Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University from 1925 to 1945 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature there from 1945 to 1959. He was a close friend of C. S. Lewis—they were both members of the informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.
While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the "father" of modern fantasy literature—or, more precisely, of high fantasy. In 2008, The Times ranked him sixth on a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". Forbes ranked him the 5th top-earning dead celebrity in 2009.
Tolkien was much inspired by early Germanic, especially Old English literature, poetry, and mythology, which were his chosen and much-loved areas of expertise. These sources of inspiration included Old English literature such as Beowulf, Norse sagas such as the Volsunga saga and the Hervarar saga, the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, the Nibelungenlied, and numerous other culturally related works. Tolkien also acknowledged several non-Germanic influences or sources for some of his stories and ideas. Sophocles' play Oedipus the King he cited as inspiring elements of The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin.