Christopher Tolkien, the great champion of his father’s literary estate, has died at 95:
It is with great sadness that we can confirm that Tolkien’s son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien has died aged 95.
Christopher was born in Leeds, United Kingdom, on 21 November 1924. After a childhood in Oxford, he joined the RAF during the Second World War and was stationed to South Africa. After the war, he finished his studies and became a lecturer in Old and Middle English as well as Old Icelandic at the University of Oxford. After his father’s death in 1973, he became the literary executor of the Tolkien Estate and went on to edit and publish his father’s unpublished material starting with The Silmarillion in 1977 and ending with The Fall of Gondolin in 2018.
Upon hearing the news, Tolkien Society Chair, Shaun Gunner, said:
All of us in the Tolkien Society will share in the sadness at the news of Christopher Tolkien’s death, and we send our condolences to Baillie, Simon, Adam, Rachel and the whole Tolkien family at this difficult time. Christopher’s commitment to his father’s works have seen dozens of publications released, and his own work as an academic in Oxford demonstrates his ability and skill as a scholar. Millions of people around the world will be forever grateful to Christopher for bringing us The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, The History of Middle-earth series and many others. We have lost a titan and he will be sorely missed.
Tolkien scholar Dr Dimitra Fimi reflected on Christopher’s academic contribution:
Tolkien studies would never be what it is today without Christopher Tolkien’s contribution. From editing The Silmarillion to the mammoth task of giving us the History of Middle-earth series, he revealed his father’s grand vision of a rich and complex mythology. He gave us a window into Tolkien’s creative process, and he provided scholarly commentary that enriched our understanding of Middle-earth. He was Middle-earth’s cartographer and first scholar.
The Tolkien Society sends its deepest condolences to the Tolkien family.
Christopher Tolkien was the very model of the ideal literary executor. He not only protected his father’s legacy, but substantially added to it through his editing and publishing of the source material that were the foundation for his father’s landmark books. He was a good and faithful servant to his father and Middle Earth fandom, and both Christians and Tolkien fans can rejoice at the thought of the proud approbation with which his father will have welcomed him to his reward.
Very few sons of great men are worthy of them; as the son of a very successful man myself, I can testify to the soul-crushing burden paternal success tends to impose upon a young man, especially a young man of ambition. But through his embrace of a difficult role to which he was literally born, Christopher Tolkien undoubtedly proved himself worthy of his great father.
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