Christopher Tolkien

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Christopher Tolkien
BornChristopher John Reuel Tolkien
(1924-11-21)21 November 1924
Leeds, England
Died16 January 2020(2020-01-16) (aged 95)
Draguignan, France
OccupationEditor, illustrator, academic
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford (B.A., B.Litt.)
Genre Fantasy
Notable awards Bodley Medal (2016)
SpouseFaith Faulconbridge
Baillie Klass
Children3, including Simon Tolkien
Parents J. R. R. Tolkien
Edith Tolkien
Relatives John Francis Reuel Tolkien (brother)

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (21 November 1924 – 16 January 2020) was an English editor and academic. He was the son of author J. R. R. Tolkien and the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. Tolkien drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings .


Early life

Tolkien was born in Leeds, England, the third of four children and youngest son of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and his wife, Edith Mary Tolkien (née Bratt). He was educated at the Dragon School (Oxford) and later at The Oratory School. [1]

He entered the Royal Air Force in mid-1943 and was sent to South Africa for flight training, completing the elementary flying course at 7 Air School, Kroonstad, and the service flying course at 25 Air School, Standerton. He was commissioned into the general duties branch of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 27 January 1945 as a pilot officer on probation (emergency) and was given the service number 193121. [2] He briefly served as an RAF pilot before transferring to the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve on 28 June 1945. [3] His commission was confirmed and it was announced he was promoted to flying officer (war substantive) on 27 July 1945. [4] [5]

After the war, he studied English at Trinity College, Oxford, taking his B.A. in 1949 and his B.Litt. a few years later. [6]


Tolkien had long been part of the critical audience for his father's fiction, first as a child listening to tales of Bilbo Baggins (which were published as The Hobbit ), and then as a teenager and young adult offering much feedback on The Lord of the Rings during its 15-year gestation. He had the task of interpreting his father's sometimes self-contradictory maps of Middle-earth in order to produce the versions used in the books, and he re-drew the main map in the late 1970s to clarify the lettering and correct some errors and omissions. Tolkien was invited by his father to join the Inklings when he was 21 years old, making him the youngest member of the informal literary discussion society that included C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Warren Lewis, Lord David Cecil, and Nevill Coghill. [7]

He published The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise : "Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices by Christopher Tolkien" in 1960. [8] Later, Tolkien followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lecturer and tutor in English Language at New College, Oxford, from 1964 to 1975. [6]

In 2016, he was given the Bodley Medal, an award that recognises outstanding contributions to literature, culture, science, and communication. [9]

Editorial work

His father wrote a great deal of material connected to the Middle-earth legendarium that was not published in his lifetime. He had originally intended to publish The Silmarillion along with The Lord of the Rings, and parts of it were in a finished state when he died in 1973, but the project was incomplete. Tolkien once referred to his son as his "chief critic and collaborator", and named him his literary executor in his will. Tolkien organised the masses of his father's unpublished writings, some of them written on odd scraps of paper a half-century earlier. Much of the material was handwritten; frequently a fair draft was written over a half-erased first draft, and names of characters routinely changed between the beginning and end of the same draft. In the years following, Tolkien worked on the manuscripts and was able to produce an edition of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977. [10]

The Silmarillion was followed by Unfinished Tales in 1980, and The History of Middle-earth in 12 volumes between 1983 and 1996. Most of the original source-texts have been made public from which The Silmarillion was constructed. In April 2007, Tolkien published The Children of Húrin , whose story his father had brought to a relatively complete stage between 1951 and 1957 before abandoning it. This was one of his father's earliest stories, its first version dating back to 1918; several versions are published in The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and The History of Middle-earth. The Children of Húrin is a synthesis of these and other sources. Beren and Lúthien is an editorial work and was published as a stand-alone book in 2017. [11]

The next year, The Fall of Gondolin was published, also as an editorial work. [12] The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin make up the three "Great Tales" of the Elder Days which J.R.R. Tolkien considered to be the biggest stories of the First Age. [13]

HarperCollins published other J. R. R. Tolkien work edited by Tolkien which is not connected to the Middle-earth legendarium. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún appeared in May 2009, a verse retelling of the Norse Völsung cycle, followed by The Fall of Arthur [14] in May 2013, and by Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary in May 2014. [15] [16]

Tolkien served as chairman of the Tolkien Estate, Ltd., the entity formed to handle the business side of his father's literary legacy, and as a trustee of the Tolkien Charitable Trust. He resigned as director of the estate in 2017. [17]

Reaction to filmed versions

In 2001, he expressed doubts over The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, questioning the viability of a film interpretation that retained the essence of the work, but stressed that this was just his opinion. [18] In a 2012 interview with Le Monde he criticised the films saying: "They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds." [19]

In 2008, Tolkien commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family £80 million in unpaid royalties. [20] In September 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement, and he withdrew his legal objection to The Hobbit films. [21]

Personal life

Tolkien lived from 1975 in the French countryside with his second wife, Baillie Tolkien (née Klass), who edited his father's The Father Christmas Letters for posthumous publication. They had two children, Adam Reuel Tolkien and Rachel Clare Reuel Tolkien. In the wake of a dispute surrounding the making of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, he disowned his son by his first marriage, barrister and novelist Simon Mario Reuel Tolkien, [22] though they reconciled prior to Christopher's death. [23]

He died on 16 January 2020, at the age of 95, in Draguignan, Var, France. [10] [24] [25] [26]


As author or translator

As editor

Related Research Articles

A Balrog is a fictional creature in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. It first appeared in print in his high fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings, where the Fellowship of the Ring encounter one known as Durin's Bane in the Mines of Moria. Balrogs appear also in Tolkien's The Silmarillion and other posthumously published books.

In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional legendarium, Beleriand was a region in northwestern Middle-earth during the First Age. Events in Beleriand are described chiefly in his work The Silmarillion, which tells the story of the early ages of Middle-earth in a style similar to the epic hero tales of Nordic literature. Beleriand also appears in the works The Book of Lost Tales, The Children of Húrin, and in the epic poems of The Lays of Beleriand.

The War of Wrath, or the Great Battle, is the final war against Morgoth at the end of the First Age. It is a key plot development in J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium,

<i>Unfinished Tales</i> book

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth is a collection of stories and essays by J. R. R. Tolkien that were never completed during his lifetime, but were edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and published in 1980. Many of the tales within are retold in The Silmarillion, albeit in modified forms; the work also contains a summary of the events of The Lord of the Rings told from a less personal perspective.

Tuor Fictional character in the Middle-earth

Tuor is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is the grandfather of Elrond Half-elven and one of the most renowned ancestors of the Men of Númenor and of the King of the Reunited Kingdom Aragorn Elessar. Along with Beren Erchamion and Aragorn, Tuor was one of only three Men ever to marry one of the Eldarin Elves.

<i>The War of the Jewels</i> 11th volume of the 12-volume series The History of Middle-earth

The War of the Jewels (1994) is the 11th volume of Christopher Tolkien's series The History of Middle-earth, analysing the unpublished manuscripts of his father J. R. R. Tolkien.

Eagle (Middle-earth) animal from J. R. R. Tolkiens legendarium

In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional universe of Middle-earth, the eagles were immense flying birds that were sapient and could speak. Often emphatically referred to as the Great Eagles, they appear, usually and intentionally serving as agents of eucatastrophe or deus ex machina, in his legendarium, from The Silmarillion and the accounts of Númenor to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Húrin is a fictional character in the Middle-earth legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is introduced in The Silmarillion as a hero of Men during the First Age, said to be the greatest warrior of both the Edain and all the other Men in Middle-earth.

<i>The Book of Lost Tales</i> Collection of stories by J. R. R. Tolkien

The Book of Lost Tales is a collection of early stories by English writer J. R. R. Tolkien, published as the first two volumes of Christopher Tolkien's 12-volume series The History of Middle-earth, in which he presents and analyzes the manuscripts of those stories, which were the earliest form of the complex fictional myths that would eventually comprise The Silmarillion. Each of the Tales is followed by notes and a detailed commentary by Christopher Tolkien.

<i>The Lays of Beleriand</i> Third volume of the 12-volume series The History of Middle-earth

The Lays of Beleriand, published in 1985, is the third volume of Christopher Tolkien's 12-volume book series, The History of Middle-earth, in which he analyzes the unpublished manuscripts of his father J. R. R. Tolkien.

<i>The Fall of Gondolin</i> Literary work

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Fall of Gondolin is one of the stories in The Book of Lost Tales which formed the basis for a section in his later work, The Silmarillion. A stand-alone, book-length version of the story was published on 30 August 2018. The Fall of Gondolin is one of three stories from the First Age of Middle-earth to be published as a stand-alone book: the other two are Beren and Lúthien and The Children of Húrin.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the real-world history and notable fictional elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy universe:

The term Middle-earth canon, also called Tolkien's canon, is used for the published writings of J. R. R. Tolkien regarding Middle-earth as a whole. The term is also used in Tolkien fandom to promote, discuss and debate the idea of a consistent fictional canon within a given subset of Tolkien's writings.

<i>Beren and Lúthien</i> Book by J. R. R. Tolkien

The tale of "Beren and Lúthien", told in several works by J. R. R. Tolkien, is the story of the love and adventures of the mortal Man Beren and the immortal Elf-maiden Lúthien. Tolkien wrote several versions of their story, the latest in The Silmarillion, and the tale is also mentioned in The Lord of the Rings. The story takes place during the First Age of Middle-earth, about 6,500 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings.

<i>The Children of Húrin</i> Book

The Children of Húrin is an epic fantasy novel which forms the completion of a tale by J. R. R. Tolkien. He wrote the original version of the story in the late 1910s, revised it several times later, but did not complete it before his death in 1973. His son, Christopher Tolkien, edited the manuscripts to form a consistent narrative, and published it in 2007 as an independent work. The book contains 33 illustrations by Alan Lee, eight of which are full-page and in colour. The story is one of three "great tales" set in the First Age of Tolkien's Middle-earth, the other two being Beren and Lúthien and The Fall of Gondolin.

Tolkien's legendarium is the body of J. R. R. Tolkien's mythopoeic writing that forms the background to his The Lord of the Rings, a high fantasy novel which is widely considered to be his magnum opus.

This is a list of the published works of the English writer and philologist J. R. R. Tolkien.

Morgoth Bauglir is a character, one of the godlike Ainur, from Tolkien's legendarium. He is the main antagonist of The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, and The Fall of Gondolin, and is mentioned briefly in The Lord of the Rings.

Sauron Primary antagonist in Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings

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<i>The Silmarillion</i> Collection of J. R. R. Tolkiens mythopoeic works

The Silmarillion is a collection of mythopoeic works by English writer J. R. R. Tolkien, edited and published posthumously by his son, Christopher Tolkien, in 1977 with assistance from Guy Gavriel Kay. The Silmarillion, along with J. R. R. Tolkien's other works, forms an extensive, though incomplete, narrative that describes the universe of Eä in which are found the lands of Valinor, Beleriand, Númenor, and Middle-earth, within which The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place. After the success of The Hobbit, Tolkien's publisher requested a sequel, but rejected a draft of The Silmarillion as obscure and "too Celtic"; he developed The Lord of the Rings instead.


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