Christopher Tolkien

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Christopher Tolkien
Born Christopher John Reuel Tolkien
(1924-11-21) 21 November 1924 (age 92)
Leeds, England
Occupation Editor, novelist, academic
Education Dragon School
University of Oxford (B.A., 1949; )
Genre Fantasy
Spouse Faith Faulconbridge
Baillie Klass
Children 3, including Simon Tolkien
Relatives J.R.R. Tolkien (father)
Edith Tolkien (mother)
Tim Tolkien (first cousin, once removed)
See Tolkien family

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (born 21 November 1924) is the third son of the author J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), and is best known as the editor of much of his father's posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father's The Lord of the Rings, which he signed C. J. R. T.

Early life[edit]

Christopher Tolkien was born in Leeds, the third and youngest son of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and his wife, Edith Tolkien (née Bratt). He was educated at the Dragon School (Oxford) and later at the Oratory School.

He entered the Royal Air Force in summer 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). He was given the service number 193121.[1] He briefly served as an RAF pilot. He transferred to the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve on 28 June 1945.[2] His commission was confirmed and it was announced he was promoted to flying officer (war substantive) on 27 July 1945.[3][4][5][6]

After the war he studied English at Oxford University, taking his BA in 1949 and his B.Litt a few years later.[7]


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. J. R. R. Tolkien invited Christopher to join the Inklings when he was twenty-one 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.[8]

He published Saga of King Heidrek the Wise: "Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices by Christopher Tolkien" in 1960.[9] Later, Tolkien followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lecturer and tutor in English Language at New College, Oxford, from 1964 to 1975.[7]

In 2016, he was given the Bodley Medal, an award that recognises individuals for outstanding contributions to literature, culture, science, and communication.[10]

Editorial work on J. R. R. Tolkien's manuscripts[edit]

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a great deal of material connected to the Middle-earth legendarium that was not published in his lifetime. Although he had originally intended to publish The Silmarillion along with The Lord of the Rings, and parts of it were in a finished state, he died in 1973 with the project incomplete. After his father's death, Christopher Tolkien, whom his father had once called his "chief critic and collaborator", embarked on organizing 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, Christopher Tolkien worked on the manuscripts and was able to produce an edition of The Silmarillion for publication in 1977; his assistant for part of this work was the young Guy Gavriel Kay, who would later become a noted fantasy author.

Christopher Tolkien said, of assembling and editing The Silmarillion, "It became clear to me that to attempt to present, within the covers of a single book, the diversity of the materials – to show The Silmarillion as in truth a continuing and evolving creation extending over more than half a century – would in fact lead only to confusion and the submerging of what is essential. I set myself therefore to work out a single text, selecting and arranging in such a way as seemed to me to produce the most coherent and internally self-consistent narrative."[11] Christopher Tolkien had to make some difficult editorial decisions in presenting his father's material, and both he and others have criticized some of these decisions.[12]

The Silmarillion was followed by Unfinished Tales in 1980 and The History of Middle-earth in twelve volumes between 1983 and 1996; between HME and UT most of the original source-texts from which the 1977 Silmarillion was constructed have been made public. In April 2007 Christopher 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 J. R. R. Tolkien's earliest stories, its first version dating back to 1918; several versions of the story 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 the latest example of his editorial work, due to be published on 1 June 2017.[13]

Later HarperCollins published other J. R. R. Tolkien work edited by Christopher Tolkien not connected to the Middle-earth legendarium. In May 2009 The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, a verse retelling of the Norse Völsung cycle, appeared, in May 2013, The Fall of Arthur,[14] and on 22 May 2014 Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, Christopher Tolkien's edition of his father's translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf.[15][16]

Reaction to filmed versions of J. R. R. Tolkien's works[edit]

In 2001, he received some attention for his stance toward The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson. He expressed doubts over the viability of a film interpretation that retained the essence of the work, but stressed that this was just his opinion.[17] He voiced sharper criticism in a 2012 interview with Le Monde: "They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds."[18]

In 2008 Christopher Tolkien commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family £80 million in unpaid royalties.[19] In September 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement, and he withdrew his legal objection to the The Hobbit films.[20] Despite the settlement amount being undisclosed, the Tolkien Trust's 2009 accounts show that it received a payment of £24 million. This amount was the trust's estimated share in respect of the gross profit participation due for the films based on The Lord of the Rings.[21]

Personal life[edit]

Christopher Tolkien currently lives in France with his second wife, Baillie Tolkien (née Klass), who edited J. R. R. Tolkien's The Father Christmas Letters for posthumous publication. They have two children, Adam Reuel Tolkien and Rachel Clare Reuel Tolkien. In the wake of a dispute surrounding the making of the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy he reportedly disowned his son by his first marriage, barrister and novelist Simon Mario Reuel Tolkien,[22] though they have since reconciled.[23]


  1. ^ "(Supplement) no. 36989". The London Gazette. 16 March 1945. pp. 1492–1494. Retrieved 06 January 2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  2. ^ "(Supplement) no. 37327". The London Gazette. 26 October 1945. pp. 5275–5276. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  3. ^ "(Supplement) no. 37237". The London Gazette. 1 August 1945. p. 4282. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "(Supplement) no. 37264". The London Gazette. 11 September 1945. p. 4575. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "(Supplement) no. 37237". The London Gazette. 21 August 1945. p. 4282. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  6. ^ His rank was given on the Navy List as Acting Sub-Lieutenant (Air)
  7. ^ a b "Tolkien, Christopher Reuel". Routledge. Retrieved 16 April 2016. 
  8. ^ Diana, Glyer (2007). The Company They Keep. Kent, OH: Kent State UP. ISBN 978-0-87338-890-0. 
  9. ^ Tolkien, Christopher (1960) The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise; translated from the Icelandic with introduction, notes and appendices. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. ASIN: B000V9BAO0
  10. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha (31 October 2016). "Christopher Tolkien awarded the Bodley Medal". Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  11. ^ Alison Flood. "Christopher Tolkien answers questions about Sigurd and Gudrún". the Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  12. ^ [1] Archived 6 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ Helen, Daniel (19 October 2016). "New Tolkien book: Beren and Lúthien". The Tolkien Society. Retrieved 22 October 2016. 
  14. ^ "The Fall of Arthur – J.R.R. Tolkien". HarperCollins. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  15. ^ Alison Flood. "JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Ken Raymond (30 May 2014). "Tolkien's 'Beowulf' battles critics". The Oklahoman. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  17. ^ "Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog". Middle-earth & J.R.R. Tolkien Blog. Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  18. ^ Raphaëlle Rérolle. "Tolkien, l'anneau de la discorde". Le Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "Hobbit movies meet dire foe in son of Tolkien". The Sunday Times. 25 May 2008.
  20. ^ "Legal path clear for Hobbit movie". BBC News. 8 September 2009.
  21. ^ The Tolkien Trust Accounts for the year ended 5 April 2009 (PDF), United Kingdom: Charity Commission, 29 January 2010, pp. 8, 17, archived from the original (PDF) on 22 December 2014, retrieved 2014-12-22 
  22. ^ Thomas, David (24 February 2003). "J R R Tolkien's grandson 'cut off from literary inheritance'". Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Hough, Andrew (18 November 2012). "Simon Tolkien: J R R Tolkien's grandson admits Lord of the Rings trauma". Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 

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