I’ve begun reading through Tolkien’s biography by Humphrey Carpenter. His first chapter details his visit to Professor Tolkien’s home. A few things struck me:
First, Professor Tolkien is deeply engaged with his pipe. His pipe is almost symbolic in that it is inextricably linked to his thoughts about Middle Earth. Can you imagine the The Lord of the Rings without a pipe?
Secondly, the biographer describes Tolkien’s stature. He is rather short and his wife even shorter. In light of the grandiose figures in Tokien’s fiction, Tolkien sees himself as a mere hobbit–content with his stature and his life in the Shire.
Finally, Tolkien is not described so much as a fiction writer, but someone who is deeply interested in the accuracy of Middle-Earth in its geography, details, language, etc. He functions more like a historian of a world he created and designed after his own image
In describing Tolkien, Carpenter concludes:
It is rather as some strange spirit had taken on the guise of an elderly professor. The body may be pacing this shabby little suburban room, but the mind is far away, roaming the plains and mountains of Middle-Earth.