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The Tolkien Society

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Founded6 November 1969 (informal)[1]
15 January 1972 (formal)
1977 (charitable status)
FounderVera Chapman
TypeEducational charity, fan club, academic society
Key peopleJ.R.R. Tolkien (President)
Priscilla Tolkien (Vice-President)

Sally Kennett (Chairman)
Alex Lewis (Secretary)
Henry Gee (Mallorn editor)
Andrew Butler (Amon Hen editor)
SubsidiariesTolkien Society Trading Ltd
Amon Hen

The Tolkien Society is an international fan club and educational charity based in England. Founded in 1969 with the blessing of J.R.R. Tolkien, it has expanded its membership across the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.



The Tolkien Society was formed in 1969 by Vera Chapman, an Oxford-educated retired teacher/civil servant, who, horrified at the annexation of Tolkien's works by "hippies and drop-outs" decided to form a group dedicated to the true appreciation of Tolkien's works.

Initially London-based, the Society would meet in Chapman's North London flat; they kept in communication via a photocopied newsletter called "Belladonna's Broadsheet" (Chapman had adopted the name Belladonna Took as her Middle-earth alias).

The Society grew steadily, and Chapman willingly passed over responsibility for the bulletin to other hands whilst a more scholarly publication, "Mallorn" also appeared. Belladonna's Broadsheet went through a number of identity changes, being "Henneth Annun" for one issue before its then editor, John Martin, adopted its current name: "Amon Hen".

The Society also undertook a pilgrimage to Oxford, exploring the colleges and sites relevant to J.R.R. Tolkien's life. Visit was made to Wolvercote Cemetery where wreaths in tribute were laid. At that first visit, it was found that a wild bramble had rooted in the topsoil of the grave. This was rapidly uprooted, and the Society offered to buy a rose plant, the offer of which Priscilla Tolkien - Tolkien's only daughter - accepted. The weekend event culminated with a visit to the home of Priscilla Tolkien.

Relations with J.R.R. Tolkien

In 1972 New Year Honours, Tolkien was made a C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) just two days before his birthday. Allen & Unwin had encouraged the Tolkien Society to write to Tolkien on the occasion, and they sent the following telegram:


—The Tolkien Society's telegram to J.R.R. Tolkien[3]

The Society also published a congratulatory message in The Times on the 3 January in the 'BIRTHDAYS' section: "TOLKIEN. Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, C.B.E. Congratulations on your 80th birthday. 'Elen sila lumenn' omentielmo.' The Tolkien Society." As a birthday present, the Society also sent him a green china tobacco jar - designed with a huntsman and a white deer - which included best Latakia Mixture tobacco; attached was the following note:

FROM all Hobbits, Elves, Elf-friends, Dwarves, Ents, Numenoreans, Rohirrim, etc. etc. etc. of the TOLKIEN SOCIETY (in Britain) with love and honour and hearty congratulations, to the creation of so much wonder. Although not to be compared with true LONGBOTTOM LEAF, we hope that this will at least raise a few smoke-rings of happy recollection.

—The Tolkien Society's message to J.R.R. Tolkien on his birthday[3]

Joy Hill, Tolkien's secretary, phoned Vera Chapman on the 3 January and said, "Of all the tributes he received, this was the one that gave the greatest pleasure."[3] A month later, he wrote to her:

Dear Mrs. Chapman,
May I thank you and the Tolkien Society for your good wishes and kind gift on my 80th birthday. I appreciated your generosity very much indeed.
Best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
J.R.R. Tolkien [signed]

Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Vera Chapman, dated 6 February 1972[3]


On the 27 June 1972, Vera Chapman was invited to a sherry party by Rayner Unwin, where she met Tolkien himself. After exchanging a few words with him about the belladonna plant, she asked if he would would be willing to be the Society's honorary president; he said "Certainly" before concluding, "If I can help your society in any way, I will."[4]

Following the death of J.R.R. Tolkien in 1973, the Tolkien Society offered the post of Honorary President to Christopher Tolkien, Tolkien's son, but Christopher declined saying he thought the his father should remain president forever. At the AGM in 1974 the motion was passed that J.R.R. Tolkien should remain the Honorary President in perpetuo; he remains the Society's president to this day.[5]

List of Chairmen

The following is a list of chairmen of The Tolkien Society. Italic text indicates an acting chairman who was appointed, rather than elected.

NameTerm of officeDuration
Vera Chapman29 January 197020 November 1970296 days
Keith Bridges20 November 197015 January 19721 year, 57 days
1Keith Bridges16 January 197217 February 19731 year, 32 days
2Hartley Patterson18 February 197316 February 1974363 days
3Jonathan Simons17 February 197413 April 198511 years, 56 days
4Brin Dunsire14 April 198516 April 19883 years, 2 days
5Alex Lewis17 April 198811 April 19923 years, 360 days
6Amanda Fingleson12 April 19925 April 19974 years, 358 days
7Chris Crawshaw6 April 199719 April 200811 years, 13 days
8Matthew Vernon20 April 20088 January 2009264 days
Sally Kennett8 January 200925 April 2009107 days
9Sally Kennett26 April 2009present3 years, 26 days


The Tolkien Society publishes Amon Hen six times a year and the more scholarly Mallorn twice a year.


The Tolkien Society organizes the following events annually:

  • September: the Oxonmoot at one of Oxford's colleges.[6]
  • Spring: the Annual General Meeting.[7]
  • Summer: the Seminar.[8]

Throughout the year Smials (e.g. local chapters) of the Tolkien Society also meet throughout the world.

The Oxonmoot grew to be an annual event, and in subsequent years other members of the Tolkien family, including two of the Professor's sons: Fr John, the Catholic priest, and Michael, a teacher based in Lancashire, also met with Tolkien Society members.

Other annual events include the AGM & Annual Dinner (with guest speaker), held as part of a weekend of activities in the Spring in a different town or city in the United Kingdom each year.

The Seminar consists of a program of talks on a Tolkien-related subject, in the Summer.

The Tolkien Society also organized unique events in recent decades, typically an anniversary around J.R.R. Tolkien and his works.

In 1992 the Tolkien Society orchestrated the Centenary Conference in cooperation with other Tolkien societies and scholars throughout the world.[9]

In 2005 the Tolkien Society orchestrated Tolkien 2005 in cooperation with other Tolkien societies and scholars throughout the world.[10]

In 2012 the Tolkien Society will organize The Return of the Ring conference.[11]


  1. Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 17
  2. Sally Kennett, "Behind Glass Doors" in Andrew Butler (ed.), Amon Hen 235, p. 19
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 21
  4. Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 22
  5. Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 23
  6. (accessed 07-12-2011)
  7. (accessed 07-12-2011)
  8. (accessed 07-12-2011)
  9. (accessed 07-12-2011)
  10. (accessed 07-12-2011)
  11. (accessed 07-12-2011)

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