblings and random notes, along with manuscripts he never bothered to publish, have been edited, revised, compiled, redacted, and published in dozens of volumes after his death, most of them produced by his son Christopher. While Tolkien's most famous posthumous publication is The Silmarillion, other works include The History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

10. Tolkien called Hitler a "ruddy little ignoramus."

Tolkien's academic writings on Old Norse and Germanic history, language, and culture were extremely popular among the Nazi elite, who were obsessed with recreating ancient Germanic civilization. But Tolkien was disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi party, and made no secret of the fact. He considered forbidding a German translation of The Hobbit after the German publisher, in accordance with Nazi law, asked him to certify that he was an "Aryan." Instead, he wrote a scathing letter asserting, among other things, his regret that he had no Jewish ancestors. His feelings are also evidenced in a letter he wrote to his son: "I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler ... Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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