The Tolkien Society
|Founded||6 November 1969 (informal)|
15 January 1972 (formal)
7 July 1977 (charitable status)
|Type||Educational charity, fan club, academic society|
|Key people||J.R.R. Tolkien (President)|
Priscilla Tolkien (Vice-President)
Shaun Gunner (Chair)
|Subsidiaries||Tolkien Society Trading Ltd|
The Tolkien Society is an international fan club and educational charity based in the United Kingdom, with the purpose of educating the public in the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Founded in 1969 with the blessing of J.R.R. Tolkien, it has expanded its membership across the United Kingdom, Europe and the world. Its President is Tolkien, the Vice-president is Priscilla Tolkien; since 2013, Shaun Gunner has been the Society's Chair.
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 'the drugs-orientated writings of hippiedom', decided to form a group dedicated to the true appreciation of Tolkien's works.
On 6 November 1969, Chapman announced the formation of the Tolkien Society in the United Kingdom in the New Statesman. 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), which was first published in December 1969. The Society's inaugural meeting was held in January 1970, and its constitution was ratified on 15 January 1972.
The Tolkien 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 CBE (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:
CONGRATULATIONS ON 80TH BIRTHDAY AND HONOUR. ANOTHER 50 YEARS TO BEAT THE OLD TOOK.
THE TOLKIEN SOCIETY (IN BRITAIN)
—The Tolkien Society's telegram to J.R.R. Tolkien
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 creator of so much wonder. Although not to be compared with the true LONGBOTTOM LEAF, we hope that this will at least raise a few smoke-rings of happy recollection.
THE TOLKIEN SOCIETY
—The Tolkien Society's message to J.R.R. Tolkien on his birthday
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.
J.R.R. Tolkien [signed]
—Letter from J.R.R. Tolkien to Vera Chapman, dated 6 February 1972
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."
Following the death of J.R.R. Tolkien on 2 September 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 on 16 February 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.
List of Chairs
The following is a list of chairs of The Tolkien Society; in April 2017 the Society replaced the title "Chairman" with "Chair". Italic text indicates an acting chairman who was appointed, rather than elected.
|Name||Start of term||End of term||Duration|
|Vera Chapman||29 January 1970||20 November 1970||296 days|
|1||Keith Bridges||20 November 1970[note 1]||17 February 1973||2 years, 89 days|
|2||Hartley Patterson||18 February 1973||16 February 1974||363 days|
|3||Jonathan Simons||17 February 1974||28 April 1984||10 years, 71 days|
|4||Brin Dunsire||29 April 1984||16 April 1988||3 years, 354 days|
|5||Alex Lewis||17 April 1988||11 April 1992||3 years, 360 days|
|6||Amanda Fingleson||12 April 1992||20 April 1996||4 years, 9 days|
|7||Chris Crawshaw||21 April 1996||19 April 2008||11 years, 364 days|
|8||Matthew Vernon||20 April 2008||8 January 2009||264 days|
|9||Sally Kennett||8 January 2009[note 2]||20 April 2013||4 years, 102 days|
|10||Shaun Gunner||21 April 2013||present||9 years, 166 days|
- Acting Chairman from 20 November 1970 to 15 January 1972.
- Acting Chairman from 8 January 2009 to 25 April 2009.
- Belladonna's Broadsheet the first bulletin of The Tolkien Society.
- Amon Hen is the bulletin of the Society and is published six times a year.
- Mallorn is the journal of the Society and is currently published once a year, in the Spring.
- Quettar was the journal of the Linguistic Fellowship of The Tolkien Society.
The Tolkien Society organises the following events each year:
- The Birthday Toast is held on 3 January (Tolkien's birthday) every year. The Society encourages Tolkien fans from across the world to toast the Professor at 9pm wherever they are.
- Tolkien Reading Day, held annually on 25 March, is an international event which promotes the reading of Tolkien's works.
- The Annual General Meeting and Springmoot involves a meeting where formal business (with regard to the running of the Tolkien Society) is discussed, followed by a semi-formal dinner with a guest speaker. It is held over a weekend each April.
- The Seminar is an event which consists of a programme of talks on a Tolkien-related theme. It is held most summers (around June or July).
- Oxonmoot is a convention held at an Oxford college on the weekend closest to 22 September, Bilbo and Frodo's birthday.
The Tolkien Society also organises large conferences in order to celebrate an anniversary around J.R.R. Tolkien and/or his works. Past events:
- The J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference was held at Keble College (in Oxford, England) in 1992. It celebrated the centenary of J.R.R. Tolkien's birth. It was organised in conjunction with the Mythopoeic Society and was a combination of Oxonmoot 1992 and Mythcon 23.
- Tolkien 2005: The Ring Goes Ever On was held at Aston University (in Birmingham, England) in 2005. It celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the complete publication of The Lord of the Rings.
- The Return of the Ring: Celebrating Tolkien in 2012 was held at Loughborough University (in Leicestershire, England) in 2012. It celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit.
- Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 17
- "Charity framework - The Tolkien Society", The Charity Commission (accessed 30 June 2012)
- Ian Collier, "Annual General Meeting 2021: Summary" in Cate Billing, Mathew Suta, Ana Demartino (eds.), Amon Hen 289, p. 23
- Charles E. Noad, 'The Early Days of the Tolkien Society', A Long-expected Party: Progress Report 1, p. 10
- Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: II. Reader's Guide, p. 287
- Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 21
- Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 22
- Charles E. Noad, "The Tolkien Society - the early days" in Henry Gee (ed.) Mallorn 50, p. 23
- "Amon Hen - The bulleting of the Tolkien Society", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "Mallorn - The Journal of the Tolkien Society", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "About The Annual General Meeting", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "Seminar home page", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "Oxonmoot index page", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "Tolkien Centenary Conference 1992", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "About Tolkien 2005", The Tolkien Society (accessed 7 August 2012)
- "The Return of the Ring - Celebrating Tolkien in 2012", The Return of the Ring (accessed 7 August 2012)