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Christopher Tolkien

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Christopher Tolkien
Biographical Information
Born21 November, 1924
Died16 January, 2020
EducationTrinity College, Oxford
OccupationAuthor, Professor

And you were so special a gift to me, in a time of sorrow and mental suffering, and your love, opening at once almost as soon as you were born, foretold to me, as it were in spoken words, that I am consoled ever by the certainty that there is no end to this.

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (21 November 1924 - 16 January 2020) was the third child and the youngest son of J.R.R. Tolkien and Edith Tolkien. He was the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate until his resignation in 2017, and he edited much of his father's work for posthumous publication.[2]


Early life

Christopher Tolkien was named after his father's friend, Christopher Wiseman[3] (he also sometimes used his confirmation name, "John" as seen on his initials of maps of The Lord of the Rings, "CJRT").

Born in Leeds and raised in Oxford, Christopher went to the Dragon School in Oxford and Oratory School in Caversham, Berkshire. He enjoyed watching stars with a telescope as well as a passion for railways. As early as age four and five, Christopher was concerned with the consistency of The Hobbit.

[O]n one occasion I interrupted: 'Last time, you said Bilbo's front door was blue, and you said Thorin had a golden tassel on his hood, but you've just said that Bilbo's front door was green and that Thorin's hood was silver'; at which point my father muttered 'Damn the boy,' and then 'strode across the room' to his desk to make a note.

Christopher proved invaluable in correcting The Hobbit after its publication and was paid twopence a correction.

In 1937 he was with his elder brother Michael at The Oratory School.[4] However, due to a heart ailment he was forced to stay at home and work with a private tutor. After spending a year with heart-specialists, on the turn of 1939, Christopher wanted to go to school.[5]

Young adulthood

In July of 1943 he entered the Royal Air Force and in November of that year he went to South Africa to train as a pilot. His absence did not however slow his contributions to his father's works as his father continually sent him parts of The Lord of the Rings to go over. In 1945 he returned to England and was stationed in Shropshire and later that year he returned to Oxford.

On October 9, 1945 his father informed him that the Inklings wished to consider him a permanent member. The task of reading The Lord of the Rings to the Inklings was passed on to Christopher and it was generally agreed that he was a better reader than his father.

In 1954-55 Christopher was delegated the re-drawing of his father's Lord of the Rings maps for publication.


In 1946 Christopher returned to Trinity College to resume his studies and reading English. For a while his tutor was C.S. Lewis. His thesis was a translation of The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise and he received his B.A. in 1949. Christopher also became a lecturer in Old and Middle English as well as Old Icelandic at Oxford. He worked as an editor on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Pardoner's Tale, and the Nun's Priest's Tale. From 1963 to 1975 he was a Fellow of New College, Oxford but resigned when he began to devote his time to his father's literary affairs, and soon afterward moved with his family to southern France.

After his father's death

In J.R.R. Tolkien's last will and testament, Christopher was appointed literary executor and granted "full power to publish, edit, alter, rewrite, or complete any work of [his father's] which may be unpublished at [his] death or to destroy the whole or any part or parts of any such unpublished works".[6] He embarked on the task of organizing the masses of his father's notes for subsequent publication; something he would continue to do for the remainder of his life. 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. Deciphering this was an arduous task, and perhaps only someone with personal experience of J.R.R. and the evolution of his stories could have made any sense of it; even so, Christopher has admitted to having to occasionally guess at what his father intended.

With the help of Guy Gavriel Kay he managed to compile The Silmarillion in only four years. During this time, he also edited his father's translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Sir Orfeo. He also worked on the Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings, which was first published in 1975 as Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings in A Tolkien Compass.

Christopher spent the years after continuing to study his father's works and taking the responsibilities of the Tolkien Estate. He recorded portions of The Silmarillion in 1977 and 1978 which was issued by Caedmon Records, New York. In 1979 he wrote about his father's illustrations and drawings for their publication in Tolkien calendars and Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien. Through 1980 and 1983 Christopher edited Unfinished Tales, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays, and The Book of Lost Tales Part One which was the first volume in his twelve volume series of The History of Middle-earth, the last of which was published in 1996. In 1998 he edited a new edition of Tree and Leaf including the poem Mythopoeia. In 2007, he edited The Children of Húrin, the first of the so called Great Tales of Middle-earth. His last publications were the editing of Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (2014), Beren and Lúthien (2017) and The Fall of Gondolin (2018).

In 2016, Christopher Tolkien was awarded the Bodley Medal, the Bodleian Libraries' highest honour, for his "editorial work on his father's manuscripts" and his "academic career at the University of Oxford".[7]

In August 2017, Christopher Tolkien resigned from his appointment as director of the Tolkien Estate.[8][9]

He died on 16 January, 2020 in Draguignan, France.[10]

Response to adaptations

...I recognize that this is a debatable and complex question of art, and the suggestions that have been made that I 'disapprove' of the films, whatever their cinematic quality, even to the extent of thinking ill of those with whom I may differ, are wholly without foundation.

Christopher Tolkien had never during his lifetime sympathized the adaptations at any form of the works of his father. As a result, he never approved the idea of the adaptations of any works of his father that Tolkien Estate hold the copyright at any form, such as The Silmarillion or The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.


Christopher's first wife, Faith (1928) took an English degree at Oxford and they had one son, Simon Tolkien. A bust of Tolkien by Faith was exhibited at the Royal Academy: Tolkien paid for its casting in bronze. It is now in the English Library in Oxford.

Christopher's second wife, Baillie (1941) is Canadian, and is the daughter of Winnipeg surgeon Alan Klass, and Helen Klass (née Jacob). She has a BA in English from the University of Manitoba and an MA from Oxford. She worked as J.R.R. Tolkien's secretary and was responsible for the section on poetry in the 1965 index to The Lord of the Rings. She later edited The Father Christmas Letters. She and Christopher have two children, Adam Tolkien and Rachel Tolkien.


He appears briefly in the biographical drama film Tolkien, portrayed by actor Jack Riley.




  • 1955-6: Saga-Book (University College, London, for the Viking Society for Northern Research) 14, part 3 (1955-6), pp. [141]-63.
    • "The Battle of the Goths and the Huns"
  • 1975: A Tolkien Compass
  • 1975: Les aventures de Tom Bombadil
    • [Handwritten note by Christopher Tolkien, dated March 1974, introducing two pages of script by J.R.R. Tolkien]
  • 1980: Mallorn 14
    • "The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien: A brief account of the book and its making"
  • 1982: Quettar 13, Feb. 1982, pp. 8–9
    • "The Tengwar Numerals". Christopher Tolkien ('CRT after JRRT'); rptd. Beyond Bree Dec. 1984, p. 1. Further, untitled, explanation of Tengwar numerals by Christopher Tolkien ('CRT after JRRT 10 March 1982'), in Quettar 14, May 1982, pp. 6–7.
  • 1983: Amon Hen 63, August 1983, p. 4
    • "...Future Publishing". Reproduced as 'Statement by Christopher Tolkien' in Beyond Bree, November 1983, p. 2.
  • 1984: Amon Hen 70, November 1984, p. 3.
    • "'Moria Gate' ... Another Look"
  • 1986: Beyond Bree July 1986, pp. 1–3
    • "Notes on the Differences in editions of The Hobbit cited by Mr. David Cofield"
  • 1987: The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien. London: Unwin Hyman, 1987; fiftieth anniversary edition.
    • Foreword
  • 1988: Beyond Bree, August 1988, pp. 1–2
    • "The BBC Pronunciation Guide to The Lord of the Rings". Nancy Martsch. [About the transcription of Christopher Tolkien's recording of words and names in The Lord of the Rings for the BBC production by Brian Sibley.]
  • 1994: The Lord of the Rings, (1994 edition by HarperCollins Publishers, p. 1140 of the one-volume edition)
    • "A Note on the Maps"
  • 2012: Le Monde, 5 July
  • 2016: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
    • "Note on the text"


  • 1976: The Lord of the Rings 1977 Calendar. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1976. Notes on the Pictures by Christopher Tolkien.
  • 1976: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien at the Ashmolean Museum Oxford ... Oxford: The Ashmolean Museum, 1976. Introduction by Baillie Tolkien. [?14 Dec 76]
  • 1977: The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien: A Brief Account of the Book and its Making (pamphlet)
  • 1977: The Silmarillion Calendar 1978. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1977. Notes on the Pictures by Christopher Tolkien.
  • 1978: J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar 1979. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978. Notes on the Pictures by Christopher Tolkien.
  • 1978: Map of Beleriand and the Lands to the North [poster]. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978. As drawn by Christopher Tolkien for The Silmarillion, with colouring by H.E. Riddett.
  • 1980: Letter from Christopher Tolkien to Jared Lobdell, 21 June 1974, reproduced in: Eorclanstanar [Precious Stones] or The Hobbitiana: an offering of rarities by J.R.R. Tolkien [catalogue]. Melissa and Mark Hime [booksellers]. Idyllwild, California: 1980.


  • 1977: J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion: Of Beren and Luthien, read by Christopher Tolkien. New York: Caedmon Records TC1564, 1977. Sleeve notes by Christopher Tolkien. (Sleeve also has photo of CT.) Nominated for a Grammy Award.[11]
  • 1978: J.R.R. Tolkien: Of the Darkening of Valinor, and Of the Flight of the Noldor, from The Silmarillion, read by Christopher Tolkien. New York: Caedmon Records TC 1579, 1978. Sleeve notes by Christopher Tolkien. (Sleeve also has photo of CT.)
  • 1992: The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son, Read by J.R.R.Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien, HarperCollins Audiobooks.
  • 2007: The Children of Húrin Audiobook, Preface and introduction Read by Christopher Tolkien. HarperCollins Audiobooks.



Family Tree

Edith Bratt
J.R.R. Tolkien
John Tolkien
Michael Tolkien
Faith Faulconbridge
Christopher Tolkien
Baillie Tolkien
Priscilla Tolkien
Simon Tolkien
Adam Tolkien
Rachel Tolkien

See also

External links